The 2021 ZKTeco South African Enduro Championships is finally taking place this weekend. The national showpiece was originally planned for August, but was rescheduled to Sunday 21 November. There’s a strong field entered; and the gnarly course at Iron Throne Bike Park, Hartebeespoort Dam is expected to produce the most challenging Enduro National Champs yet.

The 2020 National Enduro Champs were cancelled due to the government’s lockdown restrictions, so Matt Lombardi (Specialized), the 2019 winner, is still the reigning champion. The Western Cape racer has been the dominant male in all the Enduro events he’s raced in South Africa this year. He secured overall victory at Round 1 (Giba Gorge), Round 2 (Nelspruit) and Round 3 (Jonkershoek) of the 2021 South African Enduro Series, winning every stage in the process.

Frankie du Toit will be looking to add the 2021 National Enduro title to her National Downhill title. | Photo: Shift Media

He’s hoping to continue with that form, but knows it’s going to be a challenge on a course that’s suited to Downhill racers.

“This is my first time here. I’ve heard it’s pretty loose and rocky, so I’m excited to see what it’s all about,” said Lombardi on Thursday night.

“I suppose the cableway makes the event attractive to the Downhill boys. But they have mostly all raced an Enduro World Series round or two and have experience racing Enduro, so I think they would be here anyway.

“I’m confident in my own abilities at the moment  and I know if I have a good day I could be in for a good result. But I think everyone is pretty keen to stand on the top step on Sunday,” added Lombardi.

The course at Iron Throne Bike Park is steep, rocky and loose, with some sections having just been completed in the past few days. It’s also unusual in that it has a cable-car uplift that competitors will be required to use for three of the five stages, not unlike a downhill race in the Northern Hemisphere. The downhill-like elements of the event has attracted some of the country’s top downhill racers.

Current South African Elite Downhill champion, Theo Erlangsen (Commencal) tops the list of downhill specialists that also includes his fellow Commencal teammates, Niko Velasco, Sharjah Jonsson and South African Junior Downhill Champion, Ike Klaassen.

Sam Bull will look to extend his good form from the Gauteng Enduro Series where he has had three wins, to the National Enduro Champs. | Photo Action Photo SA

Five-time South African Downhill champion, Johan Potgieter (YT), is also on the entry list. He won the SA Downhill Cup event at the same venue in May and will be keen to add an Enduro national title to his palmares.

The event sees the return of the country’s two top Junior gravity racers from long injury layoffs. Klaassen has been out for months following the serious femur injury he sustained at Dark Fest in May 2021.

Rory Kirk (Transition), runner-up to Klaassen at the 2021 SA Downhill Champs, will make his first competitive appearance since a crash in practice at the Downhill Cup at Iron Throne Bike Park resulted in a broken wrist, followed by a broken collarbone August.

Other prominent names on the entry list include former national Enduro champion, Sam Bull of Gauteng, Wade Prinsloo of North West Province, Ross Kew and Keira Duncan of KwaZulu-Natal and Willie van Eck of Mpumalanga.

With three wins from three rounds of the South African Enduro Cup Series, Matt Lombardi will start at the favourite for the Elite men’s title on Sunday. | Photo: Specialized South Africa

The small women’s entry list is topped by pre-race favourite, Frankie du Toit (Trek) from the Western Cape, who is the current Elite South African Downhill champion.

ENDURO (Sub Juniors – Grand Masters) – 06:30 Start
Stage 1 : DH Track – Cable Way assisted
Stage 2 : Vulture Valley – Cable Way assisted
Stage 3 : Commencal Trail – Cable Way assisted
Stage 4 : Kowyn – pedal
Stage 5 : Harties Vibe – pedal

ENDURO LITE (Sprogs / Nippers / Sports) – 07:30 Start
Stage 2 : Vulture Valley – Cable Way assisted
Stage 3 : Commencal Trail – Cable Way assisted
Stage 5 : Harties Vibe – pedal

Racing starts at 06h15 on Sunday morning at Iron Throne Bike Park, Hartebeesport Dam.

Competitors will need to use the cable car to get to the start of three of the five stages.