Trans Elands MTB Marathon – Race Report

This years Trans Elands MTB Marathon took place in near perfect weather and started and finished at the historic Gamtoos Ferry Hotel.
There was an air of excitement and anticipation as the riders lined up in the starting chute. It was evident that it was going to be a hotly contested battle amongst the top riders in the different categories and tactics in this grueling event would play a major role.

Trans Elands MTB Marath
Mixed Caterogry winners Kevin Taljaard and Yolande de Villiers on the startline

After the race briefing the race got under way at exactly 7 am and headed for the mountains. The first water point was after 23kms at the LoerieRuskamp and the leading two riders, Steven Shirley and JP Minnie had broken away from the chasing bunch and had a lead of about 3 minutes. The chasing bunch included Jason Meaton, Paddy Fisher, Kevin Taljaard, Yolande De Villiers, QuintinMyburg, Jacques van Staden and Eugene van Rooyen.
The pace being set by Steven Shirley and JP Minnie was incredibly fast and it was clear that KOM would be decided between these two riders at the top of “Lex’s Monster Climb”.
JP Minnie took KOM with Steven Shirley on his wheel as they started the decent into the Elands River valley. Liza Mason in the chasing bunch took QOM honours and had already opened a commanding lead in the ladies solo category. Gemma Meaton was the closest chasing lady and putting in a solid performance.

Trans Elands MTB Marathon
Trans Elands MTB Marathon route profile

Steven Shirley and JP Minnie arrived at the Sand River Dam water point together in 2hrs 10min and had opened a commanding 13 minute lead over the chasing bunch which had stayed together in pursuit of the leaders.
The section of the route between Sand River and the Cheese Shop water point became an absolute game changer in the race with a howling NW Berg wind ripping through the valley destroying the field and in particular the rider’s further back in the field as the wind intensity increased. The two leaders opened the gap on the chasing bunch to 20 minutes at the Cheese Shop and this gap was maintained up until the Patensie water point.
At this point a significant change occurred in the chasing group with both Jason Meaton and Paddy Fischer having mechanical issues resulting in Paddy Fischer having to withdraw, thereby destroying the hopes of a Motion Shop team win. The Cycle for Diabetics team of Jacques v Staden and Quintin Myburg became clear leaders in the team category at this point.
From the Patensie water point through to the finish the riders enjoyed near perfect conditions with a slight tail wind although at 29 degrees the “Never Ender”climb was challenging particular after more than 100kms in the legs. At this point JP Minnie could no longer maintain the pace being set by Steven Shirley and Steven opened up a 25 minute gap over JP in the last 60kms. The gap to the chasing bunch opened to almost 55 minutes over this stretch and it became clear that the chase was over and it was a question of survival.
Steven Shirley finished in 6:41:49 showing total dominance. JP Minnie finished in 7:06:21 followed by Eugene van Rooyen in 7:30:05. The winning time is an overall course record and a record in the Vets category and will be hard to beat in future races.

Trans Elands MTB Marathon
Steven Shirley at a water point

The ladies solo category was won by Liza Mason in the excellent time of 8:11:48 followed by Gemma Meaton in 9:56:41 and MarelizeSmit 10:05:17.
The Cycle for Diabetics Team took team honours in 7:34:40 and the East Coast Cycles Team of Kevin Taljaard and Yolande De Villiers took the mixed team honours.
Only 56 riders managed to complete this grueling event which bears testimony to how tough the ride was. Congratulations to all the finishers and better luck next time to those that did not make it.

Race report by Lex Holmes