By Bardy the Action Scribe

KwaZulu-Natal’s Amy-Jane Mundy did a rain dance last week and then a victory dance at the weekend when she took advantage of muddy conditions to successfully defend her Elite women’s title at the Mazda MTN South African cross-country mountain bike championships in Pietermaritzburg.

Going into the championships as a dark horse with only an outside chance of toppling African champion Yolande Speedy (IMC Racing), the 2007 national champion was motivated to put in a great performance. But winning by more than four minutes was an unexpected bonus.

“I love racing in muddy conditions and so for me, the rain was actually a good thing,” explained the 26-year-old Jeep team rider. “The course was only about 80 percent rideable on the first lap and I managed to get the early lead on the first climb and just built on it from there.”

Mundy used her superior mud-riding skills to increase her lead on the field, while Speedy had to contend with a snapped chain with 2km of the first lap remaining.

“It was mostly all downhill from where my chain snapped to the technical zone at the start/finish area so I thought I’d just run with my bike down to where I could wash the chain and repair it,” explained Speedy. “But the broken chain fell out of my pocket at some point so I had to find a new chain which took up even more valuable time.”

Going into Lap 2, Speedy had lost a few positions and was 13 minutes down on Mundy, an eternity in a two-hour event. Speedy chased hard on the remaining three laps, moving up to second place and gradually closing the gap to Mundy, who by contrast, was having a perfect race. But ultimately it was Mundy’s day and she gave a broad, muddy-faced grin to the crowd as she crossed the finish line.

Mundy clocked a winning time of 02hr18min12sec with Speedy a distant second in 02:22:45. Sara Muhl (Jeep) rounded out the women’s podium in 02:39:40.

“I did feel pressure going into the race and am so happy to have been able to defend my title,” smiled an elated Mundy, who conceded that Speedy’s technical problems did take the pressure off somewhat, before adding: “But I did put all my focus on this race and it’s very satisfying that it paid off.”

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

Elite (4 x 6.3km laps)
1 Amy-Jane Mundy (Jeep) 02hr18min12sec
2 Yolande Speedy (IMC Racing) 02:22:45
3 Sara Muhl (Jeep) 02:39:40

Under-23 (4 x 6.3km laps)
1 Heletje van Staden 02:36:40
2 Janneke Lesak 02:45:36
3 Laetitia Botha @ 1 lap

Junior (3 x 6.3km laps)
1 Mariske Strauss 02:07:43
2 Caitlin de Wet 02:13:28
3 Genee Steyn 02:28:27

Youth (3 x 6.3km laps)
1 Candice Neethling 01:59:04
2 Danielle Dalton 02:37:09
3 Casey Dinkel 02:47:23

Sub-junior (2 x 6.3km laps)
1 Hayley Smith 01:40:28
2 Tayla-Anne Odendaal 02:17:34
3 Siobhan Walker 02:41:30

Sub-veteran (3 x 6.3km laps)
1 Tania Raats 02:01:01
2 Shawna Thunder 02:02:01
3 Natalie Unstead 02:09:50

Veteran (3 x 6.3km laps)
1 Petrushka Constancon 02:19:15
2 Catherine Gibbings 02:32:43
3 Debbie Hughes 02:33:09