Howick – The Sappi Howick MTB Classic’s route’s reputation of single track haven and a true mountain biking test has stretched far and wide throughout the event’s home province of KwaZulu-Natal and now the popular, challenging nature of the race appears to have struck a chord with cycling enthusiasts from further afield as well.
With Howick, Pietermaritzburg and Hilton locals set to flood to Howick High School this Sunday for the start of the annual mountain biking treat, the regular Sappi Howick MTB Classic visitors can however look forward to the presence of Northern KwaZulu-Natalians from as far as Estcourt and Mooi River, as well as coastal challengers from as far South as Port Shepstone and North as Ballito and Umhloti.
The city of Durban will, as expected, be well represented by riders from Durban Central, Kloof, Pinetown and Westville however the most notable name on the rapidly expanding entry list in that of Chris Lombard who will make the trip down from Johannesburg for the event.
“I’ll be visiting a friend of mine in Maritzburg over the weekend and so we had planned to do the race together whilst I am down,” explained Lombard.
“Unfortunately, though, Morné did ligaments in his knee a couple of weeks ago and so it will just be me now.”
The Gauteng resident is relishing the opportunity to take of the forests and trails he has heard so much about for the very first time.
“Some of the bigger races I’ve done are a couple of Xtrerra up at Buffelspoort and then I’ll be heading back to the Cape to do the Wines2Whales again this year,” said Lombard.
“I’ve never raced at either Karkloof or Howick before though and I’ve heard so much about the area and how good the trails are so I’m really excited for this weekend!”
Race director Gordon Beard believes Lombard’s presence is just the start of riders from outside of KZN making the journey down as the event’s reputation continues to grow.
“It’s great to welcome a rider from out of the province to our race this year!” said Beard. “A lot of hard work and preparation goes into staging the event and for not only mountain bikers from within KZN but those from outside to be able to enjoy it as well is really rewarding.”
“Hopefully Chris (Lombard) heads home after having a fantastic time with us this year and tells all his friends which may well see even more Gautengers join us next year and the year after,” he added.
The Sappi Howick MTB Classic represents the start of hectic month of mountain biking in the region as Sunday’s race precedes the South African Marathon Mountain Biking Championships on Sunday 8 June at Cascades MTB Park in Pietermaritzburg.
The national champs are then closely followed by the inaugural Rainbow Challenge on Saturday 28 June and the globally anticipated UCI MTB Marathon World Championships on Sunday 29 June, both also starting and finishing at Cascades.
The popular Howick event offers participants the choice of the 40km Sappi Howick MTB Classic, 20km SPAR Intermediate Ride or the 10km Fun Ride and takes place at Howick High School on Sunday 1 June. More info can be found at www.howickmountainbiking.co.za
Source: Gameplan Media