National champions Knox, De Groot show their mettle

South African marathon champions Max Knox and Robyn de Groot did their national titles justice at the weekend when they beat off strong challenges to win the men and women’s titles respectively at Round 3 of the Nissan TrailSeeker Gauteng Mountain Bike Series near Pretoria.

Both riders were forced to sprint for their victories at the end of the 63km race, which took place at Legends MX, a new mountain biking venue to the east of Pretoria.

 

In the men’s race, Knox (New Holland Agriculture) came out on top when a five-rider sprint was needed to decide the podium positions after a close race on a course that wasn’t particularly long, hilly or technical.

 

Knox clocked a fast winning time of 02 hours 08 minutes in what was his fifth consecutive marathon victory. He narrowly beat Nico Bell (Team NAD) to the line with SCOTT LCB Factory Racing’s Arno du Toit taking third place. Team NAD’s Gawie Combrinck and Jan Withaar were fourth and fifth respectively in one of the closest finishes ever seen at a South African marathon race.

 

“I recced the last bit of the course before the race and I knew that the rider in front coming into the final turn would win the race. The front rider gets the straightest, fastest line at the end and the others are limited by barriers and then have to go wide to get around the front guy. I managed to be the front guy at the last corner and then just kept on the gas to the finish line,” explained Knox.

 

“The speed was fast from the beginning. With no big hills it’s not a course that really suits me as it’s very difficult to get away. So it became a very tactical race, which makes it more interesting. To win on that course was a real bonus for me,” smiled Knox.

 

Max Knox Nico Bell Trailseeker.jpg
Max Knox and Nico Bell crossing the finish line centimeters apart, with Arno du Toit rounding off the podium. Photo Credit: www.zcmc.co.za

 

“With the shorter distance races like this one, you see the XC specialists in the mix which makes it bit more competitive and adds to the excitement,” said runner-up Bell.

 

“The last few corners were quite sketchy and it was hard to maintain traction at the speed we were coming in. I’ve been a very close second now in the last two races. I need to work on my sprint I guess,” added Bell.

 

In the women’s race the sprint was between De Groot (Ascendis Health) and the in-from Samantha Sanders (Valencia), winner of Round 2 of the Nissan TrailSeeker Series. It was De Groot’s first race since May when a crash resulted in surgery to repair an injured shoulder.

 

De Groot and Sanders moved clear of the women’s lead pack on one of the few climbs and they paced together to maintain their lead over their rivals, clocking a time of 2:22:55. Theresa Ralph (Galileo Risk) finished third in 2:24:28.

 

“Great to be back racing and see familiar faces again. It was a pretty flat, dusty course, but good to be out there again. Nice to see more competition at the top of the women’s race,” said De Groot.

 

“It was good to have Robyn back and her presence certainly helped make the race more exciting,” said Sanders.

 

“It was quite a flat route so there was a bunch of us for most of the race. On one climb Robyn and I got a gap, which we held to the end. But while the race was flat, it was still hard. You don’t get any chance to recover really,” added Sanders.

 

Women lead bunch Trailseeker.jpg
The elite ladies lead by Samantha Sanders, Robyn de Groot, Amy-Beth McDougall and Theresa Ralph. Photo Credit: www.zcmc.co.za

 

Close to 2500 mountain bikers competed in the four different distances on offer, with the biggest number in the half-marathon where Wessel Botha and Bonny Swanepoel were the male and female winners respectively.

 

“It’s always exciting to find new race venues close to home for Gauteng riders. It’s quite flat and fast but there are is some really nice singletrack here too,” said Fritz Pienaar of Advendurance, organisers of the Nissan TrailSeeker Series.

 

“We had a lot of riders here participating today and it’s encouraging how many youngster and women there were, which is the great thing about the Nissan TrailSeeker events, which are aimed at giving everyone a chance to enjoy a Saturday morning mountain bike race,” added Pienaar.

 

Round 4 of the Nissan TrailSeeker Gauteng Series takes place on 1 October 2016 at Buffelsdrift, Pretoria North. To enter, or for more information, visit www.trailseekerseries.co.za

 






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