It was a flat and fast showdown in Pretoria this weekend. The fourth round of the Gauteng based marathon mountain bike series, the Nissan TrailSeeker, took place in Hazeldean on 23 September.
The event was nothing short of a spring festivity. Close to 3000 riders gathered at the Cowhouse Market, a local hotspot, for a day of dusty trails, gourmet food and craft brewery.
The man that managed to blaze his way across the finish line first was Nico Bell (Team NAD) while the in-form MTB star Samantha Sanders (Valencia) snatched up the women’s title.
It was a heated race for the title from start to finish, and it seemed that Pretoria favourite Philip Buys (Pyga Euro Steel) was positioned to come out on top. After a slight technical climb in the first 20km, the group of Nico Bell, Wessel Botha (Lynnwood Cyclery), and Gawie Combrink (Team NAD) took the lead. Lodged in a four way battle for most of the race, Buys could not seem to successfully launch a high-speed attack to escape his fierce competition.
“The pace today was hot! We all threw in as many attacks as we could, aware that Philip wouldn’t like the constant pressure. And it worked!” said an elated Bell.
Combrink took some big punches up front to pave the way for his teammate, Nico Bell. An unfortunate technical issue left him chasing the group, but Bell kept his eyes on the podium and stood tall for Team NAD. He came storming through the last 5km in first place, and managed to maintain his gap all the way to the finish.
The performance of the day, however, undoubtedly went to 18-year old Wessel Botha. Despite their best efforts, the experienced Buys, Combrink and Bell could not seem to shake the youngster who only started competing as an elite athlete this year.
“It was full gas all the way, and the ride of the day goes to Wessel. Sticking with us wasn’t easy, and he held his pace,” said Combrink.
Botha stole the show when he challenged Buys in the last few metres to the finish line. Despite narrowly missing out on second place, he stood proud on the third spot of the podium for the second time this season.
In the women’s race, Sam Sanders set off guns-blazing right from the start. It was clear
that she was there to win, and nothing was going to get in the way of that.
The competition was always going to tight with 2017 series leader, Theresa Ralph (Galileo Risk-NavWorld) and Vanessa Bell (Bells Cycling) in the mix.
It wasn’t all smooth sailing for Sanders as she made her way to victory. She punctured on a climb in the first 20km and was quickly passed by a determined Ralph.
“Sam is riding so strong,and I knew she would catch me. She’s in a different league at the moment, and the effort she’s been putting into training is clear since she’s turned pro,” said Ralph.
This was the third consecutive victory for Sanders, who has raised her hand as the woman to take the Nissan TrailSeeker Gauteng title this season:
“A win is always good! The Nissan TrailSeeker routes never fail to excite me. It’s been a nice hard session for me, and it’s done my form well before 3 Towers next weekend,” said Sanders.
The race for the season title is on! Theresa Ralph has never been one to back down from a fight, and the Galileo Risk-NavWorld rider will certainly do her best to defend the series title.
1 Nico Bell (Team NAD) 02:23:11
2 Philip Buys (Pyga Euro Steel) 02:23:38
3 Wessel Botha (Lynwood Cyclery) 02:23:39
4 Gawie Combrinck (Team NAD) 02:24:49
5 Declan Sidey (Bells Cycling) 02:26:14
1 Samantha Sanders (Valencia) 02:41:53
2 Theresa Ralph (Galileo Risk) 02:44:34
3 Vanessa Bell (Bells Cycling) 02:46:00
4 Sarah Hill (Galileo Risk) 02:48:54
5 Adrienne Moolman 02:52:00
Source: Inside Line