Johannesburg - Top South African bikers will line up for the 2017 National Mountain Bike (MTB) Cup Series XCO, which takes place at Wolwespruit Bike Park in Tshwane on Saturday.
Some of the top names include Rio Olympian Alan Hatherly, Arno du Toit, team Ascendis Health’s Gert Heyns, current South African champion Mariske Strauss and Under-23 South African cross-country national champion Julian Jessop.
Jessop has taken part in a few early season endurance stage races as a form of high-intensity preparatory work ahead of the biking challenge.
His first race of the year was at the Grabouw leg of the Ashburton Investments National MTB Series.
“I was not feeling [like] myself during the race and I was not totally focused, which led to me taking a wrong turn 10km before the finish. I placed 13th,” he said.
Jessop also took part in the Tankwa Trek, a three-day stage race near the Ceres Valley.
“I absolutely loved that stage race and I had so much fun racing with my partner, Tristan de Lange. We worked well together and placed sixth in a highly competitive field with some major international athletes racing,” he said.
After that, he raced the short circuit, pulse-thumping national cross-country opener at Rhebokskloof in the Western Cape.
After finishing the Tankwa Trek on such a high note two weeks prior to this event, Jessop said he was hoping for great results, but “unfortunately, I did not get the best training sessions in between these events as I was still recovering from the Tankwa. I had a decent start at the nationals, but lost contact with the lead group early on.”
He ended up 14th overall and was the fifth South African to cross the line.
Wolwespruit organiser Johan Fischer said that the track had been shortened by at least 1km to make it more spectator friendly, but warned participants not to think it would mean an easier race.
“There is a completely new rock garden and we have added a new gap jump to make the track a little more technical and challenging.
“We will also combine the feed zone with the technical zone, which we feel will provide a better support structure for the riders,” he said.
“The biggest improvement to the venue after last year’s event is that the bike shop is now complete and fully operational. The bike park itself is developing well and getting closer to its full potential.”
Wolwespruit Bike Park also provides an outdoor bar area, coffee and refreshments. A bike wash facility will be available and a pump track will keep the younger riders entertained throughout the day.
Entries for the second round of the SA National MTB Cup Series XCO are still open, and close on Tuesday. Go to https://cyclingsa-events.co.za/app to register.