The opening event in the world’s largest marathon MTB series kicked off the 2014 season in the quant Mpumalanga Highveld town of Dullstroom. The MTN National MTB Series #1 Dullstroom is a new addition on the calendar of the popular series that spans five provinces over eight national events. The event attracted an unprecedented 2500 riders with the various distances to choose from: Ultra, Marathon, Half Marathon and the Fun Race.
The sharp end of the race saw some of the top names in South African cycling fight it out in muddy conditions. Following the event many commented that the altitude and route would have been challenging enough and that the mud made it extremely tough. In the elite men’s race over 120km it was youngster Lourens Luus (Team RECM) who originally hails from Sabie who walked off with the laurels and his first major win. The women’s MTN Marathon was convincingly won by Robyn de Groot (Biogen Toyota). Luus rode a tactically brilliant race and didn’t panic when he found himself sandwiched between the two Cannondale Blend riders Waylon Woolcock and Charles Keey in the dying kilometres of the 120km event. Woolcock crashed hard on his face after slipping in the muddy conditions and couldn’t regain his rhythm to re-join the two leaders. Luus crossed the line seconds ahead of an emotionally charged Keey following a last minute wrong turn that handed the win to Luus.
“I am completely overwhelmed with my result and I would have loved to see it come down to the sprint. Fortunately I knew that turn Charles missed coming in to the finish, I walked the course yesterday and confirmed at the briefing.”
Luus commented in response to the appeal lodged by Keey. Kevin Evans (Fedgroup) deserves a mention after riding clear of the main field on the King of the Mountains climb. Evans battled with health issues and bad luck during the 2013 season and this was the first signs of him returning to form. It was not to be his day though and an untimely puncture put an end to his surge back to the top. Afterwards a clearly frustrated Evans said that at least he knows that the form is where it needs to be and that he will be staying on the Highveld to prepare for MTN Sabie that takes place in two weeks.
Robyn de Groot (Biogen Toyota) the current South African marathon champion walked off with a hard earned win over Swiss star Ariane Kleinhans (Team RECM). Kleinhans suffered a similar fate to Evans cutting her tyre after leading the race and losing a lot of time to repair it.
“I wasn’t sure how close Ariane was behind me so I just kept pushing as hard as I could” de Groot added afterwards. “It was a nice way to start off this year’s MTN Series with a win. It’s a pity Ariane had a problem with her tyre as I felt we were really having a solid battle, which would have been great to continue until the end,” said de Groot.
Shan Wilson described the MTN Ultra Marathon as “an honest race, there was nowhere to hide and it was really tough!” According to Andrew Mclean the route would have been a tough one in perfect conditions and the mud made it extremely difficult. Dakar racer Riaan van Niekerk said on twitter “I had an absolute blast today at MTN Dullstroom”. Dullstroom (2100m above sea level) is listed in the Notes from Higher Grounds: An Altitude Training Guide for Athletes as one of the top 15 high altitude training venues for international athletes. Leading up to the event Advendurance spent a lot of time and energy to develop new trails in the region ensuring that the event was a real mountain bike route on par with the rest of the series.
For full results and more info visit www.nationalmtbseries.com