Huge blow for Masters World Champs contenders

Words: Nick Tatham | Photos: Gavin Ryan & Quickpix

The South African challenge for world titles at the UCI Masters World Championships suffered a major setback with the withdrawal of rainbow jersey hopefuls Con Malherbe and Chris Brand following serious crashes during training on the Cascades MTB Park course.

Malherbe who had just become the current national champion in the men’s 50-54 age group, and Brand, the SA champion in the 55-59 year age group, were both rushed to hospital this week after crashing during training on the track which was altered in the past month to make it more technically challenging.


Brand crashed on a tricky off-camper section approaching the Graffiti descent, leaving him with broken collarbone, broken ribs, and torn tendons, while Malherbe crashed trying to jump a new double tabletop, badly injuring his neck.


The two veterans were going to be serious contenders for the UCI rainbow striped jerseys and their injuries have altered the perspective of a number of the 581 masters from 30 nations that have entered the event.


Malherbe, while he is gutted to be left on the sidelines, says the accidents should serve to show the other riders that they should be prepared when they take on the course.


“I am devastated to be out of the event, and to miss out on this once-in-a-lifetime chance to contest the rainbow stripes in my own back yard,” said Malherbe, who heads up the Coffeeberry/Momsen team.


“I felt that I had to master that double jump to be as competitive as possible on raceday, and I didn’t think too much about it when the crash happened.”


Malherbe was training with Kargo Pro MTB team rider Hilton Frost, who had successfully jumped the double, but he misjudged the jump. “I cased it, and went over the bars and landed really hard. My arm went immediately lame and I thought I had broken it.”


Malherbe went on to ride again on the weekend and only went to seek medical help a few days later, when MRI scans found the injury to his vertebrae that was impacting on his spinal column, aggravating an old Moto-X neck injury.


Battling to make peace with the fact that his world championship title bid was over, Malherbe said it is important that riders plan their race strategies carefully to suit their strengths and weaknesses.


“This is a technically tough course, as tough as the elite World Cup course last year, and probably three times tougher than the course we rode in Hayterdale for the SA Champs last week, so it is not a course for sissies,” said Malherbe.


“Whoever wins their class will be a proper mountain biker, technically very skilled and someone who has planned their race properly.


“In some of the classes there will be over 50 riders on the course, and the congestion and heat of the race is going to make these technical sections even harder.


“To be successful a rider will have to think the race through very carefully. There are places where you can attack, depending on whether climbing or the technical sections are your strengths.


“A lot of the tough obstacles have B and even C lines - chicken runs - which are safer but will cost you ten or fifteen seconds. But a strong climber can afford to be conservative and avoid serious risks, and remain in contention,” Malherbe said.


Navigating a way through this tricky course without losing too much time in the technical sections is what Malherbe believes is going to be crucial but not being able to be a part of the race is really disappointing for him.


“The trick will be to stay out of trouble, especially if you are in a tight bunch going into a technical section. (Course designer) Nick (Floros) has definitely spiced it up, and it will be really exciting racing to watch.”


The UCI Mountain Bike Masters World Championships takes place at Cascades MTB Park in Pietermaritzburg from 21 August to 25 August 2013. More information can be found at


Mountain Biking