Minnaar Sizzles In Midlands ENDURO

World Downhill superstar Greg Minnaar sampled his local trails in a close race with fellow trail maestro Hilton Frost at St. Ives MTB Park in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands for the opening round of the 2016 KZNMTB Provincial ENDURO Series – presented by Greg Minnaar Cycles on Saturday 20 February.  The chill and laid back vibe of the ENDURO racing scene came to life in extremely hot conditions as over 120 riders departed from the Boma area next to the St Ives Restaurant and began their leisurely climb to the top of the hill within the St Ives property.  Although the four timed stages meant a race distance of only eight kilometres on beautifully descending trails, competitors had to work their way up the hillside four times during the course of the day totalling almost 20 kilometres in the worsening heat.

The tussle between Minnaar and Frost was close as Minnaar posted two faster times, Frost timed one faster stage, and they both tied the third stage, with Minnaar taking the victory by just four seconds.  Minnaar, who leaves for Portugal on Sunday afternoon for testing with his team Syndicate, enjoyed the trails and the vibe of the ENDURO and decided to participate and “try out” some of the local trails.  He says:  ‘The guys put together some really good trails!  It was a bit sketchy because I haven’t really seen the track and I’m trying to race it and go as fast as I can, so I had a few moments but all in all it was really cool and really fast.  There was some nice tight stuff – not overly technical, which was nice for the beginner riders, but when there were some technical sections we had some pretty good options.  It was a good event and really social; good to see a lot of old faces and a ton of new faces. We’re really excited to be involved with this series as title sponsors.  I got here late and ran four runs then grabbed my downhill bike and practiced the downhill quickly before the storm rolled in.  Tomorrow’s downhill should be good – I’ll do a few runs in the morning.’  

Frost, the runner-up, says:  ‘It was very cool today – it’s always nice at the first race of the season because you never know what the guys have actually done in the off season.  It’s great just to come back here and see mates again and catch up.’  Supported by Pyga Industries and Tread Tech, Frost says that he is part of a team of five riders, hailing from KwaZulu-Natal and Johannesburg:  ‘In KZN, we’re sort of the first province to host a provincial ENDURO “series”.  It’s nice that we’ve actually got a proper, organised series here, attracting a lot of Joburg guys down here as well.  Everyone is just here to have a good time.  I suppose that’s why we ride our bikes at the end of the day.  It’s cool to have like-minded people and a more relaxed environment.’  Patrick Morewood, who won the Veteran Men’s class, says:  ‘Everyone wants to win, but we’re also all here just to relax and have fun and spend time with the family.  I’ve got my son here whose nine, and he’s riding today.  It’s a nice safe place for kids to come out and ride.  There’s always someone who’s going to join and ride with them and come and help them.  The thing about ENDURO is that everybody helps each other.  It’s not about whose got the best line.  There’s a lot of that in Downhill, where you keep lines to yourself and you want to have the maximum advantage.  At an ENDURO, you can arrive in the morning and just do a bit of riding and practice with your friends.  It’s just more of a family kind of atmosphere.  That’s the essence of ENDURO, I suppose.’  With the option of starting the first, second and third stages in any order, winner of the Junior Men’s race, Sharjah Jonsson, opted to start on the third timed stage.

Jonsson says:  ‘It didn’t look like there was too much traffic at stage three to start off with.  But then on my second stage, I crashed into a tree and popped my collarbone out, and it kept on popping out.  So that set me back quite a bit but I managed to finish the race, and I’m sitting in the top ten overall so I’m pretty happy with that.  I’m excited about the downhilltomorrow, the track’s a bit blown out, but I’m going to take it as it comes.’  Winner of the women’s race in the sub veteran class, Joanne Hicks also overcame the extreme heat to record some good times on the stages.   She says:  ‘My day was awesome, I had such a good time out there.  It was really hot when we had to go uphill, but luckily with ENDURO we can push our bikes so it’s fine.  I had some really cool runs on the way down.  It was a bit slippery in places and Tom and Jerry’s was a nightmare through the muddy puddles but it was all good.  I had a lot of fun.’  

Speaking about the vibe at the season opener, Hicks says:  ‘It’s awesome to see everyone again after the break and to see how many people came down from Joburg.  It was a really fun day out with everybody all together.  It was great on the hill.’  Hicks will also be competing in the Downhill provincial series opener on Sunday.  She says:  ‘Downhill is different because we get to take the vehicle shuttles to the top of the hill, and don’t have to get up the hill on our own steam.  I’m looking forward to it – it’s such a lovely event and such a wonderful venue.’  ENDURO event organiser, Dave Drummond, says:  ‘It was a very hot day out but the trails were awesome.  The new stage-one was loose and raw, which is the way we like it and we had an excellent day out and I really enjoyed it.  There was a great turnout – about 124 riders.  Anything over 100 we are pleased with and I think everyone is eager to get going in the new season.  The sport is growing in popularity and the social side of ENDURO is drawing people in.  We had people from Johannesburg and Durban, and the guys who ride in Pietermaritzburg and Howick all came to have a good time.’

Round two of the 2016 KZNMTB Provincial ENDURO Series takes place at Giba Gorge MTB Park (near Pinetown) on Saturday 26 March.  For any further details, please visit www.kznmtb.co.za. For more information, contact Rebecca Van Der Linde info@kznmtb.co.za.

Summary of Results – KZNMTB Provincial ENDURO Series #1 – 20 February 2016

Senior Men
1.Greg Minnaar 14:12
2.Hilton Frost 14:16
3.David Hogan 14:39

Senior Women
1.Kim Westbrook 18:09
2.Tammy Sturrock 20:46
3.Lauren Hoyer 24:08

Junior Men
1.Sharjah Jonsson 14:53
2.Felix Manke 14:55
3.Peter Fogden 16:47

Youth Men
1.Keira Duncan 15:39
2.Kayle Seaward 15:47
3.Connor Finnis 17:38

Sub Junior Men
1.Robert Jessop 18:19
2.Kyle Brand 21:16
3.Byron Werth 23:57

Sub Junior Women
1.Sabine Thies 18:33
2.Charne Dreyer 19:42
3.Sarah Ryan 25:37

Sprog Boys
1.Nicholas de Bruin 20:22
2.Liam Tyler Hall 20:26
3.Nate Tanner Hall 20:58

Sub Veteran Men
1.Craig Paul 15:08
2.Mark Millar 15:28
3.Jade Gutzeit 15:34

Sub Veteran Women
1.Joanne Hicks 20:17
2.Michele Reynolds 22:05
3.Tamryn Taylor

Veteran Men
1.Patrick Morewood 15:34
2.Craig Seaward 15:43
3.Oliver Burnett 16:00

Veteran Women
1.Kerry Frizelle

Master Men
1.Con Malherbe 16:38
2.Michael Frost 18:06
3.Dave Lees 19:22

Grand Master Men
1.Mike Staphorst 24:28
2.Ashley Nesbitt