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Sappi Howick MTB Classic

[image] 26 February 2016

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Howick – Sunday’s Sappi Howick MTB Classic saw Team Jeep’s Patrick Belton reign supreme over fellow young star Alan Hatherly (BMC-SA) whilst Eszter Erdelyi powered her way to victory in the women’s race despite Mother Nature causing havoc for all riders throughout the 40km shootout.

With exceptionally dry conditions and a gale force wind, fears of the event’s possible cancellation due to fire dangers rumbled through the car park in the early morning KZN Midlands chill. Fortunately these were quickly dispelled and the action got underway as planned.

However as participants setoff on what has become known as one of the most rewarding events in the region, riders a plenty – including the likes of pre-race favourite and defending men’s champion Luke Roberts (BMC-SA) – headed off on a host of impromptu course variations due to the wind wreaking havoc with route markings along the technical and challenging course, leaving both spectators and riders initially unsure of who had actually claimed the title.

Through his local knowledge of the route and sharp eye, it was however Karkloof local Belton who crossed the line over eight minutes ahead of his nearest rival to take the overall spoils.

“It was an awesome course with some incredible single track and it was really fun out there,” explained Belton afterwards. “There aren’t too many classics with that amount of single track so it really is a special race!”

“I’m really stoked to have gotten the win today. I had a bit of bad luck last year when I got a bit lost and fell off the pace so it was great to be back again this year and to get the win.

Having headed out through the initial neutral zone from Howick High School and across Main Road the racing snakes then pinned their ears back and the frenzy of action immediately began.

“Alan (Hatherly), Luke (Roberts) and I got away pretty early on before Luke and I managed to drop Alan shortly afterwards. The two of us ended up taking a wrong turn up a hill though and by the time we realized our mistake and turned around, Alan had taken the lead.

“Fortunately we managed to catch him fairly quickly and, after riding together for a while, I then turned around and Luke had gone.

“I attacked on the biggest climb of the course up to the fire tower and that’s when I really put my head down and managed to ride away from Alan,” added Belton.

Hatherly, still making his way back from a frustrating layoff due to bilharzia, pushed to stay with Belton for as long as he could however the BMC-SA junior talent just didn’t have enough left in the tank to answer Belton’s challenge and had to settle for second place.

“I gave it my all but I just couldn’t push hard enough. Patrick (Belton) made it look like that headwind wasn’t even there! It was a really good race though,” said the Grade 11 Hillcrest High School pupil.

“Sections of the single track were really hard work and were pretty technical. Sappi and the organisers did a great job with the route and even though a couple of guys did get lost, part of 40km racing is making sure you’re following the right route, so I’m really happy with my result.

Hatherly was followed home by Warren Price with Tim Stark (i-Cycle) and Price’s Coffeeberry/Momsen teammate Frederick Rossouw rounding out the top five in the men’s race.

With Frankie du Toit (Pure Adventure Gear) having fallen foul to the same troubles some of her male compatriots had experienced earlier on in the race, pre-race favourite in the women’s challenge Eszter Erdelyi (Bergamont), who put in a faultless effort despite the testing conditions, cruised home to claim a comfortable victory and round off what has been a memorable few weeks on the bike.

“The past few weeks have just been amazing!” said Erdelyi. “I was a little nervous last night before the race because I thought Bianca Haw (BMC-SA) was going to be here and I haven’t ever raced against her before, but when I saw she wasn’t here this morning I relaxed a bit and just raced my own race.

“I was terrified of that wind the entire way though. At some points the trees were almost (horizontal) and because of this there were just branches everywhere which kept getting stuck in my wheel and derailleur and I had to get off the bike at least five or six times.

“With these windy conditions any other race would have been terrible but, because of this course, often we were actually quite protected from the wind so it wasn’t too bad at all and there are always some great technical sections which are awesome fun.

Erdelyi crossed the line over nine minutes ahead of Robyn Ryan (Kargo Pro MTB) whilst Nataschka Mowat claimed third. In the 20km Intermediate race Andre Grebe claimed the men’s title whilst young Sabine Thies claimed the women’s.

More information can be found at www.howickmountainbiking.co.za


1.Patrick Belton 1:27.01
2.Alan Hatherly 1:35.25
3.Warren Price 1:37.35
4.Tim Stark 1:38.50
5.Frederick Rossouw 1:40.04

1.Eszter Erdelyi 1:58.22
2.Robyn Ryan 2:08.54
3.Nataschka Mowat 2:11.39

1.Andre Grebe 1:27.53
2.Kelvin Green 1:31.11
3.Scott Kendall-Browne 1:31.33

1.Sabine Thies 1:46.39
2.Charne Dreyer 1:51.42
3.Roxanne Dovey 1:54.08

15 comment(s)

It was my first Howick race and it was very nice race, but quite dangerous with the wind. I had a big tree come down and hit my front wheel doing 30km/hr down some single track only to 'fly' over the handle bars for at least 10 meters and land on my back with the bike on the other side under the tree. If it was not for my camelbak i would have been in trouble. But luckly i came away from it pretty much injury free although brused but still ok. But speaking to the guy behind me he said it was the "most amazing crash i have seen."

Third race ,similar experience to Mark but only bruised my right wrist.Only one downer was surprised to see no refreshment drinks after the ride .Track awesome

Third race ,similar experience to Mark but only bruised my right wrist.Only one downer was surprised to see no refreshment drinks after the ride .Track awesome

Grant Lavers
Different rides for different folks can't say i enjoyed it I'll give it a skip next year.

@Mark: that was me behind you. It was a rather spectacular crash! As that tree came down I seriously thought the organisers were gonna have a death on their hands! Enjoyed the route, great amount of singletrack, pretty technical in places. Pity about the wind though.

Enjoyed the ride, it had a nice balance of difficulty and rest bites, some of the best single track that I have ever ridden, in my humble opinion.
Only issue I could speak of was the course was marked but not the best marking ever, after going off course within the first 3km (and adding about 3km to my ride) I kept second guessing each marker if I was going in the right direction!

Course marking was very poor and I have never been in a race where there are no drinks at the end.

Aslo looks like the times for the 40km are wrong!

Incorrect times for Men & Women 20km

One of the best "purist" mtb events of the year. Really loved it in spite of harsh wind and broken deraillieur! Single track Nirvana!

Never ridden a more technical race before, was pretty tough, but I enjoyed the technical stuff a lot.

Pity about the wind, I got through the race incident free, however at several points in the race I wasn't sure if I was on track! However if I understand correctly it sounds like this was due to last minute changes because of the wind, so I guess it's understandable then.

Disappointed with no refreshments and no medal at the end of the race. To me this is unacceptable!!! It costs practically nothing and riders are paying R160 to race.

Also looks like the times are wrong for the 40km? I took nearly half an hour longer than whats on the results?

Enjoyed the race!! Also disappointed...no drinks at end, no medal, no goodie bag... had a first timer with me and explained that he would get a medal next time. Don,t forget...there are always first timers that are excited about getting a medal...but overall an enjoyable race

One of the best courses with the best single track in KZN. A big effort was made to improve the signage from last year. The wind did not help, blew down signs and as a result many took wrong turns. Just remember if you gained an advantage by taking a wrong turn you must inform the timekeepers and take a DQ.

Great technical ride if you knew where you were going, the route markings were confusing at times.A bit of tape would of made it easier.The trees and the wind made it very dangerous but that is another matter.NOT even a drink at the end, where vendors are jumping to get their name out there.The tuck shop ran out of cooldrinks at 11h00. Guys this is not good enough and with a minimal effort all these issues could be resolved.Best single track ride of the year.You even had an sponsor

It was the first for me after started cycling a year ago and did only the Big 5 last year. I enjoyed the single tracking although very technical for me. Also very surprised that there were no drinks at the finishing line and disappointed that I had to phone to get my results - my name did not appear on the result list on the internet. Maybe we'll do it again next year and hope no wind!!!

Track was good and challenging towards the end but the timing was wrong and looking at the results above it still appears incorrect. Very disorganised. No drinks at the finish. Won't be there next year.