Karkloof – Having occupied every spot from fourth to second at the Sappi Karkloof Trail Festival over the past three years, young Julian Jessop’s eyes are firmly set on claiming that elusive 60km Marathon win when he and some of South Africa’s MTB elite set off from the Karkloof Country Club on Sunday, 28 May.
The dice for the 2016 title was between Jessop and Brendon Davids, however the latter was too strong for the youngster who had to settle for the runner-up position over the 60km marathon route that takes riders through some breath-taking single track.
“I am definitely going out to try and win the marathon at Karkloof,” a determined Jessop said.
“The route follows a cross country format and the descents are really cool which makes the climbing all worth it in the end.
“It is renowned for its single track and with my cross country background I think that it plays into my hands quite nicely. I hope that I can use my knowledge of the course to my advantage during the race.”
The Concept Cyclery Ballito/Cadence Nutrition star expects there to be another strong field at the Karkloof marathon in 2017, but with such a busy schedule on his plate, which included university exams, he hopes he doesn’t run out of steam before Karkloof.
“It is one of the biggest one-day races in the country so I expect there to be a really top-class field there as always.
“I rode the KAP sani2c recently, and am following that with the South African MTB Marathon Championships the following weekend and Karkloof after that I hope that I have enough left in the tank!
“I was injured the weekend before sani2c but with the help of the team at the Prime Human Performance Institute I was able to take part and now I am in the middle of a really tough bit of racing,” the youngster mentioned.
Jessop’s recent performance at the three-day sani2c from the Southern Drakensberg to Scottburgh with partner Andrew Hill has boosted his confidence as he was able to compete with some of the best riders in the country in telling conditions.
“To be able to finish fifth at the sani2c was a real positive for me because I now know that I can compete with the best, even in such tough, muddy conditions.
“Even after my injury I was able to ride well with Andrew and I am really happy with how the three days went for me and for us as a team,” he added.
The weekend before the Karkloof Classic Trail Festival is the South African MTB Marathon championships in Pietermaritzburg, and once again Jessop hopes that he can push for a top result.
“I would love to get into the top five at the national championships, but I am racing in the elite category so it is going to be difficult.
“A top five would be incredible but I will also be happy with a top 10 finish.
“It has been a really busy few weeks for me and so if I can do well at the national champs and then continue that form into Karkloof, I would be really stoked.”
The 2017 Sappi Karkloof Classic Trail Festival takes place at the Karkloof Country Club on Saturday 27 and Sunday 28 May 2017. More info can be found at www.karkloofmtb.co.za