Christoff Van Heerden Wins Emperors Palace Classic

Former national road champion Christoff Van Heerden, 30, showed his all-round racing ability when he claimed a surprise win in the Emperors Palace Mountain Bike Classic in Kempton Park, Johannesburg, on Saturday.  Van Heerden, who won the Circuit Spectacular criterium at the same venue three years ago, blazed across the finish line to take the 40km mountain bike event in a time of 1:37:19.  The Kitchen Bar rider was followed home by Peter-Lee Jefferies of Inter-Active Technologies in 1:41:04, with Jacques Greeff third for Team Kempston Group in 1:44:57.

Van Heerden said he had cut his teeth on route designer Lee Stockenstrom’s cross-country trails as a youngster, which had given him the edge over his competitors on the day:  ‘Lee’s courses are where I developed my skills, so I know the kind of trails he builds.  He’s is a master track builder who’s made a cool route from this terrain.’  Bedfordview resident Van Heerden, who will soon be relocating to Cape Town, said his victory could possibly herald the start of a crossover career in off-road racing:  ‘I rode the Cape Epic this year, which could be the start of a new journey.  A bunch of guys have given me the opportunity to race again.  It’s nice to have a team backing you; with good support you can do anything.’  In the women’s event, triathlete Susan Sloan took a convincing win in 1:54:52, while Jana Jonker claimed the runner-up spot in 2:01:36 with Susan Gerber a further 32 seconds back.

Sloan, 34, said the race had served well as part of her preparations for the Xterra world championships later in the year, where she would be eyeing a top-10 result after finishing 18th last year:  ‘In Xterra we tend to focus on the tough endurance riding but I enjoyed the singletrack with its twists and turns through the trees, which is good for my technical training.’  The Benoni resident said she had been pleasantly surprised by the trails in the vicinity of OR Tambo International Airport:  ‘Everyone kept telling me I should ride the forest section by the airport and riding it today I realised I should come and do this more often.’  In the 20km men’s race, Heinrich Kanis (Epic Sports) of Centurion took his debut victory in 1:05:19, while Kempton Park local Lisa Venter notched up her second consecutive win in the women’s section in 1:16:54.

Photo credit: The winners at the Emperors Palace Mountain Bike Classic in Johannesburg on Saturday were, from left, Lisa Venter (women’s 20km), Susan Sloan (women’s 40km), Christoff van Heerden (men’s 40km) and Heinrich Kanis (men’s 20km).
Photo credit: Yolanda Van Der Stoep