Howick – Riders were greeted by some hospitable conditions at the start of the 29th edition of the popular Sappi Howick MTB Classic on Sunday and it was local Under 23 star Brendon Davids who managed to shake off a recent run of bad luck to claim the men’s title in the 40km classic with youngster Alexandra Mapstone taking her opportunity well to ride away with the ladies title.
Davids has been battling in recent weeks with a streak of bad luck and illness and the Trek SA star spoke about this recent stint and the relief of registering a win with the South African MTB Marathon championships coming up next weekend.
“It has been a pretty rough few months for me,” a relieved Davids said at the finish of the race. “I have had a run of some pretty bad luck and last week I had a bit of a stomach bug but it was good to shake the bug and come out here after a tough block of training this week.”
“Unfortunately I couldn’t got to the World Cup in Germany for certain reasons so I came here today to get a good solid training session with the SA marathon champs next weekend and then the national cross country series coming up so it was good to get a good solid day in,” the local rider said.
It has been a number of years since Davids last competed in the Sappi Howick MTB Classic and he was happy with his outing on Sunday. The track’s around Howick have become popular over the years and Davids echoed the sentiments of a number of other riders when asked about the track.
“It is a really fun course and it was well organised, I think the organisers really stepped up to the plate this year with a very well marked and balanced course.
“Today was ideal, a lot rougher than Karkloof and I managed to iron out all the kinks and make sure my bike is running well and I just wanted to play it smooth in the single track to make sure nothing could hamper me from a good result today,” a satisfied Davids added.
Following a number of solid results in 2014 another local, Stuart Marais of Kargo Pro MTB Team, claimed the second step on the podium behind Davids. Marais was happy with the form that he showed over the 40km course even though he was unsure of the route following a mishap in training on Saturday.
“It didn’t go to badly for me today, I tried to ride the course yesterday but it seems that I rode the 20km route instead of the 40km so after the first two kilometres today I didn’t know where we were going,” Marais mentioned.
The 26-year-old produced a solid ride by his own standards but unfortunately for him was unable to hold on to Davids but had enough power to beat off the chasing bunch and consolidate his silver medal position behind an impressive Davids.
“Brendon (Davids) and I decided to open it up a bit after the first few kilometres and drop as many of the guys as we could and we opened up a bit of a gap.
“About five to 10 kilometres in Brendon opened up and I just couldn’t stay with him and from there I was just by myself and trying to keep the pace up and keep away from the guys,” Marais said happily.
Team Thule’s Tyronne White claimed the lowest step on the podium but was happy with his performance after he spoke about the strength of the cross country riders but he too lauded the organisers for producing a top-notch track.
“It went well out there today, we are building up to SA Marathon Champs and these cross country boys off the start are insanely quick and unfortunately I couldn’t hang with Brendon (Davids) and Stuart (Marais) – they really strong at the moment – and I rode with Tim Stark and Callan (Deacon) and I got away on one of the single tracks and rode on my own.
“It is an unbelievable course! That single track is the most fun I have ever had, it was really spectacular and I will definitely be back to ride these trails more often!”
Time Freight VELO Life’s Ashley Mapstone looked somewhat surprised when she crossed the finish line in first place in the women’s race after she was unaware that USN/Hi-Tec’s Jeannie Dreyer had pulled out of the race at the eleventh hour.
“It feels really great to win, I didn’t expect it and I didn’t feel too good at the beginning so I just decided to take it easy and coming in to take the win is great!” a surprised Mapstone said. “My tactics were to just ride at a good constant pace and be careful of the rocks because there were some pretty rocky sections and just make sure that I didn’t get punctures.
“It was a fantastic course and for a course to have that much single track is great!”
Jumping on the praise wagon was former Sharks and Springbok star Jeremy Thomson who was quick to point out the advantages of a course like the one at the Sappi Howick MTB Classic as the less professional riders were mixing it with the more prominent riders at the end.
“There is a lot of rocky single track, you could call it unsophisticated but it is really enjoyable. It gives us guys who aren’t quite on the top end and whose technical skills aren’t quite as good a chance to get up front.
“It was just awesome out there! Sappi just do an incredible job with the trails here. It is one of my favourite courses because it throws a bit of everything at you,” the former backline stalwart added.
The Greendale 19km race was won comfortably by up and coming mountain bike star Jett Bradshaw as he powered his way to a five minute win over second placed Malcolm van der Merwe. The women’s race was a close affair with Shale Biggs managing to hold off a charge from Team Roag’s Sarah Ryan who settled for second overall but first place in the Sprog Girls section.
SUMMARY OF RESULTS
SAPPI HOWICK MTB CLASSIC
1. Brendon Davids 1:46.06
2. Stuart Marais 1:48.11
3. Tyronne White 1:52.39
4. Callan Deacon 1:55.10
5. Tim Stark 1:58.01
1. Alexandra Mapstone 2:26.22
2. Cindy Theunissen 2:32.47
3. Nadia Botha 2:33.37
1. Jett Bradshaw 1:05.57
2. Malcolm van der Merwe 1:10.31
3. Jacques Dreyer 1:10.57
1. Shale Biggs 1:14.28
2. Sarah Ryan 1:15.59
3. Sabine Theis 1:18.27
More info can be found at www.howickmountainbiking.co.za
Source: Gameplan Media