Riders enjoyed round two of mountain biking magic on Sunday 19 November 2023 as the final stage of SA’s MTB Party of the year, the Savanna Origin of Trails MTB Experience, concluded at Coetzenburg, Stellenbosch University.

“The 2023 Savanna Origin of Trails MTB Experience was action packed from start to finish,” says Michael Meyer, Managing Director of Stillwater Sports. “It was a true celebration of the sport, where riders from all walks of life came together to enjoy Stellenbosch’s iconic routes, the stunning scenery, and fantastic camaraderie. The event embraced the ethos of having fun on two wheels, and we couldn’t be happier with the positive response from riders. A big thank you goes out to our sponsors and entrants for contributing towards the amazing vibe at South Africa’s MTB Party of the Year. The 2023 event marked the ideal conclusion to a busy year of mountain biking.”

“The Savanna Origin of Trails MTB Experience undeniably stands out as a highlight on the South African mountain biking calendar,” says Anelle Gordon, Heineken Beverages Events Specialist. “Over the past two days, riders embraced the spirit of savouring the moment, relishing the routes, and soaking in the spectacular scenery. This aligns perfectly with the ethos of Savanna. We take great pride in our role as the title sponsor of an event that wholeheartedly celebrates the authentic essence of mountain biking, reminding participants why they fell in love with this exhilarating sport.”

The start of Stage Two of the Savanna Origin of Trails MTB Experience. | Photo: David Sullivan

Stage Two of the Savanna Origin of Trails MTB Experience saw Luyanda Thobigunya (Stage One winner) and Kusaselihle Ngidi cross the finish line together in the Marathon Distance in a lightning-fast time of 02 hours 04 minutes 38 seconds.

“This is my third Savanna Origin of Trails race. I finished second at the first two events,” says Ngidi. “Today’s trails were nice, and I had a lot of fun. The event features top trails. I will certainly tell my friends to take part in this event and I will come back next year. I decided last night to try my luck in the dress up competition. I hope I win.”

After two days of racing Luyanda Thobigunya secured the top spot on the podium. Kusaselihle Ngidi once again had to settle for second place, with Stefan De Bod placing third.

South African road cyclist Stefan De Bod was pleasantly surprised by the Savanna Origin of Trails. “I’m from Stellenbosch but am living in Spain for the team racing in Europe,” confirms De Bod. “This is the first time that I’ve taken part in the event. I took my bike to Flandria Bike Shop and saw the poster up. While I was waiting for my bike, I entered the event. Now I think that I’ll enter every year. It’s just a great opportunity to ride the trails that I used to train and race on. Sometimes people take sport too seriously, so it’s nice to have an event that encourages people to have fun. Yes, there’s a racing aspect to it, which is great, but we need more events that people can just enjoy.”

There was a tussle up front in the Women’s Category of the Half Marathon with defending champion Jackie Lochner (Stellenbosch) securing the Stage One victory. | Photo: David Sullivan

Lehane Oosthuizen claimed her second consecutive stage victory in the Marathon. “I take part in the Savanna Origin of Trails every year because the routes are really nice,” says Oosthuizen. “We ride the routes a lot, but we never race them. Last year I stopped at all the water points and took part in the dress up competition. This is the fourth year that I have taken part and every year I’ve come second. I wanted to finish first at least once. My husband and I had a competition going on. Yesterday he beat me by 20 seconds, but today I beat him by far. The Savanna Origin of Trails is different to other events in that it is a two-day stage race in our backyard.”

Lehane Oosthuizen was the overall winner after two days of racing. Selina Kuhn placed second, with Sune Henning finishing third.

Stage Two of the Marathon featured a 48km route that had a total ascent of 750 metres. This stage had many highlights including airplanes at the Stellenbosch airfield, brandy tasting at the Van Ryn Distillery and pizza at The Wine Pod. Traversing Vredenheim for the first time and getting close to the farm’s lions and other wildlife on your mountain bike is bound to be at the top of the highlights list for many riders.

The Savanna Origin of Trails is renowned for its party vibe, fantastic routes and spectacular scenery. | Photo: David Sullivan

Caroline De Villiers was the first female rider to cross the finish line in the Half Marathon. “This is the first time that I take part in the Savanna Origin of Trails. I wanted to try a stage race, and this event is in Stellenbosch, which made it perfect,” says De Villiers. “It’s been so much fun, and the routes were nice. There were three of us that were overtaking each other all the time, so it was quite tough. My goal was just to see how my legs lasted as I haven’t raced two days in a row before. It was great to cross the finish line in first place.”

Caroline De Villiers was the overall winner in the Half Marathon after two days of racing. Jackie Lochner placed second, while Rochelle Burger finished third.

Sithethelelwe Xhala (with the Springbok on his helmet) was the winner in the Best Dressed Competition. Xhala dressed as Springbok legend Handre Pollard. | Photo: David Sullivan

Jonathan Elcock was the overall men’s winner in the Half Marathon. Ruben Ward placed second, while Ian Volschenk finished third.

Stage Two of the Half Marathon treated riders to a 36km route that featured a total ascent of 500m. After one early climb and technical descent, the route became an open flat road with easy single track. Half Marathon riders were also treated to glimpses of airplanes and wildlife, brandy tastings and pizza.

Dress Up Day: With the event celebrating its 10th anniversary in 2023, event organisers felt it fitting to make ’10’ the central theme – whether it’s a word featuring ‘ten,’ the numeral itself, or the rider’s unique vision of a ten-year celebration. Ciske Turner (Tokai) and Sithethelelwe Xhala (Idas Valley) proved to be the most creative riders on the day. Both riders were awarded a whopping R10 000 and 10 cases of Savanna for their creativity.

The floating bridge at Mont Marie is a firm favourite at the Savanna Origin of Trails MTB Experience. | Photo: David Sullivan

Leading results


Stage 1


1 Luyanda Thobigunya 2:07:51

2 Kusaselihle Ngidi 2:09:22

3 Stefan De Bod 2:12:15

4 Jasper Stuyven 2:12:30

5 Matthew Daneel 2:16:15


1 Lehane Oosthuizen 2:42:39

2 Selna Kuhn 2:48:57

3 Sune Henning 2:51:16

4 Lena Ronge 2:54:53

5 Marleen Lourens 2:55:03



1 Jonathan Elcock 1:19:17

2 Lwazi Tshandana 1:23:36

3 Ruben Ward 1:28:47

4 Ian Volschenk 1:28:48

5 Johannes Scannell 1:31:50


1 Jackie Lochner 1:39:12

2 Caroline De Villiers 1:39:21

3 Rochelle Burger 1:39:45

4 Mikayla Forrester 1:40:07

5 Joanna Thomas 1:42:38

Chelsea Frost and Rowan Mckenzie were both finalists in the Best Dressed Competition. | Photo: David Sullivan

Stage 2



1 Luyanda Thobigunya 02:04:38

2 Kusaselihle Ngidi 02:04:38

3 Jasper Stuyven 02:04:51

4 Stefan De Bod 02:04:53

5 Matthew Daneel 02:05:09


1 Lehane Oosthuizen 02:28:43

2 Selina Kuhn 02:30:49

3 Sarita Louw 02:37:04

4 Catherine Pellow-Jarman 02:37:06

5 Lena Ronge 02:37:56



1 Sandiso Xetu 01:50:59

2 Johannes Scannell 01:52:20

3 Ruben Ward 01:54:59

4 Ian Volschenk 01:55:00

5 William Orrock 02:02:40


1 Caroline De Villiers 02:06:15

2 Jackie Lochner 02:06:36

3 Rochelle Burger 02:07:39

4 Julia Skea 02:09:46

5 Mikayla Forrester 02:15:51

Jonathan Elcock (Newlands) was the first rider home in the Half Marathon. | Photo: David Sullivan

General Classification



1 Luyanda Thobigunya 04:12:28

2 Kusaselihle Ngidi 04:13:59

3 Stefan De Bod 04:17:07

4 Jasper Stuyven 04:17:20

5 Matthew Richard Daneel 04:21:24


1 Lehane Oosthuizen 05:11:21

2 Selina Kuhn 05:19:45

3 Sune Henning 05:31:46

4 Lena Ronge 05:32:49

5 Michelle Lombardi 05:36:29



1 Jonathan Elcock 03:22:00

2 Ruben Ward 03:23:46

3 Ian Volschenk 03:23:48

4 Johannes Scannell 03:24:10

5 Lwazi Tshandana 03:39:03


1 Caroline De Villiers 03:45:37

2 Jackie Lochner 03:45:48

3 Rochelle Burger 03:47:24

4 Mikayla Forrester 03:55:59

5 Julia Skea 04:00:49