South African Marathon Championships, Hilton (Kwazulu Natal)
Cascades, the venue for last year’s MTB XC and Downhill World Championships once again welcomed SA’s best on Saturday for the South African Marathon Championships. The event would also serve as a dress rehearsal for the Marathon World Championships taking place at end of the month.
Unlike many of the other marathon races we compete in during the year, the scheduling and importance of the national marathon championships always draws an interesting field with a good mix of Marathon and Cross Country racers. The implication of such a diverse field is that the proverbial script gets thrown out the window.
The extreme race profile meant there was also a lot of pre race debate about which bike to use. Do you use a super light hardtail for the 2600m of ascent during the 95km race, or a slightly heavier full suspension bike to make the ride a bit softer and save some energy for the finale? Looking at the race results, the hardtail gets the nod as most of the top 10 on the day went with the lightest possible setup, but I’m sure the debate will rage even well after World’s has been run.
Talking about the course, Nic Floros and his team created a relentless course with almost no time to recuperate. It was up and down the whole day with steep climbs followed by demanding, technical descents. You had to be concentrated all day, looking for opportunities just to get some sustenance in your body.
Fortunately our 7am start was not as cold as it was the day before and the 15km ascent we hit straight out of the blocks meant we would have no problem warming up. As expected the cross country crowd took it out hard from the start while the marathon racers held on as best they could, waiting for their legs to kick in during the latter stages of the race.
Despite some mechanical troubles James Reid (Trek Racing) successfully defended his marathon title beating off a spirited assault from Rourke Croeser (Kargo MTB). It was obvious that the punchy course was to the liking of the XC (Cross Country) racers who revelled in the start-stop and technical nature of the track. It was also significant that 5 of the top 10 riders (and 3 of the top 4) on the day were locals with intimate knowledge of the area, its tracks and its natural outlay.
1. James Reid (Trek Racing) 4:41:21
2. Rourke Croeser (Kargo MTB) 4:45:09
3. Kevin Evans (Fedgroup) 4:48:38
4. Brendan Davids (Trek Racing) 4:55:20
5. Nico Bell (RE:CM) 4:56:47
6. Max Knox (Fedgroup) 4:58:15
7. Matthys Beukes (Scott Factory Racing) 4:58:48
8. Andrew Hill (TIB) 5:00:14
9. Adriaan Louw (Swift Bikes) 5:02:35
10. Gawie Combrink (EAI Cycling) 5:03:07
11. Melt Swanepoel (EAI Cycling) 5:04:00
In direct contrast to Rooiberg where I seemed to run into a brick wall after 2 hours, this time it took me about 2 hours just to get warmed up! Even then I wasn’t able to push as hard as I normally can, but I kept plugging away hoping for the turbo to kick in. With 15km to go I started feeling good, but decided to crash off some singletrack just to ensure I didn’t make the top 10…idiot! I finally finished the day in a disappointing 11th spot, but with the knowledge of what to work on before World Championships at month’s end.
Next up will be the MTN Ultra Marathon at Van Gaalen’s and then the final build up to World’s.