By Bardy the Action Scribe

An international rule applied at the last minute saw the separation of the Under-23 and Elite men at the Mazda MTN South African Cross-country Mountain Bike Championships in Pietermaritzburg at the weekend. The surprise ruling and wet conditions failed to put a damper on the event and ultimately resulted in two high quality races.

Previously, the two categories raced together in a Pro-Elite class race at SA Cup and national championships events. However an International Cycling Union (UCI) official in Pietermaritzburg stepped in as the riders were gathered on the start line and requested the two categories race separately.

In the Under-23 event, Burry Stander (Mr Price GT), was a dominant victor, securing his third successive national title and his sixth in total, following the three he won as a Junior. Stander was in control from the start on a course with lots of short, steep climbs and mud, conditions he’s become accustomed on the European and North American courses he races on regularly.

“It was a bit disappointing that they split us, but those are the rules. It did dilute the quality of the field a bit, but I still raced as hard as I could and am very happy to have won another SA champs title. It was also satisfying to have the fastest time of the day,” said Stander.

In the Elite race, Brandon Stewart (USN), inspired by enthusiastic hometown support, charged into an early lead at a very quick pace. But as he started Lap 4 for the second half of the race, Mannie Heymans (MTN Energade), caught and passed him and went on to claim the victory.

Stewart held on to finish second with Johan van Zyl (Mr Price GT), Melt Swanepoel (MTN Energade) and Marc Bassingthwaighte (Trek Garmin) rounding out the top five places. Because Heymans and Bassingthwaighte are Namibian, the national title went to Stewart with Van Zyl and Swanepoel collecting the silver and bronze medals respectively.

“I’ve been training for cross-country racing as well as marathon racing this year, so I was very prepared for this race,” explained Stewart afterwards. “I’m riding full time now which makes a big difference. It feels really good to win a national title!”

For Heymans, the overall victory was important as it confirmed his selection to represent Namibia at the Beijing Olympic Games, the veteran’s third Olympics!

“I didn’t have a great year last year and I told the Namibian Federation that if I didn’t prove myself at the SA Champs, I would happily step aside from the Olympic team. But I showed today that I’ve still got what it takes and feel my selection is justified,” smiled Heymans.

The organisers took the rider’s times and still did a combined overall Pro-Elite class prizegiving, which Stander secured ahead of Heymans and Stewart respectively.

2008 Mazda MTN South African Cross-country Mountain Bike Championships
Cascades, Pietermaritzburg
Men’s leading results:

Elite (6 x 6.3km laps)
1 Mannie Heymans (MTN Energade – NAM) 02hr07min10sec
2 Brandon Stewart (USN – RSA) 02:08:46
3 Johan van Zyl (Mr Price GT – RSA) 02:11:30
4 Melt Swanepoel (MTN Energade – RSA) 02:15:02
5 Marc Bassingthwaighte (Trek Garmin – NAM) 02:15:56

Under-23 (6 x 6.3km laps)
1 Burry Stander (Mr Price GT) 02:06:42
2 Renay Goustra (Red Mongoose) 02:10:55
3 Francois Theron (Red Mongoose) 02:12:14

Junior (5 x 6.3km laps)
1 Rourke Croeser (Red Mongoose) 01:57:57
2 Adriaan Louw 01:59:08
3 Jedson Tooms 02:07:44

Youth (4 x 6.3km laps)
1 Arno du Toit 01:36:20
2 James Gerber 01:38:37
3 Ruan du Toit 01:39:53

Sub-junior (3 x 6.3km laps)
1 Jac-Johann Steyn 01:47:43
2 Ruan Erasmus 02:04:35
3 Luke Dinkel 02:04:37

Sub-veteran (4 x 6.3km laps)
1 Paul Cordes 01:38:25
2 Jeroen Swart 01:39:55
3 Geddan Ruddock 01:40:04

Veteran (3 x 6.3km laps)
1 Damian Booth 01:22:34
2 Chris Nel 01:26:11
3 Michael Winterbottom 01:34:11

Master (3 x 6.3km laps)
1 Kim Phillips 01:46:40
2 Frank Soll 01:51:31
3 Neil Fourie 01:53:57

Grand Master (2 x 6.3km laps)
1 Keith O’Leary 01:46:17
2 Kobus du Plessis 02:16:17

Intermediate (3 x 6.3km laps)
1 Dion Froneman 01:22:44
2 Vian Kotze 01:36:21
3 Sandile Ngubane 01:38:01

Sprog (2 x 6.3km laps)
1 Alan Hatherly 01:17:47
2 Ivan Venter 01:32:02
3 Kyle Walker 01:39:43

Sport (2 x 6.3km laps)
1 Welcome Nene 01:12:19
2 Spha Buthelezi 01:14:25
3 Tyne van der Merwe 01:19:38

Nipper (1 x 6.3km lap)
1 Matthew Dinham 01:09:32