By Bardy the Scribe

Capetonian Ellane van Wyk’s trip virtually from one side of the country to the other paid off handsomely when she won the women’s race at the Mazda Haenertsburg Mountain Bike Challenge in Limpopo Province at the weekend.

Ellane van Wyk was elated after securing the overall victory at the Mazda Haenertsburg Mountain Bike Challenge at the weekend.

But the drama-filled race got off to an unfortunate start when, after just 13km, defending champion and pre-race favourite, Yolande de Villiers (Mazda Merida), crashed heavily on a fast descent, sustaining a head injury that saw her being rushed to hospital.

Carla Rowley led for most of the race, claiming the Velotex Queen of the Mountains title in the process.

That left the race wide open with Carla Rowley (Raleigh MTN Energade) inheriting the lead and claiming the Velotex Queen of the Mountains prize at 43km before faltering with cramp 10 kilometres later.

Van Wyk (Fabrinox), who recently represented South Africa at the world marathon championships, maintained her steady pace after moving into the lead with 28km remaining. She was unchallenged and finished strongly in 04 hours 32 minutes 37 seconds.

Making a return to racing after a layoff, Christi Pienaar (Fritz Pienaar Cycles) and top veteran Petruschka Constancon joined Rowley in the battle for second place with Pienaar eventually securing the runner-up place in 04:52:37 with Rowley taking third in 4:56:04.

“I really suffered early on and seriously thought about stopping,” said an elated Van Wyk. “I’m glad I just kept going. It was definitely one of the toughest races I’ve ever done. It became more like a test of survival!”

Despite missing Events 7 and 8 due a European racing stint, Tania Raats (Maverick Momentum) still leads the Mazda Series with two events remaining. However the points gaps at the top of the rankings have narrowed considerably, leaving as many as six women in with a shot at the 2007 title with two races remaining.

De Villiers, who was hospitalised, was reported to have suffered a gash to the face and serious concussion, at one point losing consciousness. She also has suspected torn shoulder ligaments and may be unable to complete the Series, which she won in 2006.

The ninth and penultimate race in the 2007 Mazda Series is the Talisman Herald Karoo to Coast, which takes place on 23 September. For more information, visit



Melt Swanepoel lived up to his pre-race favourite status and charged to a dominant victory at the Mazda Haenertsburg Mountain Bike Challenge at the weekend, earning himself maximum points and becoming the new leader in the prestigious Mazda Series.

Melt Swanepoel powered to a dominant victory at the Mazda Haenertsburg MTB Challenge, claiming the Mazda Series lead in the process.

The Raleigh MTN Energade rider was on top form in the hot, dry conditions as he used the arduous 9km climb up the Wolkberg, half way through the race, to eliminate his main rivals before charging on alone to finish the tough 81km event in 03 hours 21 minutes and 03 seconds.

The heat, distance and climbs took their toll on the field, with only nine riders breaking four hours for the demanding 81km race

Brandon Stewart (Raleigh MTN Energade) shrugged off the effects of illness, some mechanical problems and a spirited challenge from Max Knox (Adidas William Simpson Trek) and Francois Theron (Mazda Merida) to secure the distant runner-up place in 3:29:34.

“Brandon and I knew we had to take the racing to the others so we went hard up the first climb and only Max was with us at the top. Then we set a steady pace until the big climb and Brandon saw Max was suffering so he surged. We dropped Max and I then went through and kept the pace high, getting away from Brandon in the process,” explained Swanepoel.

Swanepoel claimed the Velotex King of the Mountain prime and then soldiered on alone, steadily building up his lead to secure his first Mazda Series win of 2007.

“I thought they might come back at me on the big downhill and I had no time splits so I just kept my pace really high. It felt like forever getting to the finish and I was surprised I had such a big lead by the end.”

Considering his incident-filled race, second place was almost a surprise for Stewart.

“I’ve had a viral infection which seemed to be almost gone by race day, but I certainly didn’t feel as strong as usual,” said Stewart, who had to ride the second half of the race with a broken front shock. He also had to repair a punctured tyre and was involved in a crash with Theron 10km from the finish.

“My front shock ‘bottomed-out’ at 40km – and it stayed there! I rode the rest of the race with no suspension which really hammered my hands and arms,” said an exhausted Stewart.

Despite attacking Stewart numerous times in the final few kilometres, Knox was unable to shake the Pietermaritzburg rider off and settled for third place, his first podium in the 2007 Mazda Series. A wounded Theron limped in to secure fourth with Renay Goustra (Mongoose) rounding out the top five.

Swanepoel wasn’t particularly ecstatic about claiming the Series lead, but explained that it wasn’t about individual success.

“It’s quite unlikely that our team will lose the Series lead in the last two events, and whether it is Kevin or myself that wins the final title, it’s not relevant. The important thing is that one of our team wins.”

Evans, winner of three Series races in 2007, has been racing in Europe for five weeks and has missed two of the Mazda Series events. However, the final overall rankings are calculated on the best six race results out of the 10 legs, which means he could still triumph and retain the coveted title for a second year in succession.