MTB race sets high standard

2012-07-09 11:13

Knysna - The results of the 80km mountain bike race in the Pick n Pay Weekend Argus Rotary Knysna Cycle Tour - the opening event in this year’s Pick n Pay Knysna Oyster Festival Big 5 Challenge - set the tone for an incredibly exciting week ahead.

All the latest Pick n Pay Knysna Oyster Festival Big 5 Challenge news

Athletes in the Big 5 Challenge must enter five of the Festival’s seven most arduous races: the MTB race, the 100km road race, the 2 km Knysna Lagoon Challenge, the 14km Salomon Featherbed Trail Run, the Totalsport XTERRA presented by REHIDRAT Sport, and the Pick n Pay Cape Times Knysna Forest Marathon, or the Half Marathon.

So far, times for the top Big 5 Challengers are:

1st: Stuart Marais 3.04.08
2nd: Tony Van Heerden 3.07.39
3rd: Derrin Smith 3.07.45

1st: Fienie Barnard 3.30.36
2nd: Alae Brand 3.37.20
3rd: Claudia Slattery 3.38.58

As to the overall race results, third place went to Waylon Wilcock (riding for RE.CM in 2:50:32), while James Reid (360 Life 2:50:32) took second - which makes this one of the best results in his career to date – and Darren Lill (Bonitas - 2:47) took gold.

Darren – a past winner of the Cape Argus Pick n Pay Giro del Capo, and last year’s national road race champion - came 3rd in Knysna in 2011, and attributed his win this year to his improved fitness (although, asked whether the taste of winning a road race or a mountain bike is any different, he said “I think victory is always sweet”).

Liana de Jager (Bizhub - 3:34:11) came third in the women’s event, and rising star Theresa Ralph (3:18:27) came second – but South Africa’s soon-to-be Olympian, Candice Neethling (BMC Bicycles - 3:15:26), who placed 3rd in the World Junior Championship in 2009 – put in a massive performance, leading from the very beginning.

“It’s pretty much up-hill till the half way mark,” said Candice, “and about half way up the first hill I decided to attack, and from there on I didn’t really see anyone after that.”

But, of course, the great majority of the people who took part were riding for the sheer pleasure of it.

Jason Winde – 13-year-old son of Alan (the Western Cape’s MEC for Economic Development and Tourism) - said that his 15km today was his first ‘real’ race.

And did his old man perform properly?

“Well, he fell behind after the first 5km because someone had fallen and he helped, but I went up ahead, and then near the end he caught up to me.”

And did this race spur him onto bigger things?

“I might do the 30km next year,” he said.

Beverley Roode of BEN Bikes (the Bicycle Empowerment Network – an NGO that works with underprivileged children, farm workers, and others, to promote mobility at low cost), brought about 40 riders from three high schools in Cape Town – Lavender Hill, Steenberg, and Fairmount – to ride in both the MTB and the road races in Knysna.

As Steenberg High’s Bruce Anthony said, “A lot of the kids struggle academically, but cycling gives them a leg to stand on – or a wheel to stand on – and they’ve been excelling through cycling.

“Our main focus every year is the Argus, but the Knysna tour (this is the third for the group) is an education trip; we bring them out, do the touristy thing, and build camaraderie in the team and between the schools.”

And this is the great thing about the Pick n Pay Weekend Argus Rotary Knysna Cycle Tour: it’s a challenge for the elites, a jol for the pack, a development opportunity for new talent – and an important contributor to welfare on many levels.

As Rotary Knysna president, Ina Thompson, said, “The funds we raise through this event we use a lot on children: books, educational equipment, upgrading the pre-primary school, and bursaries for high school students.

She said that it’s too early to say how much the club has raised through the Cycle tour, but her husband, Elwin (a past district governor and now chairman of Knysna Rotary’s cycling committee), said, “The numbers are slightly up on last year” (when the Cycle Tour raised R 500 000) – so it’s looking good for an even bigger contribution to than ever before.

You gotta love cycling...

Watch this space for reports and rankings after the next two legs of the Pick n Pay Knysna Oyster Festival Big 5 Challenge: the 100km road race and the Knysna Lagoon Challenge.