By Bardy the Action Scribe

South African mountain bike champion, Yolande Speedy (IMC Mongoose), left it late but looks set to secure the 2007 Mazda Series title at the final event on Sunday at the Colorpress Crater Cruise in Parys, just south of Joburg.

Speedy is currently lying second in the national series, which draws to a close with the 10th event over a fast, flattish 56km course this weekend. Tania Raats (Maverick Momentum) has led the series from the first event in January but a serious knee injury has ruled her out of Sunday’s race, leaving the way clear for Speedy to capture the title she so narrowly missed out on last year.

Amy Jane Mundy looks set to be crowned the overall Velotex Queen of the Mountains for 2007 at the Colorpress Crater Cruise on Sunday.

A busy international racing schedule has allowed Speedy to only race five events in the 2007 series – four of which she has won – and a good result on Sunday will see her move into a comfortable lead over Raats, who would not have been able to increase her points tally by much even if she had raced.

Another rider that will by conspicuous by her absence is 2006 Mazda Series champion, Yolande de Villiers (Mazda Merida), who recently underwent a second operation to repair the shoulder she damaged six weeks ago in a crash. De Villiers finished an incredible 15th overall in the Crater Cruise last year beating many of the country’s top male cyclists in the 105km event.

This year, however, the women’s race has been separated and will be run the day after the men’s event over a shorter distance. This decision was made by the organisers to ensure a fairer race for the women with no interference from the men.

“It’s a lot shorter so it’s going to be a lot faster which is a bit of a worry for me I suppose because I take quite a while to get going,” said Speedy on Thursday. “Racing with ladies only will also make the race interesting as there will a whole new set of tactics compared to when the women race with the men.”

Because of the large prize purse – the winner gets R20000 – and the largely non-technical nature of the race, a number of top road cyclists are also expected to be on the start line on Sunday. But Speedy’s primary rivals will be South African cross-country champion, Amy Jane Mundy (Jeep Specialized), Ellane van Wyk (Fabrinox), Carla Rowley (Raleigh MTN Energade) and Christie Pienaar (Fritz Pienaar Cycles).

The mountain bikers will benefit from more rain, as a muddy surface will definitely be a rare challenge for the ‘roadies’. The SA Weather Bureau predicts a 30% chance of rain with a light north-easterly wind.

Mundy is the current leader of the Velotex Queen of the Mountains competition with an accumulated 13 points. Her nearest rival, Raats, is on 11, but won’t be present to challenge Mundy for the coveted climber’s title. The Crater Cruise Queen of the Mountains prime comes after 36km on a 1.5km climb, the only significant ascent in the race.