Tiaan Odendaal and Kathryn Fourie made it a double when they claimed the fastest times of the day in the Men and Women’s classes at the 2016 KZNMTB DOWNHILL Championships – presented by Greg Minnaar Cycles that was held at Cascades MTB Park in Pietermaritzburg on Sunday 3 July. Both riders had secured the ENDURO Championship titles the day before after completing five stages at Cascades MTB Park.
The participants competed in two timed runs of the track, with only the second timed run counting for the Championship prize.
For Tiaan Odendaal, victory was sweet at a track that he has become very well accustomed to. However, the wind blew strongly on their first timed run, which resulted in tackling some sections a little more cautiously.
“I didn't jump the table tops on my first run, as we saw David Hogan suffer a crash at that open section due to the strong crosswinds,” said Odendaal. “On my second run, I just went over them and luckily there was no wind to contend with.
“It was a tough race, we raced the whole World Cup track from the top to the bottom. I wasn't so enthusiastic about the pedalling but we all had to do it. There was quite a bit of competition with the rest of the guys and with SA Champs coming up soon we’re all quite fit. Having done the Enduro yesterday, I could feel it in my legs today. I was quite tired, but the victory is sweet.”
Being awarded second place overall and first Junior rider home, Christopher Philogene’s ramped-up exercise regime is paying off. Working on his gym and strength fitness of late, Philogene has his eyes set on the World Champs in September and knows all to well that the European tracks require much greater physical strength.
“I’m pretty stoked, I’ve been working hard on my training and this was a very long and pedally track, so I’ve been working hard for this,” said Chris. “It’s unlucky that I’ve been sick for the past two weeks but I would like to say thanks to Shane Martin, who has been helping me with my training.
“And better luck to my brother because I think he could’ve had a good chance to take the overall title, but Tiaan rode very well today and well done to him. It was a great race.”
Racing in the Sub Veteran category, course designer Nigel Hicks was chuffed with his provincial title. “It’s always an honour to win KZN Champs. We have a very strong Sub Vet class here. It was unfortunate that we didn't have the greatest turnout today. I’m also really bummed for Mark Millar on breaking his foot, and a lot of the competition was out of it. Still, it wasn’t and an easy coast down but I’m still stoked to take the KZN Champs and the Series title as well. All has been good for me this year!”
Speaking about the last minute decision to revert to the familiar World Cup track in the week leading up to race day, Hicks said: “Nick Floros has created a super steep and super technical track on the hill here. Unfortunately, a late decision was made that it was just a little too tough for the youngsters and the women who usually race provincials. I really hope that we can use it for SA Champs in two weeks time. The decision hasn't been finalised yet, but we will hear from the Chief Commissaire soon. We really want to push the sport here for the advancement of Downhill racing.”
The fastest woman of the day was Sub Veteran Kathryn Fourie, who had her work cut out for her with young Sub Junior Sabine “Beanie” Thies putting on a strong challenge for the title.
“We’ve ridden that track a lot, so we’re all quite used to it and no one was really at a disadvantage,” said Fourie. “The only tricky part about today was the wind. As soon as we came out of the gully, there was this crosswind over the table tops so you lost all your speed in order to ride over the table tops, and then (with no momentum) pedal your backside off to get through the pedally section afterwards. I realised after my first run that the times between Beanie and I could be very close in the end, so I really gave it my all.”
Thies, the second placed woman overall, said: “It didn't start off the way that I wanted it to. I got a few lines wrong in Pebble Beach and from there it went all right. The pedalling was rather hard, and my legs felt dead after the Enduro yesterday.”
After a successful three events each in the increasingly popular Enduro and Downhill Series races, as well as once-off Championship races in each discipline, presenting sponsor Greg Minnaar Cycles’ Travis Browning was well impressed with how the season unfolded.
“Greg Minnaar Cycles has been very pleased with the Enduro and Downhill Cup Series for 2016. The execution of each event was flawless – from the organisers at KZN MTB, course designers, timing systems and finally the participation from riders themselves, it is great to see the depth of talent that is emerging from the KZN MTB scene in both the Enduro and Downhill disciplines. We most definitely have some future champions in the making!
“With the majority of our staff being riders themselves, we got to enjoy the social aspect of these events as well as the spectacular trails that played host. I’d like to express a huge thank you to every rider, supporter and spectator that took part, to KZN MTB as well as BOS Sport for keeping our riders hydrated at each event.”