Willie van Eck and Zandri Strydom lived up to their pre-race favourite status by winning the overall men and women’s title respectively at Round 3 of the 2022 Mpumalanga Enduro Series, presented by Bike Market at the MTO White River trails at the weekend.

Van Eck used his local knowledge to dominate the men’s racing, winning all five stages convincingly. His overall time was 12 minutes 42 seconds. Jo Bester, who has converted from marathon and XCO racing to Enduro and who now lives in Nelspruit, finished second in a total time of 13:43, with Limpopo Junior, Tyrone Anders rounding out the top three in a time of 13:46.

Willie van Eck | Photo: Culture Collective

“I felt pretty comfortable racing on my local trails. I ride these trails almost every single day and with that, a few months of hard training and I felt very sharp on race day,” said Van Eck, who races for the Organic Athlete Gravity Team.

“I had four smooth stages but I crashed over the bars on the final stage on a flat road. Not sure how that happened, but I got up as quick as I could and went full Dutch on the pedals to the finish,” added Van Eck.

Van Eck has enjoyed a successful season, finishing either first or second overall at every Enduro he’s entered.

Joe Bester | Photo: Culture Collective

“It’s been a very good season so far. The highlight isn’t any particular event, but the fact that I’m racing on the Organic Athlete team. We’re like a family now and it makes the racing fun and everything around racing a lot less stressful. I’m aiming to try win the SA Enduro Champs in September. I’m training hard and the trails will be quite familiar,” added Van Eck.

In the Women’s division, Strydom (main image) was similarly dominant, winning all five stages to clock a total winning time of 14:35, which placed her an impressive fourth overall!

Tyrone Anders | Photo: Culture Collective

Gauteng’s Julia Kotze mounted a strong challenge, taking second place on the first four stages, two of them with narrow margins. But a crash on the final stage saw her limp across the finish line and finish fourth overall. Top Youth racer, Danika Botha (16:28) and Veteran ace, Louise Kotze (16:30) eventually finished second and third overall respectively, separated by just two seconds.

“Most of my runs went smoothly. Although on Stages 3 and 5 I made some mistakes that cost me some time, but it’s all good and part of racing,” said Strydom, who has been focussing only on gravity racing this year.

Zandri Strydom | Photo: Culture Collective

“I really enjoy the gravity racing. I love the more technical aspect of Enduro and it’s so fun! But I also do miss the XCO racing scene. My main goal for the rest of the year is to improve some weaknesses and get a good result at the Enduro SA Champs in Nelspruit,” added Strydom.

The predominantly dry trail surfaces made for sublime racing conditions through the MTO Lowveld forests on five stages for the Full Enduro and four stages for the Lite Enduro. Riders from Gauteng, Limpopo and Swaziland added great depth to the field and ensured close racing in most of the categories.

Danika Botha | Photo: Culture Collective

“We’re very fortunate to have such a range of great trails venues in Mpumalanga to offer variety in our Enduro racing venues. MTO invests substantially in the trails in White River and that’s allowed us to hold a successful round of the provincial series there for the second year in succession,” said Schalk Potas of the Trail Awareness Crew, the Mpumalanga Series organisers.

“The next round of the series is at Trailworx, Nelspruit in September and it doubles as the 2022 Enduro SA Champs as well as a qualifier for the Enduro World Series. It’s going to be really big and we are already working on the trails to ensure it’s challenging, rewarding and memorable,” added Potas.

Louise Kotze | Photo: Culture Collective

2022 Mpumalanga Enduro Series

Round 3, MTO Lowveld, White River

Leading results:

Overall men:

1 Willie van Eck 12:42

2 Joe Bester 13:43

3 Tyrone Anders 13:46

4 Justin Victor 14:43

5 Dustin Rudman 14:57

6 Tal Uzan-Tidhar 14:57

7 Riku de Lange 14:58

8 Tristan Vorster 15:12

9 Juan Badenhorst 15:19

10 Barry Crouse 15:33

Elite men

1 Willie van Eck 12:42

2 Joe Bester 13:43

3 Juan Badenhorst 15:19

Junior men

1 Tyrone Anders 13:46

2 Tal Uzan-Tidhar 14:57

3 Riku de Lange 14:58

Youth men

1 Tristan Vorster 15:12

2 Max van Zyl 15:49

3 Lance Murray 15:53

Sub-Junior Boys

1 Jarno Oelofsen 19:16

Nipper Boys

1 Ethan Duvenage 17:00

Sprog Boys

1 Morne van Niekerk 20:49

Sub-veteran men

1 Justin Victor 14:43

2 Dustin Rudman 14:57

3 Chad Westhuizen 16:13

Veteran men

1 Robert Moore 16:09

2 Brett Stephan 16:14

3 Andrew Duvenage 17:25

Master men

1 Barry Crouse 15:33

2 Werner Lategan 17:04

3 Anton Blignaut 17:17

Overall women

1 Zandri Strydom 14:35

2 Danika Botha 16:28

3 Louise Kotze 16:30

4 Julia Kotze 17:29

5 Wendy Odendaal 18:04

6 Licarmi Smith 18:50

7 Lianke Fourie 19:05

8 Kelly Marnewick 20:28

9 Sabine Cowie 26:07

10 Kerry Rice 27:28

Elite women

1 Zandri Strydom 14:35

2 Julia Kotze 17:29

Junior women

1  Lianke Fourie 19:05

Youth women

1 Danika Botha 16:28

Sub-veteran women

1 Licarmi Smith 18:50

Veteran women

1 Louise Kotze 16:30

2 Wendy Odendaal 18:04

3 Kelly Marnewick 20:28

Master women

1 Sabine Cowie 26:07

Grand-master women

1 Kerry Rice 27:28

eBike overall

1 Stephen de Haas 14:42

2 Craig Gebhardt 16:02

3 Peter Kellar 20:04

Lite overall (3 stages) male

1 Sam Breero 17:46

2 Matthew Grealhead 19:01

3 Greg Chamberlin 23:14


Bartel Herbst | Photo: Culture Collective

Thanks to the following companies and organisations for their support:

Bike Market https://bikemarket.co.za

Oasis Water https://oasiswater.co.za/

Pyga Bikes https://www.pygamountainbikes.com

TrailTech Cycles https://trailtechcycles.co.za

Valencia Cycles https://www.vbike.co.za

Squirt https://www.squirtcyclingproducts.com

Leatt https://leatt.com/za

The Organic Athlete https://www.theorganicathlete.co.za

OPI http://onpointindustries.co.za

Culture Collective Photography http://culturecollective.co.za

Cycling South Africa https://www.cyclingsa.com

Pronto Computers https://prontocs.co.za

OMFG Food Truck https://www.ohmyfoodgasm.com

Sabie Brewery https://www.sabiebrewery.com

Send It Time Timing https://www.instagram.com/send_it_time/

Round 4 of the 2022 Mpumalanga Enduro Series will be at Trailworx, Nelspruit on 17 September. It doubles as the 2022 SA Championships and an Enduro World Series qualifier.