A truly amazing track was set ablaze with racing here in PE by top riders from all over the country. The fourth round of the Stihl 2016 SA XCO Cup Series took place on 14 May and riders were able to experience the beauty of Baakens Valley while battling out for SA XCO National positions and Olympic qualification.
The stakes were high for the Elite riders especially, with this event being the final qualifying race for the Olympic selection process. With only two spots available for the men’s Olympic team, the three way battle continued between Alan Hatherly (Kargo Pro MTB Team), James Reid (Team Spur) and Philip Buys (Scott Factory Racing powered by LCB) who showed a class of their own in the Elite field. It was a tight race between Reid and Hatherly after the first lap but Reid was able to edge an advantage when Hatherly briefly dismounted after clipping a stair with his pedal on the start of the most notorious climb of the day. Hatherly who’s had the most consistent season so far had to settle for 2nd place and Philip rounded off the podium in 3rd.
First up however was the woman’s Elite race with Mariske Strauss setting a blistering pace from the get-go that Novus Pro OMX teammate, Cherie Redecker, was unable to match. In 3rd was Amy Beth McDougall (Valencia) finishing more than 7min off the pace from Strauss.
“I HAD AN ABSOLUTE BLAST. WE NEED MORE OF THESE [TRACKS ] IN SOUTH AFRICA. THERE AREN’T MANY TRACKS LIKE THESE WITH A STEEP TECHNICAL SECTION – IT’S GREAT PREPARATION FOR RACING IN EUROPE”
– Mariske Strauss
“IT WAS A TOUGH COURSE WHEN IT CAME TO CLIMBING AS WELL AS DESCENDING. ALL AND ALL THE COURSE WAS PUT TOGETHER REALLY WELL AND COMPARED TO OTHER NATIONALS IT WAS THE CLOSEST TO A WORLD CUP STANDARD”
– Alan Hatherly