The University of Stellenbosch dominated both days of the first ever Varsity Sports MTB Challenge which was held on some of the most picturesque, but demanding trails in the Cape Winelands.
In windy conditions over 49km of racing on Stage Two, largely on pristine singletrack, Maties consigned their university rivals to another day in the hurt box. In the approach to the first major climb on Boschendal, CP van Wyk, Ian Lategan and Jacques Lloyd put the hammer down, opened a gap and held on to take Stage Two by just over a minute from the hard-chasing University of Pretoria. The University of Cape Town rounded out the Stage Two podium.
Maties had done all the hard work on Stage One, so just needed to protect their lead to be sure of securing overall Varsity Sports MTB honours. The final General Classification reflected the Stellenbosch students’ dominance: Maties finished in a cumulative time of 4:47.50, with Tuks five and a half minutes back in 4:53.33, and UCT finishing in 4:56.14 over the two days.
“Because of the wind, we worked together a lot more,” said Maties strongman Van Wyk. “We knew the trails, so we knew what to expect. The hills in Boschendal are really steep and ‘switchbacky’, but the trails are virtually hand-built, with berms and jumps everywhere. It was definitely tough.”
Although the official varsity teams were predictably at the sharp end of the race, the Varsity MTB Challenge offered a world-class riding experience to both alumni and non-varsity-affiliated mountain bikers as well. Highlights from Day One included a memorable 15km climb up through shady plantations towards the top of Du Toitskloof Pass, swooping downhills and manicured trails across private wine farms, while the outstanding features of Day Two were undoubtedly the unique Boschendal trails looping through forests and around farm dams.
“This is some of the best singletrack in the world,” confirmed Stephan Claassens, a regular mountain biker and provincial head of First National Bank, the headline race sponsor. “Today the downhills were as challenging as the uphills. And the distances were perfect: far enough to make a race of it for the students, and enough for the alumni to feel that they’d had a good workout.”
Even though this was the inaugural Varsity MTB Challenge, for an indication of how highly prized race entries were, look no further than the evocatively named team, The Cycling Dead.
After winning a complimentary entry from Tread Magazine, the team drove 800km through the night from Port Elizabeth and rode Stage One without having slept for 32 hours. They finished just ahead of the broom wagon on Stage One, but after some liquid refreshments in the fully supported race village at La Paris and a good night’s sleep, they were in great shape on Stage Two to fully appreciate the awesome trails they had travelled so far to enjoy.
Varsity Sports MTB men
Varsity Sports MTB women
1.Matthew Wentworth/Paris Basson: 4:57.41
1.Gregg Christy/Richard Simpson: 5:02.43
Varsity MTB Challenge overall points tally
1.University of Stellenbosch: 3453
2.University of Cape Town: 2619
3.University of Pretoria: 395
3.Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University: 380
4.North West University (Pukke): 259
5.Free State University: 254
Source: ASEM Engage