Racing on a new course between the Curry’s Post Road and the N3 freeway, Tooms (ROAG/Quattro) paced his race well and took advantage of spills around him to take the lead and cross the line at Howick High School unchallenged.
“There was a big pack together early on,” said Tooms. “I had to play catch-up after dropping a chain twice.
“A couple of the other guys crashed in front of me on a slippery uphill section.
“The single track here was absolutely amazing!” added the Howick local. “The technical sections really force you to raise your technical skills.
“This course was forced on the race organisers but they made it spectacular,” he added.
The win was a second in his local major for Tooms after he edged out Travis Walker in a sprint finish a few years ago.
Tooms was quick to acknowledge the absence of several local pacesetters like Andrew Hill and another Howick local Stuart Marais, but was thrilled to claim the top step of the podium in his own backyard.
RMB Change A Life rider Sthembiso Masango was elated to grab second place, ahead of former Sharks centre Jeremy Thompson.
“Man, they did an amazing job on those trials,” enthused Thompson, whose fun on the trails was interrupted by a high speed collision with a tree.
“There was lots and lots of single track, with some really cool technical sections. That’s the way we love it,” Thompson added.
Bianca “Yankee” Haw showed signs of her return to top form, as she ground away from the other women’s race contenders to take the women’s marathon title to go with her win in the enduro the day before.
“Our race started really fast,” said Haw (Red Bull). “The first climb was hard. I was riding with Tiffany Keep at that stage and she was really strong.
“I managed to get away on one of the climbs and then just worked at keeping the gap,” she added.
Haw had a few anxious moments as her lead shrank after several crashes in the slippery sections, muddy after overnight rains, and on tricky sections on loose pine needles.
“The technical section through the rocks were really great. I need to up my technical skills! Today made me feel quite rusty,” said Haw.
Haw is about to leave for a few months XCO racing in the European spring, in Italy, France and Germany.
Keep duly wrapped up second place, while another regular to podium at this race Christie Leigh-Hearder secured the last spot on the women’s podium.
The 20km race was won by Bradley Scott from Anthony Horter. Howick MTB club trail builder Sbu Vilikazi duly completed his first MTB race, finishing an impressive 12th overall, on the bike donated and built for him by local riders, and conceded that he needed to do more training.
“It was good fun but I need to train more. Basically my training was done on one day – on Friday!” said the enthusiastic local hero.
On Saturday the Sappi Howick Classic Enduro drew rave reviews as the big field took on the new and largely unknown course on the left hand side of the Curry’s Post Road that consisted of four timed stages and a fifth untimed descent.
Downhill pacesetter Tiaan Odendaal took the men’s title from Keira Duncan and Sam Bull, thriving on the fast technical timed sections.
“I had an absolute blast today,” said Odendaal. “I am very happy to take the win. I really enjoyed the fast flowing trails and felt really good on them.
“It was an excellent event, and I am already excited for the next one,” he added.
The women’s title race provided a thrilling showdown between Haw and rising star Beanie Thies.
The pair was almost inseparable as they pushed each other on the fast technical timed sections, until Thies’ chance of pulling off a major upset win ended with a technical mishap, when her timing chip failed to register on the timing system on one of the timed stages.
Runner-up Kathryn Fourie said the event was well supported by riders across all the age categories, all of whom praised the new trails prepared for the event.
“The stages were unique, fast paced and all had different types of challenges. The cherry on the top was Stage Five, which was untimed and just done for fun.
“It was absolutely insane! It’s a fully European style of trail and is seriously steep and gave people an opportunity to try out proper Enduro style trail, with no racing pressure.
“This is the kind of trail that will lift the standard of riding for everyone. The Howick MTB Club have promised to put in more trails of this style, in anticipation of another event later in the year. We can’t wait!” said Fourie.
SUMMARY OF RESULTS
Sappi Howick Classic 40km
1.Jedson Tooms 2:00:03
2.Sthembiso Masango 2:00:49
3.Jeremy Thompson 2:01:21
4.Dean Wortmann 2:03:58
5.Bongmusa Zikhali 2:04:36
6.Grant Underwood 2:06:16
7.Cian Leveridge 2:08:56
8.Andrew Kenward 2:09:30
9.Bianca Haw 2:10:11 (1st woman)
10.Warren Price 2;10:24
1. Bianca Haw 2:10:11
2.Tiffany Keep 2:13:21 (1st Jnr)
3.Christie-Leigh Header 2:17:20
Sappi Howick Classic 20km
1.Bradley Scott 1:09:50
2.Anthony Horter 1:10:21
3.Craig Pike 1:11:32
4.Omar Wilson 1:13;17
5.Judy Gous 1:16:45 (1st woman)
6.Lungisani Xaba 1:17:18
7.Riley Smith 1;17:31
8.Ian Smith 1:17:47
9.Reuben Price 1:18:14
10.Matthew Strydom 1:18:50
Sappi Howick Classic Enduro