Words: Kandice Buys | Photo: Jazz Kuschke
Nico Bell's productive off-season is starting to yield big returns already with an impressive win at the Barberton XCM this past Saturday. Only the second race for Bell in Team RECM colours, he finished the 125km in 5:25'35", with a lead of over 27 minutes on second and third place.
Still early in the season, the Barberton XCM is a good indicator of the rider's form for the upcoming season, although not part of the MTN Marathon Series for 2014, the race is no less challenging than in previous years. The 125km route comprises of over 3,000m of climbing, and included new single track sections and an extra loop in the Greenstone Wildlife Estate.
The main protagonists of the race would be Neil MacDonald (FedGroup), Ben Melt Swanapoel, Gawie Combrinck, and the dark horse, Henry Uys (Bryton USN).
Bell decided to test his legs, and those of everyone else, by lifting the pace on the first climb of the day. Nico managed to get a gap and increased that to over 4 minutes at the first tech zone. The last climb of the day, a 12km climb with 1200m ascent at 80km into the race, kept Bell on the straight and narrow by making sure he paced himself and his efforts.
“I felt really good today, and I’m happy with my form at the moment [as we start to get closer to the Absa Cape Epic in March]. I will be racing with Erik Kleinhans for this year’s race, and while helping Christoph Sauser and Franisek Rabon to the overall Cape Epic title, the major objective for us is to wear the African Leaders jersey at Lourensford at the final prize giving" Nico noted after the race.
"I rode my tyres slightly harder for the rocks and this helped to alleviate punctures and made sure I lubed my chain as the river crossings can cause the chain to dry up and this could also lead to chain suck as I experienced in previous years of racing. I was riding my Specialized StumpJumper HT Marathon spec'd with XX1 and carbon Roval wheels with LOOK S-Track pedals and Specialized Renegade Control tyres 1.95 front and rear." added Bell, for all the bike techies.
Barberton XCM Ultra Marathon, 125km
1. Nico Bell | Team RECM | 5:25'35"
2. Henry Uys | Bryton USN | +27'14
3. Gawie Combrinck | +27'15"
4. Jaco Ferreria | +29'40"
5. Barend Burger | Demacon EOH | +31’56"