The inaugural TREAD Femme Women in MTB Awards have been established to recognise women that are leaders and achievers and who are making a positive impact on mountain biking in South Africa. We want to recognise and celebrate women that are leading by example and improving South African mountain biking in their own way. Here are the finalists.

It took a bit longer than originally planned, but that’s partly because we had a much bigger response than we anticipated in terms of nominations for the inaugural TREAD Femme Women in MTB Awards. We had more than 50 nominations across the five categories! We read every single nomination and have to say that we are incredibly fortunate to have so many inspiring women in South African mountain biking.

Based on the regular surveys we run each year, women currently make up 23% of the South African mountain bike market. In 2018 it was 18% and by the number of women we see riding now, it seems as if it will continue to grow.

We decided on four main categories – Group Champion, Industry Leader, Mentor and Athlete and a fifth category, Warrior of the Future, to acknowledge the young women that are nominated in any of the four main categories.

Our panel spent hours considering each nomination. It wasn’t an easy process as there were so many worth nominations. But we had to cut it down, so here are the finalists – there are five in each of the main categories and two in the Warrior of the Future division. Remember, these awards only consider women in mountain biking, not any other cycling discipline. We have expanded our panel to decide the winner in each. They will be announced before the end of 2021.


A woman that is selfless and spends time and effort consistently to help grow a cycling community or group. A nurturer and visionary that understands the long-term benefits of her efforts, which add great value to mountain biking. Can be from a range of positions, including administrator, coach, entrepreneur etc.

1 Paola Damilano, 2 Smish Burge, 3 Kirsty Searle, 4 Corne Serfontein, 5 Kati Csak, 6 Juno Kerwin

Juno Kerwin ­– Juno is founder of Cycle Cradle and Beyond, which is an informal group that organises formal rides in and around trails of and near the Cradle of Humankind just outside Johannesburg. She organises rides for all levels of fitness from Tuesday to Sunday each week and gets up to 400 joining the rides. She does this voluntarily and based on the nominations, always with a smile. Instagram account.

Paola Damilano – Highly motivated and passionate about the growth of mountain biking, Paola fills a number of administrative roles including Cycling SA Deputy MTB Director, Gauteng Cycling MTB Chairperson and Central Gauteng Cycling XCO Chairperson. She also ensured the official launch of Enduro in Gauteng by organising the inaugural Sox Footwear Series, which was the official 2021 Gauteng Provincial Enduro Series. Instagram account.

Kirsty Searle & Smish Burge ­– this is a combined nomination as this dynamic duo are the owners of Like2Bike, which organises a mountain bike race series for kids in Gauteng. They’re also both qualified BICP skills instructors, focussing mostly of teaching skills to kids. They also organisers the Ronald Lamola Leeuwkop Challenge, which, through its entries, has purchased more 50 bicycles for underprivileged kids in the past two years. Instagram account.

Kati Csak – Kati is a low-key persona that plays a significant role in the international mountain biking segment. She is the Senior Director Global Mountain Biking for the Ironman Group, which now owns a bouquet of international mountain bike stage races, including the Absa Cape Epic, and an additional seven Epic Series mountain bike stage races in seven countries. She’s occupied this role since 2018. Prior that that she was Absa Cape Epic Race Director for 13 years. Instagram account.

Corne Serfontein – Corne is the co-owner of Cycle Addict bike shop in Oudtshoorn. She started a recycling bin in the store to collect old cycling gear for underprivileged kids which has evolved into a full-on Youth Development Programme that now looks after 26 youngsters from underprivileged backgrounds, teaching both on the bike skills and off the bike life-skills. Instagram account.


A woman that works in the mountain bike industry – or a related industry – including retail, wholesale, media, product, event etc) that is consistently focussed on growing the women’s segment, either through focussed initiatives or ensuring women are adequately catered for through her consistent efforts.

1 Tracey Reynolds, 2 Karen Fortune, 3 Fiona Smith-Williams, 4 Nikki Haywood, 5 Victoria Rose, 6 Melicia Labuschagne.

Victoria Rose – Victoria owns Ride Like A Girl, which is a women-focussed mountain bike skills and confidence improvement business. She also co-owns Mastering MTB Skills, which offers skills instructor training courses under the BICP certification system. Her ability to help women to understand and conquer their fears is evident in the nominations she received. Instagram account.

Fiona Williams & Karen Fortune – difficult to split Fiona and Karen, who both received numerous nominations. They are both certified under the BICP skills instructor system and own Dirt School KZN, which is based at Giba Gorge and offers regular skills clinics, mostly to kids and women. They also run Giba Gals, women’s riding group and organise grassroots style events to help develop riders’ confidence in a competitive environment. Instagram Fiona. | Instagram Karen.

Melicia Labuschagne – Melicia’s passion for mountain biking has grown beyond her own objectives. She is the Director of Liqui Moly South Africa, which through her, has become a large supporter of mountain biking on many levels, including technical and bike-wash support at events and sponsor of female mountain bikers, including the Galileo Risk Infiniti Spot professional women’s team in recent years. Instagram account.

Nikki Haywood – Nikki is the founder and owner of Trail Angels, an established women’s mountain bike club based in Cape Town. Since 2012, Trail Angels has followed a weekly riding schedule that caters for all levels of rider. Trails Angels also offers skills lessons, kids clinics and women-only mountain biking multi-day escapes. Instagram account.

Tracey Reynolds – Tracey is the founder of Life Behind Bras, a women’s mountain biking group based on the Gauteng West Rand that hosts organised rides at various venues for women of all skill and fitness levels. Life Behind Bras also creates awareness and offers support for mental illnesses, women’s health and women’s challenges. Instagram account.


A woman that stands out in her role as a supporter, coach or motivator in mountain biking. She may be a coach, group leader, event organiser social media influencer or more, but her consistent efforts help to motivate and inspire and her energy adds great value to mountain biking.

From left: Erica Green, Katja Steenkamp, Sarah Hill, Gillian von Buddenbrock and Jo Dobinson.

Erica Green – Erica competed as an athlete at the 1996 and 2000 Olympic Games and has been a coach and women’s mountain biking ambassador ever since. Her business, Daisyway Coaching Systems, offers skills coaching for schools and training camps for mountain bikers wanting to complete tough events, like the Absa Cape Epic. Instagram account.

Gillian von Buddenbrock – Gillian founded the Sugar Rats Mountain Bike Club for Kids in 2011. It’s based at Holla Trails in Ballito and has grown to become one of the largest kids mountain bike clubs in the country. During the national lockdown in 2020, she started Sugar Babes, a mountain biking group for Mums who wanted to learn to ride so that they can improve their own health and fitness and support their mountain bike-mad kids. Instagram account.

Katja Steenkamp – Katja owns Breakaway Rides, a business that offers skills clinics, weekly and monthly supported rides. The market focus is predominantly women and school kids in the Cape Town and Durbanville area. Breakaway Rides also offers School Holiday MTB Camps and Birthday Party Adventure Rides for ages 5-16, multi-day mountain biking tours and bike rentals. Instagram account.

Sarah Hill – Sarah is a professional mountain bike racer for Liv Factory Racing, who achieved some podiums in a heavily affected racing programme due to Covid-19 related lockdowns and travel restrictions. She’s also a coach with The Threshold, a certified PMBI skills instructor and is studying a Master of Arts in Sports Psychology. Her social media persona is noticeably upbeat and motivational. Instagram account.

Jo Dobinson – Jo established Biking the Bosch, a business focussed on teaching mountain bike skills and confidence in the Stellenbosch area. In seven years, she has helped improve the mountain biking confidence and speed of over 9500 mountain bikers, ranging from school learners, to novice women to Cape Epic winners and World Champions. Instagram account.


A woman that stands out as an athlete in mountain biking. She would be a successful racer whose consistent commitment sees her produce inspiring results in her category, which could be international, national, regional or even her own age group. She is an inspiration and a great ambassador for the brands she represents.

From left: Yolande de Villiers, Robyn de Groot, Frankie du Toit, Mariske Strauss and Candice Lill.

Yolande de Villiers – Forty-eight-year-old Yolande continues to be an inspiration to women everywhere. Among other ultra-marathon wins in 2021, she won the Cullinan 2 Tonteldoos 260km and was fourth overall! She also won the 36ONE 361km in a new record time and was fourth overall. She claimed victory at Attakwas 121km and she won the South African marathon champion title for the first time in her career. Instagram account.

Robyn de Groot ­– Despite a couple of major disappointments in 2021, Robyn enjoyed one of her best racing years yet. Locally, among others, she won the King Price Race to the Sun 160km and KAP Sani2c (with Amy McDougall). She won all five stages and the overall title at the Swiss Epic (with Ariane Luthi); and she won the M3 Montafon Ultra-marathon in Austria. She was sixth at the 2021 Marathon World Champs and finished third at the Absa Cape Epic (with Ariane Luthi). Instagram account.

Frankie du Toit – Despite having qualified to race at the 2021 Enduro World Series, Frankie’s international racing objectives were scuppered by lockdowns and travel restrictions in response to Covid-19. She still managed to stay positive though and won most the gravity events she entered in South Africa, including the South African Downhill Champs and the South African Enduro Champs. Instagram account.

Mariska Strauss – Mariske  was in a fierce three-way battle for the one Tokyo Olympics spot but was unfortunate to miss out on selection. She won a C1 XCO race in the Netherlands, was third at the SA XCO Champs and achieved a number of top 30 finishes in XCO or XCC at World Cup and World Champs level. She finished second at the 2021 Absa Cape Epic (with Candice Lill) and won the FNB Wines2Whales (also with Lill). Instagram account.

Candice Lill – Candice Lill was selected to represent South Africa at the postponed Tokyo Olympic Games, where she finished 24th. She had a top 15 finish at a World Cup XCC round and was 11th in the XCC at the World Champs. She won the SA XCO Champs as well as the FNB Wines2Whales, with Mariske Strauss, and was runner-up at the Absa Cape Epic (also with Strauss). Instagram account. 


A female under the age of 23 that stands out in any of the four categories here.

Zandri Strydom (left) and Michaela Winterbottom.

Michaela Winterbottom (21) – Michaela owns and runs a mountain bike coaching business called Courageous MTB in Gauteng. She specializes in the physiological and skills coaching of kids, beginner and intermediate level adults and received much praise for her entrepreneurial skills at such a young age. Instagram account.

Zandri Strydom (20) – Primarily a skilled XCO racer for Team {type}DEV Nano Time, Zandri raced Enduro for the first time in 2021 and not only won the Mpumalanga Enduro Series, but also placed in the top 3 overall at some of the rounds. She also won Round 1 of the Enduro Western Cape Series confirming a bright future in Enduro racing. Instagram account.