South African marathon champions, Max Knox and Robyn de Groot, are looking forward to the new two-day race format that will debut at Round 2 of the Ashburton Investments National MTB Series in Sabie this weekend.
Knox, a Sabie resident, has always been a podium contender when the national marathon series has visited Sabie, with an impressive record of five podium finishes, including two wins since 2009. De Groot claimed her first win at Sabie last year and is the favourite in the Elite women’s event this weekend.
“I like the new format idea. It makes sense on a few levels. Firstly it gives riders a chance to go for a podium place three times in two days (stage 1, stage 2 and overall), which can only stimulate the racing and make it more interesting. Secondly, when people are travelling to a small town, they’re not just going for a one-day race and can make a full weekend of the experience,” said Knox.
“I also like that it gives more people a chance to do a stage race. Many stage races require you to ride in pairs, but with the Ashburton Investments Series you get to race as a solo rider. It’s really something fresh that I feel will be great for the sport of mountain biking,” added Knox.
“I think it’s great. With the Ashburton Investments Series being hosted all over the country, it’s better that the racing is now spread over two days,” said De Groot.
“The one-day events were always nice and tough, but us ladies have always raced the marathon distance. Now, with another 50km the following day it’s going to make the racing harder and more exciting for the women,” added De Groot.
The new format works as follows:
- Two-day stage race (Saturday and Sunday)
- Two distance options (half-marathon or marathon)
- Categories for Series points and prize money to be determined at the end of the second day’s racing
- To be in contention for the complete Series points and prize money, riders will have to complete 8 stages from a possible 12.
- There will be a single-day marathon and half-marathon option on the Saturday, but this will be considered a fun event and not count towards Series points or prize money.
The Sabie event will be located at York Timbers Sports Grounds. York Timbers is a prominent timber company and most of the race routes will pass through their land this weekend. The company is a committed supporter of both mountain biking and the Sabie region.
“The routes for the marathon and half-marathon on Saturday are similar to those we have held in the past, but the Sunday routes are in a very different area,” said Dennis Lawrie, the route designer.
“We’ll be taking both the marathon and half-marathon Day 2 route south west of York Timbers to race on the slopes near Long Tom Pass. The singletrack there is more man-made and manicured and really quite flowy. It’s the same trails that are used each year for the York Timbers Enduro,” added Lawrie
According to Lawrie, the anticipated rain could mostly fall before the weekend, but he does have contingency plans in place to reroute the races to avoid low-lying areas with river crossings.
The marathon-distance event has attracted a strong field, including a number of local and international riders that will use the event as part of their sharpening up for next month’s Absa Cape Epic.
Topping the entry list are the current Cape Epic champions, Germany’s Karl Platt and Switzerland’s Urs Huber. They’ll be backed by their Team Bull stable mates, Simon Stiebjahn and Tim Bohme, who are former Cape Epic podium finishers. Another German, Martin Frey (OMX Pro), is also expected on the start line.
Besides Knox (New Holland/This Way Out), the local high-profile entries include Gert Heyns (Ascendis Health), the Telkom BCX pair of Waylon Woolcock and HB Kruger and the Team NAD Pro duo of Nico Bell and Gawie Combrinck.
De Groot (Ascendis Health) is the favourite in the women’s marathon division and her primary competition will come from Amy Beth McDougall (Valencia) Vanessa Bell (Bells Cycling), Sarah Hill, Alison Lingard, Nadine Pretorius and Janice Venter.
Venue: York Timbers Sports Grounds, Sabie
Friday 17 February
15h00-18h00: Registration and late entries at York Timbers
Saturday 18 February
06h00-09h15: Registration and late entries at York Timbers
07h00: 75km Marathon (Stage 1) & Single Day
08h10: 45km Half-marathon (Stage 1) & Single Day
09h00: 20km Fun Race
11h00 Preliminary results Day 1 posted
12h00: Fun Race Prize Giving
Sunday 19 February
06H30–08h15: Race office open & 10km Fun Ride registration
07h00: 50km Marathon (Stage 2)
08h00: 35km Half-marathon (Stage 2)
08h25: 10km Fun Ride
11h00: Preliminary results Day 1 posted
12h00: Prize giving (Day 2 and Overall)
Entries are still open and can be done online at www.nationalmtbseries.com
Source: Inside Line