Howick – Renowned KwaZulu-Natal mountain bike talents Rourke Croeser and Andrew Hill have added their names to the already impressive list of title contenders for Sunday’s Sappi 60km Marathon, the feature race of the Sappi Karkloof MTB Festival which takes place this weekend at the Karkloof Country Club in KZN’s Midlands.
With defending champ Brendon Davids of Trek SA having already confirmed he will be on the start line and eager to defend his crown, TIB Insurance’s Hill and Croeser of Kargo Pro MTB Team’s attendance have created even greater interest in the front-of-the-field clash on Sunday.
“Karkloof is a major one for us!” confirmed Croeser. “It’s a big one for the team and it’s up to Trav (Walker) and I to work together and try get the better of the likes of Brendon (Davids) and Phillip (Buys) to get the win for the team!”
“Brendon (Davids), Rourke (Croeser), possibly Gert (Heyns) and maybe even some of the Cape guys like Charles Keey, Waylon Woolcock and Darren Lill who are looking to set up their base ahead of the Marathon World Champs in PMB in June I’m sure will all be at Karkloof so it really will be an incredibly strong field this year!” added Hill.
While the spotlight may be on those at the sharp end of the 60km event, the quality of the trails hosting the weekend’s riding is what the event has become known for and Croeser is once again looking forward to returning to twists and turns through the Sappi plantations and surrounds.
“Karkloof has some of the best trails in the world!” enthused the Kargo star. “It is probably one of the best marathon courses on the South African circuit so I’m really looking forward to racing there again!”
Hill too is relishing the clash and feels his recent ultra-marathon hit out at last weekend’s MTN National MTB Series event in Clarens won’t hamper his ability to compete with some of his slightly younger, more cross country focused competitors.
“After Clarens its two days of complete rest and then two days of high intensity training trying to get the speed up a bit and then it’s time to race.
“Cross country, marathon and ultras are three very different types of riding but after all this time of changing between the various distances, the body gets used to the different racing distances as well as all the travelling.
“Karkloof is only 60 kilometers so it’s a short, quick race that probably suits the cross country specialists a little better but it’s also quite a technical 60 kilometers so sometimes the guys who go flatbox from the start can go bang towards the end.
“I’m expecting some of the guys will look to really go hard out of the gates to try shake the numbers early so it’s all about trying to stick with them at that pace for as long as possible because us longer distance riders can’t rely on our endurance helping us reel them in later on in such a quick race” said the TIB Insurance competitor.
With Friday night’s Karkloof Night Race, Saturday’s Stihl Karkloof Enduro and a wide variety of distances to choose from on Sunday, the festival has something for everyone.
The event’s status as one of only four qualifying events for the inaugural Rainbow Challenge – the age group equivalent to the elite’s marathon worlds and which takes place on Saturday 28 June – is also likely to see increased levels of competition amongst all of the age group categories.
“The more people that attend the event and compete, the better the racing will be and so the bar gets raised and the event continues to improve,” said Hill.
“Whether you’re preparing for Worlds, looking to qualify for the Rainbow Challenge or just hoping to have some fun doesn’t matter, it will be a great weekend of mountain biking at Karkloof this weekend and some great racing throughout the categories will unfold I’m sure!”
Riders and spectators can follow news and developments via the event’s Facebook page (Karkloof Mountain Bike Club) or on Twitter (@KarkloofMTB). More info can also be found at www.karkloofmtb.co.za
Source: Gameplan Media