Keira Duncan and Julia Kotze endured seven stages in challenging conditions to emerge as winners of the men and women’s overall titles respectively at Round 1 of the 2023 Enduro SA Cup, presented by Balwin and Suzuki at Thaba Trails, Johannesburg at the weekend.

Words: Sean Badenhorst | Photos: Dominic Barnardt and Justin Barlow

Over 150 riders contested the event, which doubled as the opening round of the 2023 Gauteng Enduro Series. Thaba Trails proved to be an ideal venue and drew praise from home province riders as well as those from Western Cape, Mpumalanga, Limpopo, North West and KwaZulu-Natal.

Duncan (pictured above) was impressive. He had two crashes but still won six of the seven stages. His overall time was 12 minutes 24.612 seconds. Gauteng riders put on a strong showing, with rising gravity star, Rory Kirk overcoming a hard crash in practice to finish second in 12:39.550. SA Veteran Enduro Champion, Bryce Munro secured his category win and third place overall in 12:55.166.

Rory Kirk

Veteran category racer, Danny Fowler, won his category and finished fourth overall in 13:06.783, while North West’s top Enduro racer, Wade Prinsloo rounded out the top five in 13:09.118.

Very few racers didn’t have challenges, either mechanical or a crash. The steady rain on Thursday and Friday, followed by showers the day before saw the rocks, for which Thaba is known, become even more exposed, while there was also slippery mud to also contend with.

“My bike was setup for dry conditions, but I dropped my suspension pressure a little. The new PYGA High-pivot Enduro handles rough, rocky, sketchy terrain extremely well. I’ve been loving training on it in the wet. I didn’t lower my tyre pressure much as there were a few high-speed sections with lots of jagged rocks that could very well lead to punctures. Tyres might have been a smidge hard, but I didn’t have any punctures.” That was Duncan’s answer when quizzed about his bike set up for the event.

Bryce Munro

As far as the racing was concerned, he had some challenges, but managed to minimise his bike and body damage and limit his time losses.

“My practice day was in the dry, so conditions changed a lot on race day being a lot wetter after rainfall the day and night before. I love riding in the wet, it’s a good challenge. Thaba lived up to that!” said Duncan.

“My first stage went smoothly; I started on Stage 4. Next, I went across to Stage 2, which started off well until I slipped out on a rock and smashed my elbow straight into a boulder. Without elbow protection I was very lucky to have avoided a major injury. My following stage, Stage 1, took me by surprise right out the gates. I slipped out on an off-camber rock garden about 10 metres into the stage and crashed badly. I hurt myself a bit and did some damage to my bike. I managed to get up quickly and carried on the stage with skew bars and a brake lever half falling off. Fortunately, I nursed it to the bottom and avoided any further issues.

Danny Fowler

“After repairing my brake lever as best as I could I was thankful that I was in one piece and my bike in decent enough shape to push on. I did my best to keep it together and ride smooth and fast for the rest of the race. The remaining stages went considerably well,” added Duncan.

Twenty-year-old Kirk has faced his share of challenges in the past two years, but was able to put together consistently quick stages and live up to his potential to secure his first podium at an Enduro National Series event. The Commencal racer won Stage 1 and secured three seconds, two thirds and a fourth on the other stages.

While most racers opted to race the rocky, steep Stages 1 and 2 early on while the conditions were still damp, the experienced Munro and Fowler waited as long as possible to tackle those key stages in dryer conditions and it paid off. Fowler was second fastest on Stage 1 and fourth on Stage 2, while Munro was second fastest on Stage 2 and fourth on Stage 1.

Wade Prinlsoo

Prinsloo, who won the Gauteng Championships at Thaba Trails last October, suffered a damaged chain early on and was forced to remove eight (!) links in order to complete the rest of the stages but was still able to finish on the main podium.

KwaZulu-Natal’s Keagan Brand won the Junior men’s division and showed his versatility by placing seventh overall, while Western Cape’s Luca Zietsman won the Youth men’s title and finished an impressive eighth overall. In the Masters division, Sean O’Flynn Madden secured the win and 18th position overall, while Mike Behr was the quickest Grand Master and Alistair Brand claimed the eBike title. Michael Kanis won the Sub-Junior Boys crown, while Damen Savvi was the fastest in the Sport Men category.

Julia Kotze

It may not have matched the men’s racing for depth, but the women’s racing was just as fierce. The number of women in Enduro racing is growing and the conditions and course really did test many of the newcomers to their absolute limits.

Kotze won the Gauteng Championships at Thaba Trails in the dry, but showed she’s just as capable in the wet, winning all seven stages and the overall title in a time of 15:42.350. Arielle Behr won the Youth category and finished second overall in 16:53.476 with Louise Kotze securing the Veteran women’s title and third overall in 18:24.986.

“It was quite interesting. The sticky mud on your tyres combined with the rocks and roots made for some wild riding early on. But after the sun came out and dried the course a bit it was super grippy. All in all, it was super fun day out,” said Kotze.

Arielle Behr

“Except for occasionally having both my feet off to stay upright, I had a very clean day with no crashes or mechanicals. But it may be because I rode very conservatively on the rocky, steep Stages 1 and 2. And even Stage 4,” she explained.

“The most challenging thing for me was getting out of my own head. I had a slip and fall on Stage 2 a week before the race and it made me very nervous riding in the slippery conditions we faced on Sunday. But I took it slow for the first half and after a solid run down Stage 3, the race was on again,” she added.

Two KwaZulu-Natalians rounded out the top five, with newcomer to Enduro, Miroda Otto, finishing fourth in 19.09.830 and Junior category winner, Amber Cole, fifth in 19:42.234.

Louise Kotze

Thaba Trails appears to have cemented its place as Gauteng’s premier Enduro race venue. Thanks must go to Wendell Bole and his trails team for their efforts during a very rainy period. Balwin Properties once again stepped up to offer its support as a sponsor for the high-profile mountain bike event which also hasn’t gone unnoticed.

“The venue works well for Enduro events. Thaba Trails have used what they have very well considering there isn’t a huge amount of elevation and only two small hills. The trails were fun, challenging and relatively good examples of what Enduro trails should be like. Technically demanding, physically demanding and varying in terrain, all whilst generally going downhill,” was Duncan’s impression of the venue. Duncan is currently the country’s leading male Enduro racer, having raced and won at all existing Enduro venues around the country.

Miroda Otto

“Gauteng Cycling and Thaba Trails hosted an amazing event. As always, the timing systems worked perfectly, the route was clearly marked and the lines were a perfect balance between tech, flow and pedalling. I’m very excited for the remainder of the season,” said women’s winner, Kotze.

Suzuki is the presenting sponsor the 2023 Gauteng Enduro Series. Other brands that have invested in sponsoring the Gauteng Enduro Series are EcoLogic (bike wash products), 100% (eyewear products), 32GI (performance supplements), Med Guys (medical support) and SHRED (media partner).

The remaining rounds of the 2023 Enduro SA Series are:

  • 9 July: Summerplace Game Reserve, Vaalwater, Limpopo
  • 10 September: Jonkershoek, Stellenbosch, Western Cape
  • 14 & 15 October: Cascades MTB Park, Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal (SA Champs)
Amber Cole

Recognition and gratitude need to go to Paola Damilano, who has basically singlehandedly created an infrastructure to run both a Gauteng and National Enduro Series. She is the MTB Director at Cycling South Africa, as well as head of MTB in Gauteng, both entirely voluntary positions.

Leading results

Men overall

1 Kiera Duncan (KwaZulu-Natal) 12:24.612

2 Rory Kirk (Gauteng) 12:39.550

3 Bryce Munro (Gauteng) 12:55.166

4 Danny Fowler (Gauteng) 13:06.783

5 Wade Prinsloo (North West) 13:09.118

6 Robert Frost (Gauteng) 13:09.313

7 Keagan Brand (KwaZulu-Natal) 13:13.313

8 Luca Zietsman (Western Cape) 13:22.030

9 Willie van Eck (Mpumalanga) 13:27.513

10 Christan Kirsten (North West) 13:42.681

Keira Duncan

Elite Men

1 Kiera Duncan (KwaZulu-Natal) 12:24.612

2 Rory Kirk (Gauteng) 12:39.550

3 Wade Prinsloo (North West) 13:09.118

Keagan Brand

Junior Men

1 Keagan Brand (KwaZulu-Natal) 13:13.313

2 Divan van Straaten (Gauteng) 13:49.979

3 Alex de Bruin (KwaZulu-Natal) 14:07.562

Luca Zietsman

Youth Men

1 Luca Zietsman (Western Cape) 13:22.030

2 Gabriel Burns (Mpumalanga) 14:29.262

3 Joshua West (Gauteng) 14:44.533

Michael Kanis

Sub-Junior Boys

1 Michael Kanis (Gauteng) 15:26.880

2 Luke Stafford (Gauteng) 15:44.065

3 Troy Cole (KwaZulu-Natal) 16:48.512

Robert Frost

Sub-Veteran Men

1 Bryce Munro (Gauteng) 12:55.166

2 Robert Frost (Gauteng) 13:09.313

3 Dustin Rudman (Gauteng) 16:12.422

Jason Davies

Veteran Men

1 Danny Fowler (Gauteng) 13:06.783

2 Jason Davies (KwaZulu-Natal) 15:36.981

3 Shaun Bruwer (North West) 15:54,784

Sean O’Flynn-Madden

Master Men

1 Sean O’Flynn-Madden (Gauteng) 14:44.503

2 Sean Badenhorst (Gauteng) 15:23.918

3 Andre Vorster (Gauteng) 21:28.407

Grand Master Men


Rory Kirk

MEN Stages

Stage 1

1 Rory Kirk 1:50.5

2 Danny Fowler 1:51.6

3 Robert Frost 1:52.4

Stage 2

1 Kiera Duncan 2:20.1

2 Bryce Munro 2:20.3

3 Rory Kirk 2:22.5

The climb to the start of Stages 4 and 3

Stage 3

1 Keira Duncan 1:43.8

2 Bryce Munro 1:46.7

3 Rory Kirk 1:46.8

Stage 4

1 Keira Duncan 1:43.5

2 Wade Prinsloo 1:47.1

3 Bryce Munro 1:47.3

Stage 5

1 Keira Duncan 1:23.1

2 Rory Kirk 1:27.0

3 Christen Kirsten 1:27.4

Stage 6

1 Keira Duncan 1:41.3

2 Rory Kirk 1:47.1

3 Luca Zietsman 1:47.3

Stage 7

1 Keira Duncan 1:30.7

2 Rory Kirk 1:36.0

3 Danny Fowler 1:36.3


Ethan Duvenage

Sprog Boys

1 Ethan Duvenage (Gauteng) 8:29.707

2 Evert Maritz (Gauteng) 8:35.341

3 Luan Labuschagne (Gauteng) 9:05.085

Wieihan van Niekerk

Nipper Boys

1 Wiehan van Niekerk (Gauteng) 9:39.344

2 Joshua Oosthuysen (North West) 9:54.526

3 Jozua Bruwer (North West) 12:35.573

Sports Lite Male

1 Jerome Stubbs (Gauteng) 8:38.811

2 Xander Vogel (Gauteng) 9:00.599

3 Anesu Mlauzi (Gauteng) 9:09.397

Julia Kotze

Women Overall

1 Julia Kotze (Gauteng) 15:42.350

2 Arielle Behr (Gauteng) 16:53.476

3 Louise Kotze (Gauteng) 18:24.986

4 Miroda Otto (KwaZulu-Natal) 19:09.830

5 Amber Cole (KwaZulu-Natal) 19:42.234

6 Tashane Ehlers (Limpopo) 19:47.204

7 Phillipa Spies (Gauteng) 22:31.766

8 Licarmi Smith (Gauteng) 23:32.366

9 Jade Davies (Gauteng) 23:36.053

10 Kirstin Shearar Copeland (KwaZulu-Natal) 24:01.579

Tashane Ehlers

Elite/Junior Women

1 Julia Kotze (Gauteng) 15:42.350

2 Amber Cole (KwaZulu-Natal) 19:42.234

3 Tashane Ehlers (Limpopo) 19:47.204

Phillipa Spies

Sub-veteran Women

1 Phillipa Spies (Gauteng) 22:31.766

2 Licarmi Smith (Gauteng) 23:32.366

3 Jade Davies (Gauteng) 23:36.053

Kirstin Shearar Copeland

Veteran women

1 Louise Kotze (Gauteng) 18:24.986

2 Miroda Otto (KwaZulu-Natal) 19:09.830

3 Kirstin Shearar Copeland (KwaZulu-Natal) 24:01.579

Luane Ehlers

Youth women/Sub-Junior Girls

1 Arielle Behr (Gauteng) 16:53.476

2 Lohane Ehlers (Limpopo) 28:03.539

WOMEN Stages

Stage 1

1 Julia Kotze 2:37.4

2 Arielle Behr 2:51.4

3 Louise Kotze 3:22.2

Stage 2

1 Julia Kotze 3:14.9

2 Arielle Behr 3:36.4

3 Louise Kotze 3:47.4

Stage 3

1 Julia Kotze 1:58.3

2 Arielle Behr 2:08.4

3 Miroda Otto 2:21.7

Stage 4

1 Julia Kotze 2:19.9

2 Arielle Behr 2:30.5

3 Miroda Otto 2:39.8

Stage 5

1 Julia Kotze 1:35.6

2 Arielle Behr 1:37.2

3 Amber Cole 1:52.2

Stage 6

1 Julia Kotze 2:14.7

2 Arielle Behr 2:19.0

3 Louise Kotze 2:19.9

Stage 7

1 Julia Kotze 1:41.5

2 Arielle Behr 1:50.6

3 Louise Kotze 1:58.5


Olivia Marais

Sprog Girls

1 Olivia Marais (Gauteng) 15:49.475