Looser (BIXS) covered the 97km course in hot, dry conditions in a time of 04 hours 11 minutes 00 seconds to secure his first every victory in the prestigious series. Nico Bell of Team NAD finished second a minute later, with Philip Buys of SCOTT LCB Factory Racing rounding out the top three places in 04:18:23.
Some early drama struck Looser, making his win even more impressive. He punctured within the first 10km, but managed to repair it with a plug, although it wasn’t the perfect repair and his tyre gradually lost air throughout the race. He also crashed at around 35km while swapping bottles from his jersey to his bike.
“It was a silly thing to do at the time and I hit the ground really hard and hurt my arm and my hip. I must have also hit my head because I felt confused for a while,” recalled Looser.
At that stage of the race, Looser was in a five-rider lead group with Bell, Buys, Gawie Combrinck (Team NAD) and Lourens Luus (PSG Wealth). Series leader and winner of the four previous rounds, Max Knox (Lowveld Tractors), was further back and ended up withdrawing at the 56km Tech Zone, citing illness.
After the Tech Zone, Luus began to push the pace, putting his rivals under pressure, with Combrinck dropping off. Just before the big climb at 60km, Luus punctured, leaving Buys, Bell and Looser out front. On the climb, Looser pushed the pace in an effort to eliminate Buys before they reached the singletrack.
“I know Philip is fast in the singletrack and I didn’t want to risk reaching it with him. I tried to attack, but I was sore from my fall. But I must have made some impact because he dropped off,” explained Looser.
The hot, dry conditions ultimately gave Looser the break he needed to take control of the race. At the final water point, Bell stopped to get water and Looser didn’t’. With 20km remaining his main concern was managing his front tyre, which had lost more pressure. He succeeded and was elated with his victory.
“After trying and trying, I have finally won a round of this great series! I really enjoy the Ashburton Investments Series because the races are all in different parts of South Africa and each course has a different challenge. It’s proper mountain biking and the high level of competition makes for tough racing,” he added.
Although he didn’t finish, Knox had already secured enough points before the final round at Rooiberg to secure the series title for the third time.
In the women’s race, De Groot (Ascendis Health) avoided taking any risks in an effort to secure a win and give her a shot at winning the series title.
She covered the 70km distance in a time of 3:22:16 to earn the maximum points. Second place went to Theresa Ralph (Galileo Risk), who was the series leader going into the final round, with Vanessa Bell (Bells Cycling) claiming the final podium spot, her first podium finish in the 2016 Ashburton Investments Series.
“Rooiberg is always a proper African mountain bike experience – rocky, thick sand and extreme heat! With the drought, I think it was even more extreme this year. Fortunately for me, all went smoothly,” said De Groot.
“It was very important for me to have a good result here. I missed two rounds of the Ashburton Investments Series with my shoulder injury. I hope I’ve done enough to secure the title,” added De Groot.
With four wins and a fourth place, De Groot has done enough to claim the 2016 series title. It’s the second time she’s won the coveted crown after having claimed it in 2013.
For full results of Round 7 at Rooiberg, visit: www.saseeding.co.za
2016 Ashburton Investments National Marathon Series
Round 7, Rooiberg, Saturday 15 October 2016
Elite men – 97kmkm Ultra-marathon:
1 Konny Looser (BIXS) 4:11:00
2 Nico Bell (Team NAD) 4:12:00
3 Philip Buys (SCOTT LCB Factory Racing) 4:18:23
4 Gawie Combrinck (Team NAD) 4:20:07
5 Arno du Toit (SCOTT LCB Factory Racing) 4:30:11
6 Adriaan Louw (Contego Swift) 4:30:13
7 Timothy Hammond 4:35:00
8 Guylin van den Berg 4:38:12
9 James Ross-Marsh 4:58:04
10 Lourens Luus 05:05:04
Elite women – 70km marathon:
1 Robyn de Groot (Ascendis Health) 3:22:16
2 Theresa Ralph (Galileo Risk) 3:34:01
3 Vanessa Bell (Bells Cycling) 3:34:02
4 Nina Sender 4:07:37
5 Auralia Edwards 4:29:51
6 Mariette Hattingh 4:30:46
7 Nora Richards 4:33:05
8 Nadine Pretorius 4:33:13
9 Janice Venter 4:38:52
10 Mone Pieterse 6:65:05