Thrilling KZN XCO Champs Finale

Enthusiastic mountain bikers of all ages arrived at Cascades MTB Park and raced to their limits for a stake at the cross-country Championship titles in their respective categories in Pietermaritzburg on Saturday.  Conditions were ideal with a cool and crisp start to the morning, warming up to over 30 degrees by noon, which made for some thrilling racing.  The riders welcomed the fresh changes to the track by course builder Nick Floros. 

Elite Men’s winner, Stuart Marais, embraced the revamped track, which has hosted a few World Cups and a World Championship event in the past.  Marais says:  ‘It was a good race, they had made a couple of changes to what we usually race here, which made for more of an interesting race.  But it was a good change and I really enjoyed it.’  Marais still managed to fight his way to the finish despite a nasty tumble as well, saying:  ‘I took ‘Red-Lipped Herald’ a little bit too fast and overshot it a bit and came off quite hard, so I slowed up for the first couple of laps and towards the end I started feeling alright again.  I started to put the hammer down and managed to secure the win.’  Second place in the Elite Men’s race went to Leeroy Emslie with Sthembiso Masango (RMB Change a Life Academy) finishing third.

Taking the Junior Men’s title was young star Julian Jessop.  He says:  ‘On the first lap I got into the front before the first piece of singletrack and then I stayed in the front. I took the third lap a little bit slower to recover but then on the last lap, blasted back in again and I’m happy to take the KZN title.’  Jessop (racing for Specialized Concept Cyclery) is happy with his current form, and looking forward to next weekend, saying:  ‘I have SA Marathon Champs next weekend, so I’m feeling good with my speed, and I’m all ready to compete to try and retain my title there.’

Jessop’s time gap was 28 seconds ahead of silver medallist Reinhard Zellhuber, while Dean Wortmann finished in third place.  Callan Deacon took the under-23 category’s victory, which was raced over seven laps.  Deacon’s winning time of 01:43:45 was almost three minutes ahead of second placed Jaco Pelser, with Sipho Khupiso (RMB Change a Life Academy) claiming the bronze medal for third place.

In the Youth Men’s race, Sharjah Jonsson (GM Cycles) made his intentions known as he maintained very consistent lap times to secure a dominant victory in a time of 01:19:16.  Second position went to Joshua Clipstone while Jett Bradshaw finished third.  With a very small number of entries in the women’s categories, all the women started together and completed their required number of laps.

First across the finish line was junior rider Frankie Du Toit. Tiffany Keep (Youth Women, Pure Adventure Wear Team) posted consistent lap times in her race and claimed victory against Courtney Smith by almost eight minutes.  Veteran racer and 2013 World Champion, Natalie Bergstrom, claimed the provincial title in her class.  The young Team Time Freight rider who has captured the hearts of many, Frances “Frankie” Du Toit, says:  ‘We started on quite a long flat uphill so it was quite a drag until we got to the first single track.  We had to go all-out for a long time before we got there.  But it was good: tough start, tough course, but I really enjoyed it.’

Du Toit mentioned that although she didn’t exactly have a favourite part of the track, she enjoyed some sections more than others:  ‘There was a really good pump track, we had “Tree House” as well, which was very nerve-wracking, but if you got it right it was so much fun.’  Hayley Smith claimed the under-23 women’s victory.  She says:  ‘I enjoyed my race and felt good today.  The organisers changed the whole layout of the track and I really loved the technical sections.  I came into the race more relaxed so I think it helped me today.’

Sub junior girls’ winner, Megan Bircher (Pure Adventure Wear Team), said:  ‘It [the track] was quite tricky but it was really fun and enjoyable with all the technical sections and uphills.  I am happy with my win today!’  The Veteran Men delivered some fine racing in these competitive classes, with Warren Price stamping his authority on the Veteran’s competition, Lance Chapman finishing in second place and Tim Keep winning the bronze medal.   Bradley Rowlett was dominant in the Sub-Veteran race putting in four minutes ahead of Duane Stander with Jean-Pierre Kroll rounding out the podium.

Jimmy Redman put in a solid performance to cruise to victory in the Master category, finishing in a time of 01:06:00.  Charles Young claimed second place (01:07:23) and Tony Stark finished third (01:10:03).  The Grand Master category saw Frances Marsburg claim a gold medal for her efforts in the women’s race, and Mike Staphorst a gold medal in the men’s race.

The younger categories raced early with Hannah Elliott (Nipper) and Chloe Bateson (Sprogs) claiming the first of the girls’ championship titles, and Liam Theunissen (Nipper) and Nicholas De Bruin (Sprog) winning the Boys’ titles.  De Bruin fought hard against Jordan Bold for his victory with almost identical lap times – De Bruin won by 30 seconds in the end.  Travis Stedman led the way in the Sub Junior Boys’ race, bursting out of the start gate and commanding an early lead, which he held until the end.

His winning margin was five minutes ahead of silver medallist Cale Lindecke, with Mitchel Potgieter finishing third.  Stedman says:  ‘It was really fun.  It was nice and technical and there was a lot of climbing.  My favourite part was “Tree House” and “Red Face Hill”.’  The cross-country discipline requires a certain level of skill and fitness, and local riders at the sharp-end of the sport came out in top form to challenge the top positions in mountain biking’s only Olympic discipline.

The other mountain biking disciplines of Enduro and Downhill will be accommodated at Cascades MTB Park next weekend, on 6 and 7 June respectively.  Entries are still open and spectators are welcome to witness some sensational racing.

Summary of Results – KZN MTB Championships (XCO) – 30 May 2015 

Elite Men (6 laps)
1.Stuart Marais 01:43:06
2.Leeroy Emslie 01:44:56
3.Sthembiso Masango 01:45:50

Men U23 (6 laps) 
1.Callan Deacon 01:43:45
2.Jaco Pelser 01:46:11
3.Sipho Khupiso 01:52:17

Women U23 (5 laps)
1.Hayley Smith 01:46:51
2.Candice Parker-Dennison 01:58:54

Junior Men (4 laps)
1.Julian Jessop 01:09:29
2.Reinhard Zellhuber 01:09:57
3.Dean Wortmann 01:22:35

Junior Women (3 laps)
1.Frankie du Toit 01:03:42
2.Chriestie-Leigh Hearder 01:12:43

Youth Men (4 laps)
1.Sharjah Jonsson 01:19:16
2.Joshua Clipstone 01:26:27
3.Jett Bradshaw 01:28:22

Youth Women (3 laps)
1.Tiffany Keep 01:07:21
2.Courtney Smith 01:14:47

Sub Junior Boys (3 laps)
1.Travis Stedman 01:06:44
2.Cale Lindecke 01:11:47
3.Mitchel Potgieter 01:12:12

Sub Junior Girls (2 laps)
1.Megan Bircher 00:56:02

Sub Veteran Men (5 laps)
1.Bradley Rowlett 01:33:30
2.Duane Stander 01:37:21
3.Jean-Pierre Kroll 01:46:59

Men Veteran (5 laps)
1.Warren Price 01:31:02
2.Lance Chapman 01:39:18
3.Tim Keep 01:42:52

Women Veteran (5 laps)
1.Natalie Bergstrom 01:31:37

Master Men (3 laps)
1.Jimmy Redman 01:06:00
2.Charles Young 01:07:23
3.Tony Stark 01:10:03

Men Grand Master (3 laps)
1.Mike Staphorst 01:16:26

Women Grand Master (3 laps)
1.Frances Marsburg 01:09:22

Sprog Boys (4 laps)
1.Nicholas de Bruin 00:42:29
2.Jordan Bold 00:43:07
3.Dreyer Botma 00:43:28

Sprog Girls (3 laps)
1.Chloe Bateson 00:36:25
2.Emma Clipstone 00:43:41

Nipper Boys (3 laps)
1.Liam Theunissen 00:35:25
2.Aiden Wright 00:36:28
3.Connor Wright 00:36:59

Nipper Girls (2 laps)
1.Hannah Elliott 00:37:21

Youth Men’s rider Sharjah Jonsson (GM Cycles) made his intentions known as he secured a dominant victory at the 2015 KZN XCO Championships which took place at Cascades MTB Park, Pietermaritzburg, on 30 May. Photo credit: Andrew Mc Fadden / BOOGS Photography