The 2017 Ladismith Cheese 7Weekspoort MTB Challenge was won by Durbanville’s David Garrett and Oudtshoorn’s Yolande de Villiers; in a race which saw the women’s champion finish just one minute and thirty five seconds down on the men’s winner. The fifteenth edition of the event, was held under cloudless skies and cooled by a steady breeze, took place on Saturday 30 September.
The 2017 race also saw the introduction of a primary schools’ competition in the shortest 29 kilometre distance. Outeniqua Primary School, from George in the Southern Cape, accumulated the most points defeating cross-town rivals Glenwood House, thanks to age group victories by Alissa Coetzer and Christiaan Hatting. Outeniqua thereby got to etch their name on the Ladismith Cheese 7Weekspoort Schools’ MTB Challenge floating trophy and claimed the Giant Revel mountain bike, donated by Ladismith’s LSM Cycles.
In the main 85 kilometre race Garrett was eager to overturn his run of second positions in the Ladismith Cheese 7Weekspoort MTB Challenge. His most recent second position had come in the 2016 race, when Dylan Rebello claimed victory. Heading up the Seweweekspoort Garrett set the pace, and with the south easterly breeze swirling into a headwind in the poort there was a lack of willing workers at the front of the group.
Garrett inadvertently opened up a small gap on Jan-Paul Gerber and de Villiers in the rugged 10 kilometre loop into the Great Karoo, but upon reaching the smooth gravel road leading back down the Seweekspoort he sat up again and waited for Gerber and de Villiers. The trio spent the next forty kilometres working together; with Garrett occasionally upping the pace to keep his companions outside their comfort zone.
As the leaders approached water point three Garrett made the decisive move. “Last year Dylan [Rebello] attacked me there so I knew it was a good place to make a move. I dropped the others on the second last climb and heard at the top of the last climb that I had a one minute gap. Fortunately I had that gap because the new finish is very tough and I would not have wanted to come through there in a group” Garrett reflected. “After two second positions here I’m happy to have finally won the Ladismith Cheese 7Weekspoort MTB Challenge.”
De Villiers and Gerber closed out their Ladismith Cheese 7Weekspoort MTB Challenge races by sprinting for second overall. Gerber edged out the women’s champion by a couple of bike lengths. “It was hard, the wind made it very difficult in the poort and you had to be really careful following wheels,” de Villiers said. Upon being asked how she felt about beating the South African Marathon Champion she responded: “I’m humble; and I’m grateful, and I’m so pleased.”
The National Marathon Champion, Robyn de Groot, was making her racing comeback after an injury layoff. She spent most of the 85 kilometre race distance riding with Aaron Borrill who said that, “the leaders got away very early when Robyn [de Groot] and I got caught out by a sandy patch. We chased and chased but just could not catch them.”
For her part De Groot seemed satisfied with her performance, though the result was not the one mountain biking fans expected. “I rode within myself and when I felt my leg I eased off a bit,” she said. The main aim for De Groot is now to be fully fit for the Momentum Health Cape Pioneer Trek, presented by Biogen, which starts on the 15th of October.
The men’s and women’s 85 kilometre podiums were completed by Jacobus Barnard and Jenna Borrill respectively. While the leading results were as follows:
- Kerighan Aries (1:12:52)
- Christiaan Hatting (1:12:57)
- Luke Haywood (1:13:01)
- Alissa Coetzer (1:33:23)
- Jonelle Nel (1:43:34)
- Willemien van Tonder (1:45:49)
- Leon Classen (1:36:36)
- Roert Swart (1:44:56)
- Winston Bourbon-Leftley (1:45:31)
- Rozanne Mouton (2:03:29)
- Nina Reynolds (2:11:23)
- Adel Klotz (2:12:09)
- David Garret (2:59:27)
- Jan-Paul Gerber (3:01:01)
- Jacobus Barnard (3:07:40)
- Yolande de Villiers (3:01:02)
- Robyn de Groot (3:10:13)
- Jenna Borrill (3:36:08)
Ladies’ champion Yolande de Villiers and Jan-Paul Gerber embrace after a sprint for second overall behind David Garrett at the 2017 Ladismith Cheese 7Weekspoort MTB Challenge. Photo by Oakpics.com.