Race Report: 2019 South African Downhill Championships

2019 saw South African Downhill racing return to Afriski Mountain Resort for the South African National Downhill Championships over the weekend of the 4th and 5th May. Situated in the heart of the Drakensberg-Maluti Mountains, the venue is one of only two lift-assisted downhill venues in Southern Africa, and at 3222m above sea level poses a serious high altitude challenge for the riders. Put into perspective, the start of the National Championships downhill track is 300m (1000 feet) higher than that of the glacier start of Megavalanche on Pic Blanc at Alpe d'Huez.

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Theo Erlangsen going into orbit at 3200m into the finish arena.


The natural volcanic terrain provided a rock-strewn course that tested the minds of the riders and the metal (or carbon) of their machines. The track prepared by Kapoko MTB Park was brilliant, with a variety of open fast bike-park corners and jumps interspersed with natural rock gardens and a very technical mid-section. After a great days practice on Saturday, riders awoke to cold, icy conditions on the top of the track which soon turned to a mud-fest in the first few corners. By mid-track however conditions were prime with variations of grippy loam interspersed with deep sandy anti-grip sections in some of the bike-park turns. To win here, riders needed to be on absolute top form and not put a wheel wrong. The main test however was who could handle the windy top section the best, with the first minute of track consisting of wind-swept open turns, jumps and drops on the high plateau.


The event served as a double-header, with the first run on Sunday counting towards the South African National Cup Series (Round 2), and the second run counting as the SA Championships Event. In the SA Cup Series round, Johann Potgieter from the Eastern Cape took top honours, but when the dust had settled it was defending champion Theo Erlangsen from the Western Cape who came out on top winning the SA Championship. Theo put in a blinding run, sending the final drop into the finish to full flat, but even with a near crash in sight of the finish held on to take the win by over 2 seconds. Johann Potgieter took second in the Elite Men, with Stefan Garlicki closing out the podium in third a further half a second adrift of second place.


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Theo Erlangsen defends his Elite Mens title for 2019, with Johann Potgieter in second, and Stefan Garlicki in third.


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Even landing to flat from 2 stories up couldn't stop Theo Erlangsen from taking the win.


The Junior category was dominated by defending champion Jasper Barrett, who took the win in both the SA Cup Series and SA Championships runs. An amazing feat as he lost his chain in his SA Championships run in the main rock garden half way down the track and still posted a time 2 seconds faster than his Cup Series run. Kayle Seaward took silver with Matthew Uhlmann rounding out the podium.


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Jasper Barrett took top honours in the Junior Men with Kayle Seaward in second and Matthew Uhlmann in third.


In the Ladies, it is unfortunate that South Africa currently does not have any Elite Downhillers, with only Namibian rider Stefanie Grossmann participating in the category. In the Junior ladies however, Sabine Thies took the win over Ongeza Mini (VeolosolutionsIzimbali/Peschl_Sports). Sabine having placed second in the IXS Rookies World Champs in 2018 has her sights set on the Junior World Cup, and World Championships this year, and with an overall 22nd position for the day she seems to be on track for some great results.


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Sabine Thies took the win in the Junior Ladies ahead of Ongeza Mini.


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Sabine Thies sends one of the volcanic rock hucks in the middle of the course.


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Ike Klaassen took a commanding win in the Youth Men category sneaking into the top 10 overall with 9th on the day.


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Dustin Rudman sends one of the exposed rock drops at the entrance to the technical mid-section.


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Johann Potgieter took the win in the SA Cup Series, and ended second in the SA Championships.


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Stefan Garlicki whips into the finish arena on his way to bronze in the SA Championships.


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Niko Velasco rounded out the top 5 even after a big crash in the slippery finish arena after the finish boards.


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Sub-Junior, Luke Kirk destroyed the double rock drop in the middle of the course.


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Jason Du Toit rips the lower bike park berms into 6th overall and 5th Elite.


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Frank Meyer took the win in the Sub-Vet Mens category.


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Afriski Mountain Resort and Kapoko Bike Park put on an amazing event in the high mountains.


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The guys who did it all - the Afriski team put on a great event for the riders.


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The 7 minute T-bar lift to the top of the Downhill allowed riders lots of time to practice the challenging course.


Elite Men Results:

1st Theo Erlangsen 02:14.22
2nd Johann Potgieter 02:16.81
3rd Stefan Garlicki 02:17.21


Full results for the SA Cup Series (Leg 1), and the SA Championships (Leg2) are available on Elite Timing.


Cycling South Africa and event organisers KZN Gravity MTB would like to thank Afriski Mountain Resort for hosting the 2019 SA Downhill Championships.


Shebeen, May 13 2019 10:21

cool. is there any video?!

Headshot, May 13 2019 01:23

Looks like a great event. Such a pity its so far from the adoring crowds though. 

RossW, May 15 2019 01:42

Looks like a great event. Such a pity its so far from the adoring crowds though. 

My thoughts exactly.

nigelhicks, May 15 2019 11:31

Looks like a great event. Such a pity its so far from the adoring crowds though. 

Then best you head to Contermanskloof this weekend for the 3rd round of the Cup Series.


To be honest - if you get some mates and drive up, its not too bad to get to Afriski - if we have a Cup round again in 2020, I will try to get them to put on an Enduro again, and perhaps a night-time slalom ....


So then you guys should come up for those races, and then you can stay on and watch the DH and shake those cow bells. 

nigelhicks, May 15 2019 11:34

cool. is there any video?!

Unfortunately we did not have a videographer at the event - but I think Pottie had a helmet cam of the track up 


Check on Facebook - its on Kapopo Bike Parks page.

ABrooks, May 16 2019 12:05

When will round 3 be? Would be keen to go and spectate an event like this.