Affectionately known as “Dress Up Day”, Stage Three of the PICKLE JUICE AFRICANX TRAILRUN 3-Day Stage Race started and finished at the picturesque Houw Hoek Hotel on Sunday 19 March 2023. Trail running pairs of two had to complete a fantastic +-18km route that included technical trails through fynbos, some lovely trails along the river as well as an iconic climb just over halfway in.
A tradition at AFRICANX, Stage Three saw the mass field of runners start 30 minutes ahead of the overall Top 5 finishers. This allowed the masses to see just how fast the elite field was, while allowing the elite field to experience the AFRICANX vibe.
John April and Underson Ncube (Ride along 2) claimed the coveted title of Men’s Team Champions after completing all three stages of the PICKLE JUICE AFRICANX TRAILRUN 3-Day Stage Race (a total combined distance of +-76km) in an overall combined time of 05 hours 56 minutes 36 seconds.
“Stage Three was very nice,” says a very happy April. “We were trailing by close to two minutes going into the stage, so we just set the pace a bit. We were told about the long hill that was coming and knew that once we were over the hill we could just keep jogging. That’s what we did and took the stage win again today. I feel good. We were planning to take the Stage Two win yesterday, but Underson was cramping because he’s not used to the long distance. I told him to chill because we could make it up on Stage Three. We will be back next year to defend our title and take all three stage wins.”
“There was no point during the stage today that we thought that we wouldn’t take the win,” admits Ncube. “For me it was two days of running and the last day was the racing stage. Today was nice, we knew that we just had to maintain our pace, no going fast and no going slow, just maintaining our pace. In our heads we just wanted to go over the hill. Once we went over the hill, everything was in the pocket. Claiming the win is super, it’s AFRICANX! It’s the biggest trail race in the country.”
Kyle Bucklow and Oli Morris (Team New Balance) placed second, while Lovemo Nyaude and Hakeem Smith (Team HTRCrew Trail Taxi) finished third.
In the Mixed Team Category brother and sister duo Stuart Marais and Kerry-Ann Marshall (Team New Balance #WeGotNow) secured their hattrick stage victory and overall victory completing the three stages in a combined time of 06 hours 32 minutes 48 seconds.
“Stage Three featured beautiful trails,” says Marshall. “We had a nice conservative start, but it was tough running today. There was such a vibe with everyone cheering us on. We just felt like we were part of the ‘Party on Foot’. It was special being with my brother. He pulled me along the whole way. I am fortunate to get to share the same passion with him. Being able to spend the time together out there is really special. Taking the win together is the chery on the top. AFRICANX is always such a great experience. I love coming back.”
“We felt like real celebrities passing all the other runners,” says Marais. “It gave us a chance to observe all the interesting Dress Up Day outfits. It was really special and amazing to see how serious runners are about Dress Up Day. It’s been an amazing three days. I think the trails got better with each stage. We started with relatively conservative trail and it built up into Day Two and then Day Three was absolute mountain running which was really a treat. It was great to experience the three days in the Grabouw region.”
Kirsten Heath and Jarryd Dunn (Team Nearly Dunn) placed second, while Chantel Nienaber and Chris Visser (Team COWrageous) finished third.
In the Women’s Team Category, although Alexa Rack and Julia Jansen Van Rensburg (Team Nam Power) did not manage to secure their hattrick stage victory, with Stage Three going to Nicola De Villiers and Jani Kruger (Team Riot), Rack and Jansen Van Rensburg did claim the Women’s Team Champions Title, completing the PICKLE JUICE AFRICANX TRAILRUN 3-Day Stage Race in a combined finishing time of 07 hours 10 minutes 18 seconds.
“Stage Three was very good,” says Rack. “It was very fast. The hill was a bit intense, but otherwise it was a very fast, nice run. AFRICANX has been absolutely amazing. Thank you so much to the sponsors and organisers for making this happen. It was a dream come true and I will definitely be back.”
“I am not a technical runner at all, so I think I was frustrating my partner a lot today,” laughs Jansen Van Rensburg. “I am happy for the time that we made up and am happy to take the overall win. AFRICANX is wonderful. It’s been such a great experience, the organisation, the people, everything was wonderful.”
Nicola De Villiers and Jani Kruger (Team Riot) placed second, while Leani Potgieter and Isel Barnard (Grimes Sisters) finished third.
“A weekend just isn’t long enough when it comes to the PICKLE JUICE AFRICANX TRAILRUN,” says Riaan Oosthuizen, General Manager of First Ascent. “We had a fantastic time with members of SA’s trail running community, both on the trails and in the race village. First Ascent’s foundation is firmly set in the outdoors, so we loved seeing trail runners of all fitness levels and expertise putting our product to the test. After three days of challenging, but fun trail running we trust that you will wear the First Ascent event garment with pride. You’ve earned it!”
image:Guillaume Muller, Bruwer Engelbrecht, Christiaan Strydom by Chris Hitchock