VICTORY GIVES SPEEDY'S MAZDA SERIES TITLE HOPES A BOOST
By Bardy the Action Scribe
South African champion, Yolande Speedy, secured a comfortable victory at the Talisman Karoo to Coast Mountain Bike Challenge in the Western Cape at the weekend to move within striking distance of claiming the prestigious 2007 Mazda Series title.
Speedy (IMC Mongoose) rode a steady race to lead from start to finish in the tough 100km event that started in Uniondale and ended in Knysna, clocking a winning time of three hours, 41 minutes and 30 seconds.
Top Western Cape rider, Hanlie Booyens (Jeep Specialized), claimed second place in 03:46:03 with Ischen Stopforth riding a strong second half to finish third in 03:48:53. Carla Rowley (Raleigh MTN Energade) and Christie Pienaar (Fritz Pienaar Cycles) rounded out top five in a large field of almost 200 female finishers.
“I just wanted to have a steady race with no problems and it worked out just perfectly,” smiled Speedy, who is having her best year yet.
It was Speedy’s fourth Mazda Series victory from just five events and it moved her from fourth to second place with just one event remaining. Tania Raats (Maverick Momentum), who has led the Series since January, did not compete at Karoo to Coast and could well see her Series title hopes fade at next month’s Colourpress Crater Cruise where she and Speedy will go head to head in a battle for crucial points.
SWANEPOEL WINS KAROO TO COAST
By Bardy The Action Scribe
Melt Swanepoel confirmed his pedigree as one of the country’s top allround cyclists when he extended his current winning streak to claim the overall title at the Talisman Herald Karoo to Coast Mountain Bike Challenge in Knysna at the weekend.
It was the third major race win in two weeks for the 31-year-old Raleigh MTN Energade rider who won the Mazda Haenertsburg mountain bike race in Limpopo in mid-September and followed that up with a stage win the Selati Africycle road race tour a few days later.
But his Karoo to Coast victory was undoubtedly the sweetest as he not only conquered a demanding 100km course from the inland mountain town of Uniondale to the forested coastal hamlet of Knysna, but he beat off a high quality field, including the likes of South African champion, Kevin Evans (Raleigh MTN Energade) and John Paul Pearton (Mazda Merida), both just back from representing South Africa in Europe.
But the win in the popular event, which doubles as Event 9 in the Mazda Series and which attracted a large field of over 1700 entrants, was only certain for Swanepoel in the final few kilometres following an attack from Pearton just before halfway that saw him lead for more than 40 kilometres.
“John Paul attacked on a climb with 55km to go and quickly got a decent lead. We had got the occasional time split on JP and his lead was up to two minutes at one stage,” explained Swanepoel. “But you can never give up and we just kept chasing hard in the hope that we might close him down. When we got a time split of 1min10sec, we got extra motivation, hoping we could catch him before the finish.”
Their perseverance paid off when, on a steep 3km climb that starts just 8km from the finish, Swanepoel and Evans caught sight of Pearton. Swanepoel gained even more impetus and he dropped Evans on his way to catching and passing Pearton with about 600 metres of the climb remaining.
“When I got a gap on the others I just didn’t feel like it was a big enough to be comfortable,” said a weary Pearton afterwards. “So I really pushed it quite hard to extend my lead and I think that proved my undoing as I just couldn’t maintain a quick pace up that final climb.”
Swanepoel, Evans and Marc Bassingthwaighte (Mr Price GT) had set about pursuing Pearton from the moment he attacked, with Bassingthwaighte dropping off 10km later. But Evans admitted that it was Swanepoel doing most of the work.
“I really just spent most of the race hanging on to Melt. I suffered a lot today so was very happy to get second place in the end,” said Evans, whose high placing saw him retain his lead in the Mazda Series and make it virtually impossible for anyone to beat him with only one event remaining.
Swanepoel’s winning time was three hours, nine minutes and 18 seconds, which translates to a rapid average speed of 31kph. Evans also passed Pearton and clocked 03:10:22 with Pearton finishing third in 03:12:09. In a three-way dice for fourth place, Bassingthwaighte (Mr Price GT) triumphed when he outsprinted top veteran, Shan Wilson (Adidas William Simpson Trek), with Francois Theron (Mazda Merida) claiming sixth place.
BURRY Stander and Brandon Stewart fought out a classic duel in the Sunday Tribune Jeep Hill 2 Hill Mountain Bike Marathon from Hilton to Hillcrest on Sunday, with defending champion Stander claiming victory by aboout five centimetres after 105km of tough racing.
In the women's event, defending champion Tania Raats had not fully recovered from illness over the past week and had to settle for second behind Amy-Jane Mundy in a reversal of last year's result.
While Stewart was heartbroken to have lost the race in the final metres, it was probably a just result with Stander slightly stronger until a puncture allowed Stewart to take the lead in the final 10km.
Stander, who two weeks ago finished a superb sixth in the under 23 race at the World Championships, was full of racing and stamped his authority at the first real climb of the event.
After a frenetic first 10 kilometres down into Pietermaritzburg from World's View, the pace settled down and a big group of 12 riders sat together until the climb at Friesland Hill just outside the city.
Once they reached the steep incline, Stander accelerated and it was a case of seeing who could hang on longest. Stewart managed to hold the South African cross country champion until near the top but could only watch as Stander claimed the first King of the Hills sprint. He went on to win the King of the Hills title with five out of five mountain-top wins.
From then on it was a time trial with the two seperated by less than a minute until about halfway when Stander began opening a gap.
"Going up the first hill Burry made it very tough and he was too strong for all of us," said Stewart. "I thought he might tire towards the end but he seemed to get stronger and in the second half I could not hold his pace. I stayed within a minute of him for most of the race but then he opened the gap.
"With about 10km to go I could not believe it when I saw him ahead."
Stander fixed his puncture and was still ahead of Stewart after the repair, but his replacement tube did not inflate properly and he was forced to ride on a semi-flat tyre.
"Brandon came past me soon after the puncture and I thought it was over," said an exhausted Stander after the finish. "I was going to ride for second and then decided to put my head down and managed to catch him again."
Stewart also thought he had victory but was amazed at Stander's fightback.
"I thought I had it when I caught him and attacked as I caught him. I went straight past and thought it was all over, but then he came back and I noticed his tyre was a bit flat, and thought I could take him in the sprint.
"I got ahead coming into the finish straight but he came around me, I thought about squeezing him toward the barrier but could not do it."
For the spectators the finish could not have been better as the two battled side for side in the sprint for the line with Stander edging ahead literally in the last few metres. Both riders collapsed to the ground exhausted straight after the finish.
David Leiman ended third, six minutes behind, followed by Peter Smith and then Richard Beswick fifth.
They were however not the only riders who were exhausted as the rest of the 1 400 riders found the course tough, but the overwhelming feeling was that it was one of the best races in the country.
"This is a true test of mountain biking" said Stander. "It is a tremendous course."
Opinion from the riders throughout the field echoed his statement, with the backmarkers finding the 105km tough, but with very few drop outs other than a couple of injured rider or mechanical problems the race proved an achievable challenge.
Men: 1 Burry Stander 4 hrs 0 minutes 36 seconds; 2 Brandon Stewart 4:00:37; 3 David Leiman 4:06:36; 4 Peter Smith 4:09:55; 5 Richard Beswick 4:12:13.
Women: 1 Amy-Jane Mundy 4:55:32; 2 Tania Raats 5:02:52; 3 Natalie Unstead 5:16:13; 4 Carla Germishuys 5:23:05; 5 Shawna Thunder 5:28:15.