The National XCM Championships will be hosted by the Nissan Trailseeker series this year, brought to you by Advendurance. A firm favourite on any mountain biker’s bucket list of places to ride in South Africa will surely be the forestry haven of Grabouw in the Western Cape. With endless top-notch trails through forestry plantations and gravel roads, the area is synonymous with major mountain biking events. Oak Valley will be the venue for the third round of the Nissan Trailseeker Mountain Bike Series and will also play host to the 2018 South African Mountain Bike Marathon Championships on Saturday 14 July. With panoramic views of vineyards surrounded by majestic mountains on the foot of Groenlandberg, the Oak Valley routes have provided many a challenge from the Wines to Whales and the Cape Epic and need no further introduction.
While the MTB Marathon Champs will attract South Africa’s dedicated endurance athletes, the event is guaranteed to be family-friendly and caters for all levels of skill and fitness, as is the case with all Nissan Trailseeker events. To meet the expectations of our top riders and to crown a worthy Marathon Champion, the longer routes in the UCI categories will be challenging to say the least.
Elite Men and Women will be required to compete over the 87-kilometre Ultra Marathon distance, while Marathon competitors will race along a 70km distance. The Half Marathon is 40km, and there will be a fun race (20km) and Fun Ride (10km) to encompass a wide variety of riding skills and fitness. The MTB Marathon Championships will crown National Champions in the age categories from Youth and upwards i.e.: there will be no Championships awarded to the age categories younger than Youth.
For spectators and supporters of the Elite Championships, the route offers ample spectator points and feed zones.
Elite Women's Race- Who could take the jersey?
A packed field will line up on Saturday in Grabouw to tackle the beautiful yet challenging terrain of the Elgin region. We should see all the familiar faces lining up to go shoulder to shoulder for this years title of South African XC Marathon Ladies Elite Champion.
ROBYN DE GROOT
Photo: Mark Sampson
The defending champion, Ascendis Health rider Robyn De Groot, will be on the start line and is hoping to add to her already impressive five marathon titles.
"The National Championships is a special title to have for sure, It's been a title I've worn with pride for the past 5 years. It is a title that lasts for a "year" so yeah it is one that is held with high prestige."
She adds, "Winning is important, chasing titles is important and yes as a professional athlete these are the things one strives towards. For me the most important thing is giving the best you can and loving what you do. With an approach like this you can't go wrong."
Following the Championships, Robyn heads to Europe to take part in some new and exciting races abroad.
"I am looking forward to something fresh and new. Special thanks to my sponsors Ascendis Health and South Industries for helping make this possible."
Photo by: Hayden Brown
Lining up next to Robyn is a strong performing Samantha Sanders from team Dormakaba, who has had a solid year so far with her last outing at the Trailseeker series seeing her take the win in Pretoria.
Sam says "Preparations have been good, I don't think it can ever be completely incident free. Sometimes your body has a mind of it's own, but in the same breath I haven't had any issues or injuries that set me back so I hope the good vibe wave carries me through Saturday."
"For me personally SA Champs isn't make or break. Don't get me wrong, I have poured myself into preparing for a hard race, but I'm also realistic about my chances in a really stacked field of ladies. On the day, anything can happen so I try not to put too much emphasis on winning. For me, it's more about going out there and emptying the tank, crossing the line and knowing I gave 100% and if I win the jersey, that's a big bonus."
When asked about the field, Sam jokes, "The ladies field is super strong and that means it will be 80km of afkak LOL... but knowing how stiff the competition is was great motivation in training but as for the impact that has on my race, it is what it is. All you can do is prepare as best as you can and line up ready to do your best."
Photo by: Adolf Joubert
Joining the elite ladies field is the young gun Sarah Hill racing for Galileo Risk. Sarah has been competitive in the elite ladies field this year and seems to be getting stronger in every performance. She has performed well in her racing season and has a few stage race podiums already, with her experienced partner Theresa Ralph, including the overall ladies win at the 2018 Joberg2c. Sarah has shown some strong racing performances and is one to watch in the field despite her age.
"SA Champs is an opportunity for all the pro ladies to come together and race each other. During the year we all select the races we want to use in preparation, and now we finally get a chance to stand on the start line and see where we are! It is exciting knowing where I could potentially place in the elite field in South Africa."
"I expect the field to be stacked! We want to be up against the strongest ladies in the country as it is the pinnacle marathon race for us this year. The stronger the field, the more you push yourself and dig deeper to hold onto the lead bunch. "
AMY BETH MCDOUGALL
Photo by Andrew Mc Fadden
The pocket rocket, Amy Beth Mcdougall also hopes to make the most of the race and hopefully steal the jersey away this year. Following a move to Team Dormakaba, she has shown great form and seems ready for the challenge on Saturday with the backing of a great team.
With a ladies elite field stacked, we look forward to an exciting race on Saturday. Best of luck ladies.
2018 SA MTB Marathon Championships categories and distances:
87km Elite Ultra Marathon
Elite Men 19+ (UCI Category) Elite Women 19+ (UCI Category)
Sub Vet Women (30-39) Sub Vet Men (30-39) Vet Women (40-49) Vet Men (40-49) Master Men (50-59)
40km Half Marathon
Junior Men (17-18 yrs) (UCI Category) Junior Women (17-18 yrs) (UCI Category) Youth Men (15-16 yrs) Youth Women (15-16 yrs) Master Women (50-59) Grand Master Women (60+) Grand Master Men (60+)