Malelane, Mpumalanga - The third annual Malalane Toyota Downhill Challenge was held on the weekend of 8 to 10 November 2013, with seeding and final runs on the Sunday. The race was attended by 24 riders, including the top of SA riders like SA Champion Tiaan Odendaal, multiple past SA Champ Johan Potgieter as well as Tim Bentley, another past champion. All these riders have competed overseas, with Johan Potgieter riding for the European outfit, RRP on his Ghost.
Potgieter came into the race as the favorite, having won all previous events in 2012 and 2011. Another favorite from KZN was G-Form rider Tiaan Odendaal on his Santa Cruz, who finished 3rd in 2012 behind Potgieter and Greg Minnaar. An outside favorite was newcomer to the race but always one of SA’s top riders, Tim Bentley from KZN. Dirt free rider and G-Form athlete Anthony Brookes got out of Gauteng to get in on the downhill action, also stepping up his game for this event.
“Ja, I back flipped for the crowd, it wasn't perfect but it was the first time I've flipped my downhill bike on dirt, so happy it came round.” – Anthony Brookes
Practice started on Friday and batches of riders were shuttled up in Toyota 4x4’s up the steep and rocky shuttle road. All the riders were excited about the track, which is significantly longer than last year, but also a lot faster, with lots of new features.
It tested the capabilities of the top riders competing at race pace, whilst still being accessible to novice riders. The smiles and continuous buzz in the pits was testament that the riders loved the track that local rider and also past SA champ, Dirk Lourens, put together.
The race was also officially sanctioned by UCI with the first 10 licensed riders also earning UCI points so they can qualify for the World Cup to be held again at Cascades KZN in 2014. This year the race also pulled a lot of local spectators, with Malalane Toyota also putting up various viewing points so that all can enjoy watching the riders tackle one of the best tracks in SA.
“It was an awesome weekend I was stoked that my motivational talks meant something to the kids there. It definitely paid off because most of them came out to spectate on race day.” – Tiaan Odendaal
Sunday morning race day started with a light drizzle and a strong wind blowing at the top section and riders contemplating their strategies. The seeding runs started at 10a.m.with Tim Bentley setting the fastest pace at 3.07.99, Johan Potgieter was 9 hundredths of a second slower at 3.08.06. This indicated that racing will be extremely tight and the top riders will have to pull out all the stops.
“My seeding run didn’t go as I planned as I had a crash in the lower part of the track. My race run went very well and I felt that I could have won if I pushed a bit more but I didn’t want to push too much as it was a track that you had to just relax and flow to go fast.” – Tiaan Odendaal
The overall and Elite Men's race was won by Tim Bentley from KZN in a time of 3:03:12. He was followed closely by G-Form rider, Tiaan Odendaal, in 3:04:74, with past winner of 2011 and 2012, Johan Potgieter from the Cape, coming in 3rd place at 3:10:49. G-Form Athlete Anthony Brookes place first in the Sport class.
First place carried cash prize of R10,000, second was R5,000 and third R4,000. Overall, all licensed classes got cash prizes totaling R43,000, whilst product sponsorships from G-Form SA, Skullcandy, and Ogio totalled at least another R36,000.
The race was also filmed by D4 Productions and will be shown on SuperSport Cycling early 2014.
A big up to cash sponsors Toyota Malalane and Laeveld Trekkers. Watch out for the new and even better race planned for 2014, planning already started.