With four wins in the last four rounds, Knox (Lowveld Tractors) has essentially tied up the overall series win in the Elite men’s category, but the Sabie resident has never won at Rooiberg and says that it’s one race he’s eager to add to his growing list of victories.
“I really like the Rooiberg course, but I’ve never been able to win there. I’m hoping that will change this weekend. I’ve haven’t raced hard in the past few weeks and I’m feeling strong and confident. It will be good to end the series off with a win, but nothing is certain in mountain biking and I need to ride a smart race,” said Knox.
Knox will be up against strong contenders in the Team NAD duo of Nico Bell and Gawie Combrinck, who recently won the Three Towers Stage Race in Mpumalanga. Bell and Combrinck are lying second and third respectively behind Knox in the Ashburton Investments Series standings. Combrinck, winner at Rooiberg last year, was runner-up to Knox at Round 6, with Bell runner-up at Rounds 4 and 5. Both will be eager to finish the prestigious series with a victory.
Also confirmed on the start list is the SCOTT LCB Factory Racing pair of Philip Buys and Arno du Toit. The technical route on the ultra-marathon should suit them and they’ll certainly be podium contenders, as will Lourens Luus (PSG Wealth), who was fourth at Rounds 4 and 5.
Konny Looser (BIXS) will also be on the start line. The Swiss racer had mechanical problems at Rooiberg last year, which pretty much cost him the National Series overall title. He’ll be eager for some redemption on Saturday. He is also on the road to recovery from illness earlier this year.
Riders’ final series points are calculated on their best five results. So for De Groot (Ascendis Health), who missed Rounds 4 and 5 due to injury, a victory is virtually a must if she is to defend her National Series title. Her three wins – at Rounds 2, 3 and 6 put her in third place behind Theresa Ralph (Galileo Risk) and Amy Beth McDougall (Valencia), first and second respectively in the series.
“I’m really looking forward to this race. I’m growing stronger each week after returning from my injury layoff and I’m excited from some proper mountain biking on the rougher terrain at Rooiberg,” said De Groot.
McDougall is sitting out the final round due to fatigue, while her Valencia teammate, Samantha Saunders, will also be conspicuously absent as she is representing South Africa at the road cycling world championships abroad.
Joining Ralph and De Groot on the start line will be De Groot’s Ascendis Health teammate, Jennie Stenerhag and Vanessa Bell (Bells Cycling).
Stenerhag recently successfully defended her Swedish national marathon title, so arrives with good form, while Bell, currently fifth in the rankings, will be eager to get her first podium of the 2016 series.
The routes have all been made shorter and/or faster compared to those used previously. There is also more singletrack. These changes are is sure to result in a tighter contest in each of the distances.
The Elite women will tackle a 70km course with 1 120 metres of ascent, while the Elite men will do battle over a 97km course with 1 689 metres of climbing. The popular half-marathon is 45km with 455 metres of elevation and there is also a 20km Fun Race and a 10km Family Fun Ride.
“Rooiberg is just a two-hour drive from Pretoria. We cater very well for supporters so the day trip is worthwhile. But there is also Tented accommodation available for those that want to arrive on Friday,” said Wessel van der Walt of Advendurance, the organisers.
Entries are still open and can be done online at www.nationalmtbseries.com.
Round 7, Ukhutula Lodge, Rooiberg:
Friday 14 October:
10h00-14h00: Lynwood Cyclery
16h00-19h00: At race venue
Saturday 15 October
06h00-09h50: Registration and late entries
07h00: Riders briefing, leader jerseys handover
07h15: Start Ultra-marathon Pro/Elite
07h25: Start Marathon Ladies A Batch
07h35: Start Ultra-marathon Amateur
08h00: Start Marathon A. Batches + 3 min intervals
09h00: Start Half-marathon A. Batches + 5 min intervals
09h40: Start Fun Race A. Batches + 5min intervals
09h55: Start Fun Ride all
13h00: Prize Giving
For more information, visit www.nationalmtbseries.com.