Words: Marlene Abrie
Mountain bike enthusiasts can look forward to some demanding action early 2016. The new three-day Monument MTB Festival is regarded as excellent preparation for next year’s national and international events and the prize money is not to be sneezed at with total prize moneys of R500 000.00. That will turn the Monument MTB Festival into the country’s top rand-per-kilometer event, explains Pierre Nel, the organiser. Christoph Sauser will be a participant next year, giving riders the opportunity to test their skill and endurance against the world’s MTB champion. Sponsor of the race, Johan Hattingh from LCB, confirmed that Sauser is excited to partake.
Nel says the MTB race – to be held at the Voortrekker Monument from 11 to 13 February – is for accomplished riders looking for an extreme challenge or for those who want to get themselves in shape for next year’s mountain bike Cross Country Olympic (XCO) season. The first national XCO-race after the Monument MTB Festival, will be held as early as 27 February and merely three weeks later the wheels will be bouncing through the veld in the Cape Epic. Nel views the Monument MTB Festival as a kind of shortened but extreme dress rehearsal for both the XCO season and the Epic.
He explains that although the Cross Country Marathon (XCM) format appears to be more popular in South Africa than XCO, the latter is the only Olympic mountain bike discipline. That’s why South African riders with aspirations to perform on top level will welcome events like the Monument MTB Festival, as it combines elements of both XCM and XCO. Herein, says Nel, lies the uniqueness of the Monument MTB Festival: “We combine XCO (lap racing) and XCM (out-and-back racing) without sacrificing the challenges of these two mountain bike disciplines! Add to this the back-to-back, 5-6 hours extreme endurance per day over two days and you have a recipe for a unique challenge. The event is furthermore perfectly timed, ensuring competitive XCO and XCM riders will benefit from the race”.
Cycling SA is in the process of selecting its Olympic team and an announcement in that regard is expected in May. Team members are picked on strength of their performance in next year’s SA National XCO Cup races and the Monument MTB Festival may be viewed as the perfect preparation at the right time.
“The Monument MTB Festival is also the only XCO endurance event which demands skills on par with those needed for a UCI Category 1 XCO track. Participants partake in an XCO race following a 5 km XCO race track on day one and a 60 km XCO endurance route on day two and three. A range of challenging and technical XCO obstacles will have to be combated by riders.
It’s spectator friendly, highly entertaining and draws generous sponsorships like those from Johan Hattingh of LCB, who also sponsors and owns the SCOTT LCB Factory Racing team, with SCOTT Cycles. The combination hails well for the development of the sport,” Nel says.
“Riders crossing the finishing line will have a pretty good idea of their technical prowess, with some time left to work on weaknesses before the 2016 Cape Epic.”
Registration for the Monument MTB Festival is now open and riders will be able to enter two-member teams in the following categories:
Juniors (male participants of 17 and 18 years), for a shortened race;
Elite (mens’, ladies’ and mixed teams existing of male and female participants of between 19 and 29 years of age);
Master (mens’, ladies’ and mixed teams, all of whom older than 29).
The entry fee is a reasonable R5 000.00 per team of 2 riders and will be limited to 250 teams. Only online entries on www.lcbracing.co.za will be accepted. Entries will close on Friday, 5 February 2016.
All teams finishing the event will be rewarded with medals and only the first three teams in every category will receive cash prizes.
The routes to be combined for the Monument MTB Festival will be available for training seven days a week. All routes to be used as race tracks will also be fully marked a week before the event.