Karkloof – Riders took the focus on Sunday at the 2017 Sappi Karkloof Classic Trail Festival with the Sappi 60km Marathon being the highlight, as 2015 race winner Max Knox proved to be far too strong for the rest of the field with Natalie Bergstrom claiming the ladies honours at the Karkloof Country Club.
Conditions were frosty when riders set off to take on the famous Karkloof trails and the early racing was exciting with a bunch of riders on the front led by Lowveld Trekkers’ Knox who pushed the pace hard to try and break up the field up.
“I managed to get a slight gap on the opening climb which gave me the advantage that I needed and I kept my head down from there,” Knox commented.
“The trails are incredible here and we had the SA Marathon Champs last weekend, they should have just had it here this weekend!
“There was a massive race in Mpumamlanga this weekend but I love Karkloof and made the effort to come down and race here.”
South African Marathon Champs was an event that Knox tried to put out of his mind after he pulled out 10km into the race, however it might have been a blessing in disguise going into the Karkloof showdown.
“I had a mechanical at SA champs and so I was feeling really fresh this week and was strong throughout the race today.
“Julian (Jessop) is a strong, young rider and he was always going to be a threat but I just really enjoyed my ride today,” Knox added.
Jessop’s last month of mountain bike racing has been choker-block with a race every weekend; despite this a few small dramas on Sunday didn’t help him in his bid to track down the imperious Knox, meaning he had to settle for his second runner-up finish in as many years.
“With massive races every week as well as university exams starting this last week, it’s been a really hectic time for me.
“I had a few issues today starting with a broken spoke which cost me some time and then I had a lapse of concentration and went the wrong way!
“Although these didn’t help me, I think my biggest problem was that Max was just far too strong for me today,” the Ballito Concept Cyclery star mentioned humbly.
Rounding out the men’s podium was Leeroy Emslie who came home just under three minutes behind Jessop.
The women’s race was always going to be a shoot-out between veteran Natalie Bergstrom and Christie-Leigh Hearder and the pair decided that they would set the pace at the front of the race right from the get-go.
“We pushed hard early on and made the decision that we would work together to get a good gap on the others.
“I could see when we got to about 20km into the race that Christie was starting to hurt, so I knew that it was time for me to put the hammer down.
“The trails were incredible today and the course was a lot faster than it has been in previous years, about 20 minutes faster!
“I have had some problems at the race in the past two years so to get a win here is great. It’s a great feeling to be able to win a race like this when I am the oldest person on the start line,” Bergstrom said with a smile.
Bergstrom dominated the ladies field finishing over eight minutes ahead of Hearder with Andrea de Boer rounding out the women’s 60km podium.
The aQuellé 40km Half Marathon was a showcase of some of the up-and-coming talent on the local mountain biking scene as Travis Steadman cruising to victory ahead Duane Stander in second and Bongukuphiwe Ndlovu in third.
The ladies 40km Half Marathon was won by Frances Janse van Rensberg ahead of Lindsay Everson in second and Pauline Rainbird.
In the popular aQuellé 20km Fun Ride young Jordan Bold took top honours ahead of Jonathan Watts and Mnceblisi Mkhize whilst in the girl’s race Emily van Heerden, Riley Smith and Jodi Mackinnon finished first, second and third.
In the Stihl Karkloof Enduro on Saturday afternoon, Tiaan Odendaal, Sam Bull and Keira Duncan fought a tight battle with multiple South African downhill champion Odendaal just edging to a narrow three-second victory.
By winning the final two of the four timed sections, Odendaal fought back from third place to claim the title from fellow downhill specialist Bull, with the young Duncan third.
Duncan, who was leading after the first two timed sections, will rue his third split which saw him lose seven seconds to his older and more experienced rivals and cost him his chance of victory as he slipped to third, just five seconds behind the winner.
In the women’s event, Sabine ‘Beani’ Thies highlighted her status as arguably the most exciting young rising star on the women’s downhill/enduro circuit with a solid victory over last year’s winner, Kathryn Fourie, while Kim Westbrook claimed third.
Sunday’s action also included another 9km Trail Run which was won by Nicholas de Scally whilst Louize Erasmus was the fastest lady through the 9km course.
More info can be found at www.karkloofmtb.co.za.
SUMMARY OF RESULTS – Sappi Karkloof Classic Trail Festival (Day Two)
60km Sappi Marathon
1.Max Knox 02:29:19
2.Julian Jessop 2:37:28
3.Leeroy Emslie 2:40:01
4.Brennan Anderson 2:42:36
5.Henry Liebenberg 2:43:19
6.Jason Davies 2:47:13
7.Sthembiso Masango 2:47:53
8.Warren Price 2:47:59
9.Natahn Treble 2:48:28
10.Mitchell Ginsberg 2:48:29
1.Natalie Bergstrom 3:08:32
2.Christie-Leigh Hearder 3:16:16
3.Andrea de Boer 3:21:41
4.Nadine Nunes 3:25:37
5.Landy Puddu 3:32:29
aQuellé 40km Half Marathon
1.Travis Stedman 2:13:52
2.Duane Stander 2:25:30
3.Bongukuphiwa Ndlovu 2:25:45
1.Frances Janse van Rensberg 2:36:29
2.Lindsay Everson 2:54:19
3.Pauline Rainbird 2:54:33
aQuellé 20km Fun Ride
1.Jordan Bold 49:47
2.Jonathan Watts 53:37
3.Mnceblisi Mkhize 53:44
1.Emily van Heerden 1:02:29
2.Riley Smith 1:04:50
3.Jodi Mackinnon 1:06:20
Stihl Karkloof Enduro
1.Tiaan Odendaal 13:58
2.Samuel Bull 14:01
3.Keira Duncan 14:03
4.Christopher Pearton 15:25
5.Carl Donaldson 15:36
6.Devlin Fogg 15:39
7.Andre Pretorius 15:42
8.Mark Millar 15:49
9.Craig Scott 15:57
10.Luke Dinkel 16:04
1.Sabine Thies 16:59
2.Kathryn Fourie 17:56
3.Kim Westbrook 19:44
Sappi Karkloof 9km Trail Run
1.Nicholas de Scally 35:33
2.Dumisani Hlongwane 36:09
3.Roy Newlands 38:31
4.Andrew Neal 38:38
5.Dale Earle 41:05
1.Louize Erasmus 49:18
2.Kate Brading 50:49
3.Nina Gough 52:54
4.Erin Ellerker 53:20
5.Nicholette Spence 53:31
Pictured: An icy swim early in the morning for one rider during the 2017 Sappi Karkloof Classic Trail Festival on Sunday.
Photographer: Anthony Grote/Gameplan Media