Luke Moir from Cape Town is fresh off a Top 5 finish at the last round of the Western Province Enduro Series, and a second place at the EzelEnduro, however the 15-year-old national marathon champ remains on the fence about whether his fitness and skills will give him the edge over local knowledge, “I think the locals will dominate us from the Cape, but with the event taking place over two days, consistency will be key to a good finish position” Moir added, “I’m feeling relaxed because Enduro isn’t my main focus, I ride it more just for fun but I’m excited to race with mates from Durban on different trails”.
The PYGA team are on their home-turf in Howick, with Mark Malherbe, Luke Dinkel and Keira Duncan all strav-evidently training hard. But it is Duncan who has an even closer link to the event, “I thought I couldn’t get more excited about racing on home trails, but when an opportunity to mark out and dig an event trail came up, the excitement only multiplied. I have been blessed with the opportunity to give back to the local MTB scene by dreaming up and creating new trails in my own backyard”. Duncan, who has made a full recovery from a severe arm injury at the last Enduro Champs added, “Everything on the trail is rideable, but when racing as fast as you can for the SA Enduro champion title, things are going to get rowdy”.
Also from Pietermaritzburg, Sam Bull is the reigning SA Enduro Champ and has penned his name down to ride. Unfortunately, Bull has had ongoing knee injuries that have cost him time off the bike in 2017 and 2018. “I am just feeling stoked that I am able to take part to be honest! I had written it off with the surgery to reconstruct my ACL, and thought that for the next 18 months I wouldn't be riding a bike. So the fact that I can take part and go out and have a good time with everyone else, that is the critical thing for me, I am just so stoked to be out there riding. But I am super competitive, so I will always try to go fast, but I know that needs to be done within reason at this stage”.
A stealthy character that doesn’t always feel the need to enter every race, Tim Bentley will be entering the event. Probably. Maybe. “I sold my bike the other day and it doesn't look like my new bike will be here in time, not completely ideal! I am going to have to ride on a borrowed bike and I mean it's someone else's bike, so you don't want to break it. But, I am still going to go out there and just have fun. Actually, I better enter before they cap the entries!”. Bentley added, “The thing that excites me the most is getting to ride the Karkloof trails, I have heard Hylton (Turvey) has built some new stuff, which I really keen to check out. It's always such a treat to ride in Karkloof, the trails are top class. Next most exciting thing is seeing friends from all over the country and getting to spend the day on the bike with them”. We have it on good authority that Tim did, in fact, enter online late last night.
Theo Erlangsen, the South African National Downhill Champ, from Cape Town has also entered the race, having recently returned from a trip to ride in Europe for several months. Some may have seen a clip of Theo being interviewed by Ben Cathro of the popular Cathrovision web series, at the La Bresse DH World Cup 2018. When asked how he feels going into the event, the honest Erlangsen responded, “Absolutely terrible! I have been in Europe for three months taking ski lifts to the top of mountains, so I have absolutely no fitness. All of the pedalling uphill at the Enduro will be taken at a very, very leisurely pace. Other than that, I also butchered my shoulder, so I can't really ride to well, but ag, it'll be enough. Otherwise, it's riding bikes, can't be that hard right? Ha! I feel alright going into it”. Erlangsen added, “The week preceding the event, I am going to go and spend with Sharjah, and I am keen to go ride all the trails around Pietermaritzburg and get drunk with Sharjah. That's probably what I am most looking forward to”.
Speaking of Sharjah Jonsson, he has the most Enduro World Series (EWS) experience in South Africa, having travelled to several countries in Europe and South America to compete in various legs of the series in 2018. “It is the end of the season, it's been quite a long season racing EWS so I am a little bit tired, but it's the last small push through. But feeling good on the bike and it should be great!”. About the event Jonsson added “It will be really cool to have the second Enduro Championships in KZN, not too far from where I grew up. It'll be great to see everyone riding together, there are only a couple of events in the year where you get to see people from around South Africa riding together, especially in the gravity scene”.
What will be the key to doing well in Karkloof, and possibly taking a podium position? It seems the over-arching consensus is consistency – which may seem an obvious answer but keeping that in mind per racing stage will be a different challenge. Bentley’s advice, “You have to be fit, and keep good flow. There is nothing too tech, except for the Howick side. So keeping up speed, pedaling where you can, and keeping it fast in the corners. Conserve energy during the day, and make sure you have enough left in the tank for day two”. Jonsonn’s two cents, “Linking up sections is going to be key, so maybe not the fastest through the section, but linking the sections together the fastest. Other than knowing the tracks of course. There are some guys that definitely know the tracks a lot better because they have been practising flat out, but I guess that's up to you. It's your own choice if you feel it's necessary to pre-ride everything, you can do it here, but you can't do that overseas". Then there is Erlangsen’s slightly less strategic approach, “I don't really know what the key will be, I have never really ridden Karkloof. But I am assuming if I just rail all the stages, and don't have a mechanical or crash, that'll give me a good chance at success.
Unfortunately, many of Gauteng’s top men such as Frank Meyer are not able to make the event, although Martin Zietsman has been spied on the list. Well-known riders like Dustin Rudman of the Dustin Rudman Invitational Series, and Chris Pearton who excels in the Sub-Vets category have entered, with both riders pleased about the two-day format. As Rudman states, “I'm most excited about it being a two day Enduro SA Champs incorporating some of the best trails built in SA. Also the fact that I haven't ridden the trails, so it's kind of an on the edge feel, which is why I ride”. Pearton said his motivation is pretty simple, “The amount of awesome trails we are going to be riding, two full days of the best trails SA has to offer, what’s not to like?”
The resounding theme though, is the pure magic of two full days of some of the best riding in the country, with good friends that don’t get to see each other all that often. Whether the strategy is consistency or ‘go fast and take chances’, the second SA Enduro Champs is sure to be a weekend to remember.