Words: Ben Swanepoel
One of my favourite races had its 5th birthday this year and to celebrate they hosted one of the best editions of the event to date. Every year Mark, Geoff and their super committed team manage to improve their race in more ways than one.
As expected, this continued progression lures a better field and this year was probably the most competitive edition of the race. Mother Nature also had her say with very hot temperatures dominating over the weekend making the heated racing even hotter!
The race derives its name from the communication Towers we pass on each of the 3 stages. For obvious reasons these towers are located at the summit of a mountain, meaning we had some climbing to do before enjoying the exhilarating descents back into Mankele Bike Park where the event was hosted.
The race kicked off at 7am on Friday morning and we were straight into climbing on the 70km stage. Team Fedgroup-Itec set a blistering pace from the gun and by the top of the first climb only team Privateer Racing’s James Reid and Brendan Davids and Hanco Kachelhoffer and I riding for EAI Cycling were with team Fedgroup-Itec. The 3 teams stayed together until day 1’s infamous river crossing where many a rider has seen their ...
On the portage section that followed Fedgroup-Itec broke away to take stage honours and the yellow leader’s jersey. Hanco and I fought back to the wheels of team Privateer but on the final steep hill before Sudwala Switchbacks they just had a bit more in the tank, managing to distance us and take 2nd place on the day.
The long season had also taken its toll with Lourens Luus (RE:CM) abandoning the race while Matthys Beukes (Scott) had to retire with a severe stomach bug, laying waste to 2 of the strongest teams at the event.
In terms of distance and ascent day 2 was very similar to day 1, but with tired legs it sure felt a lot different/harder. Again Fedgroup-Itec were the aggressors but this time team Privateer managed to stay with them only losing time in the final downhill when Brendon Davids’ crank apparently came loose costing them a shot at stage victory. Meanwhile Hanco and I spent the whole day riding with Gawie Combrinck and Nico Bell of team Westvaal Bell’s Cycling just off the pace of the leaders. Team Westvaal Bell’s had recovered well from day 1 and we really had to dig deep to match their pace. Finally in Junior’s bush tunnel they opened a small gap on us to take a well deserved 3rd place on the stage.
As in past, the final day’s ‘short’ 45km stage brought extremely fast racing with the cross country specialists in their element. Team Privateer set such a strong pace from the start that the race leaders were distanced on the first climb and when Gawie Combrinck took over the pacing, no one was going to catch us. Having made the all important front split it was very disappointing when I suffered a puncture, but thankfully a quick inflation and good tyre sealant did the trick getting us back in the race without too much delay. We chased as best we could and finished 4th on the stage, but more importantly we hung on to our overall podium spot in 3rd place. Team Privateer rode the Combrinck express, only coming around them in the final meters to take stage honours.
Final Overall Results
1. Fedgroup-Itec (Brandon Stewart & Konny Looser) 7:43:27
2. Privateer Racing (Brendon Davids & James Reid) 7:46:44
3. EAI Cycling (Hanco Kachelhoffer & Melt Swanepoel) 7:54:35
4. Westvaal Bell’s Cycling (Gawie Combrinck & Nico Bell) 7:57:31
5. Team SOAR (Guylin Van Den Berg & Arno du Toit) 8:25:15
The trails are what define this race with every looooong climb rewarded with sweeping downhills, bush tunnels and purpose built singletrack. What defines the event though is the passion of the people involved. Less than a month before the race they were building new ablutions and cutting fresh trails while still managing a hugely successful chicken farm (Mikon Farms) and finding time to ride their own bikes. Not even a stroke could keep these guys from doing what they love best.
Long may the 3 Towers Stage Race live!
Until next time, happy trails!