Sani2C

After hearing so many nice things about the Sani2C, I knew I had to do this race as soon as I get the opportunity. The single track down into the Umkomaas valley is legendary. I was lucky to team up with fellow Contego Giant rider Louis Bresler Knipe. I knew that he is a very good technical downhill rider and that it would be fun riding with him.

I was a bit apprehensive as well as this would be my first stage race. The only ultra marathon I have done is the Attakwas. I train for the shorter more technical XCO format. Louis did well in the recent Joberg2C, and is a seasoned Sani2c competitor- I did not want to slow him down. 

 

Day1, Underberg-Mackenzie, 82km

Day one was hard all the way and we only just managed to stay in the lead group. Heading up the climb to the finish at Mackenzie club I sat on Louis’ wheel till we sprinted for the line against all the main contenders. We managed to take 2nd place but we knew that the Queens Stage was still to come and that it would take some hard work to defend our podium position.

Day2, Mackenzie-Jolivet, 100km

It started raining during the night.  Lying in our tents we knew that we were going to have a wet and slippery ride down the Umkomaas valley single tracks. Me and Louis managed to enter the single track within the top 4 riders and the muddy conditions made the descend very interesting and fun. By the time we hit the bottom, we had a good gap on the others and decided to soldier on trying to stay ahead. We had almost 7 minutes on the chasers after the first water point at 35 km and we rode a constant pace up the climbs and through the rivers for most of the day. At about 75km the chasing group of Max Knox, Nico Bell, Brandon Stewart and Neil Mac Donald finally caught up.

It was damage control from here on, and we tried to finish the day with decent time gaps on the rest of the field. We came 3rd, a few minutes behind second place and with a reasonable gap on 4th. We were now 3rd overall going into the last stage. We really enjoyed this stage!

Day3, Jolivet-Scottborough, 85km

Day 3 got off to a fast start and soon the race was split up into groups chasing each other roady style. Later it all came back together again. Near the railway track section team tactics came into play. Brandon and Neil blocked the single track while team mates Kevin and Gawie went up the road. We managed to stay with the chasing bunch until a few kilometers to go and finished 5th. We were happy to secure 3rd overall.

It was great fun racing with SA’s top Marathon riders and a lot was learned. Thanks to Contego Giant for the opportunity. Our Giants gave us only joy.

GC Results:

1st Max Knox/Nico Bell (EAI/Westvaal) 9:44:50
2nd Brandon Stewart/Neil Macdonald (FedGroupITEC) 9:46:19
3rd Louise Knipe/Gert Heyns (Contego/Giant) 9:49:02
4th Lourens Luus/Waylon Woolcock (RE:CM) 9:50:48
5th Kevin Evans/Gawie Combrinck (FedGroupITEC) 9:51:43
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Team Contego Giant at Sani2C

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Overall Podium

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MTN Gravel Travel

Last weekend I headed down to Wellington to race the Gravel Travel- part of the National Marathon series. I decided to do the marathon 75 km event to make sure my legs are fresh for Sani2C starting on Thursday.

Having raced this event late last year I knew the route which helps a lot. This is one of the best race routes I’ve done, with lots of cool single track sections.

It was good to have my fellow Contego teammates Adriaan Louw and Jurgens Uys in the race as well. The race got off to an easy start. As we hit the first steep climb 10km into the race, my chain broke. I didn’t know what to do as I don’t normally carry a chainbreaker or spare link with me. I asked for help as the slower groups started to catch up. After a while I got a friendly guy who handed me a chainbreaker. I fixed the chain quickly and after a few minutes started time trialling back, trying to catch up. I rode at my own pace and about 20km on  caught up with my team-mate Jurgens, just in time for the open gravel road section. We worked together for a while.  About 50km into the race I caught up to the lead group of Patrick Belton and Adriaan Louw. A few kilometers later I was surprised to hear that we were not really in the lead and that there was still an unknown rider up ahead. In the end I was happy to settle for a podium spot after riding on my own for most of the day. I finished 3rd, just behind Patrick and just under 3 minutes behind German winner Tom Ettlich. I am happy with my race despite the chain trouble.  Thank you to the rider who helped.

Results:

1 Tom Ettlich 3:18:24

2 Patrick Belton 3:21:18

3 Gert Heyns 3:21:19

start

start

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Hessequa MTB Challenge

This weekend was the Hessequa MTB Challenge in the town of Riversdale. It was the first time this race was held, but the organizers managed to put up good prize money. After lots of rain the two days before the race it looked to be another wet one. What was ahead was a 96km route along the foot of the famous Sleeping Beauty mountains and its surroundings.

the bunch

the bunch heading towards the mountains

Luckily it turned out to be a cold but sunny morning in Riversdale, and we all felt eager to ride through this beautiful region. The race got off to an easy start as it was a neutral zone out-of-town. It was not long before three of us separated us from the rest of the field. Me, Craig Boyes and James Tennent, a pro roadie on his first MTB race. Spar Riversdale put R5000 up for grabs for the King of the Mountain 33km into the race. Nobody really wanted to waste any energy early on as we were eying the prize. A few kilometers before the King of the Mountain, James dropped from the group leaving me and Craig to duel it out. I managed to get a gap on Craig up the climb and took the prize. We still had a long way to go and I decided to use the good gap gained on the climb and to ride on at my own pace. The catch came later than expected about 65 km into the race. Me and Craig worked together on the open roads back to Riversdale. The last 20km was mostly downhill and we knew that it would probably come down to a sprint finish. Heading into the school grounds I was on his wheel and just manged to slip through the inside and take the sprint on the line in a time of 3h51 min.

I was happy to take the win as the distance of 96km is longer than the XC races I mostly train for. This race gave me some confidence going into the next few weeks of racing. Looking forward to a few more marathon type races in the coming weeks.

Well done to the Dryland crew and the people of Riversdale for putting up a great event. It was well-organized with a nice route. I am sure it will turn into one of the must do events on the MTB calendar.

Results

1. Gert Heyns

2. Craig Boyes

3. Vicus Boshoff

The Lead Group

The Lead Group
Craig Boyes, Gert Heyns, James Tennent

HessequaKOM

Spar King of the Mountains

Podium

Podium

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KZN racing

I had a solid two weekends of racing in KZN with the SA XC Cup #2 on 13 April and the Karkloof Classic the next weekend. I had an average race, not feeling strong at the national XCO Cup and I finished  5th Overall and 4th U23. I decided to stay for the Karkloof Classic a race that I always wanted to do. It was another wet and muddy weekend. I finishing 2nd in the Enduro on the Saturday. It was a long and cold day out in the rain and mud of Karkloof and in hind sight not that good of a lead-up to the marathon on Sunday. Enduro racing is such fun, I simply could not resist.  I had great fun racing down muddy single tracks against downhillers on my Giant 29er hardtail- good experience gained also.  See: Brown slips and slides to muddy Karkloof Enduro victory. The race route for the marathon on Sunday was world-class with some good long climbs and flowing single track descents. I managed to break away with Brendon Davids and Rourke Croeser early into the race but it was clear that Brendon was in good form, attacking often. I was later dropped and passed by his team-mate Travis Walker and for the rest of the race me and gentleman Ben Melt Swanepoel exchanged the 4th position. In the last 20km I could feel the toll of the previous days outing in the rain and managed to slog home in 5th position.

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Cascades single track action

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Finding a way through the rocks on lap 1

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Pro-Elite Podium SA XCO Cup 2

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Leading the group towards the famous Karkloof Trails

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River Crossing before Lebanon Ascend

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Look S-Track MTB pedals

LOOK S-Track pedals

 I have tried most pedals, but I have been riding Look pedals for the last two years as they work for me.  I got hold of a set of the new Look MTB pedals, the S-track range. It is their newly designed range replacing the Quartz pedals I previously used. The biggest improvement on the new ones are the contact surface between shoe, cleat and pedal. The pedal is in contact of the shoe on the shoe thread as well as the cleat itself making it the MTB pedal with the biggest contact surface area. After a month on these I am very happy with their performance. I can feel how the big contact surface improves power transfer and comfort. They are super light and reliable with good mud shedding capabilities. After all the muddy races this year they are still running smoothly. The pedals cleat in easily- important for XC starts and they stay in during sprints.

The S-track Carbon Ti is their lightest version, weighing in at only 122g.

The slightly heavier S-Track weighs 145g and is great value for money as it is still very light compared to other pedals. These are the ones I have been using.  I have not tried the S track race yet, I would also like to try the optional cage for Enduros.

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Kingfisher and Epic Grand Finale

I had a busy weekend racing the Kingfisher MTB race in Hoekwil on Saturday and The Vineyard race in Lourensford on Sunday. The Kingfisher organized by Hoekwil Primary is one of the classics on the Southern Cape calendar. The 70km route  has  lots of climbing in the plantations and forests of Bergplaas. Me and Jason Meaton rode together for most of the race. I felt good and managed to take the win. This is always a well-organized race and it was good to see the route improving with some new sections of single-track near the end.

1st – Gert Heyns (02:30:02)
2nd – Jason Meaton (02:33:10)
3rd – Neill Ungerer (02:38:49)

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Kingfisher MTB Marathon

After a quick bike wash and lunch we were on our way to Cape Town for the Cape Epic Grand Finale in Lourensford.

Part of the attraction at the Grand Finale is the Vineyard mountain bike race. Lots of international riders pitched up as well as some top local athletes like Renay Groustra and Conrad Stoltz. I had a good race pacing myself well and managed to finish 3rd after a good race against Belgian Olympian, Kevin Van Hoovels and Renay Groustra. Lukas Buchli of Switzerland weren’t far behind racing me all the way to the line.

Results

1  Kevin Van Hoovels 02:13:56
2  Renay Groustra 02:16:26
3  Gert Heyns 02:16:29
4  Lukas Buchli 02:17:00
5  Conrad Stoltz 02:22:25
After the race it was time to welcome home the Cape Epic. The news that South Africans Philip Buys and Matthys Beukes were leading the last stage made for an exiting finale. Matthys and Phil couldn’t pull of the win in the sprint but I am sure they are satisfied with 2nd on the stage and bringing home the Absa African red leaders jersey.This is an amazing result and I am very happy for them.
Watching the Epic really made me eager to race. I would definitely want to race this in the future.
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Vineyard Race Podium

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African Continental Champs

This weekend we raced the African Continental Champs held in Pietermaritzburg.

After a good African Champs in Mauritius last year and Stellenbosch in 2011, I was eager to have a good race in PMB. The fact that the winner gets crowned African champion makes this race a bit more special than most other races.

With the good training I had done and coming into the race a lot more fresh than at the previous national, I felt confident.  I am now used to my new Giant-it is very light and I am very happy with the bike. We U23 riders hoped for a combined pro-elite race, but it did not happen.  The elites had their own race, for some reason they also did 5 laps like us.

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As expected the morning of the race was a wet one. This didn’t bother me as I always enjoy riding in the mud. I got off to a good start leading the field up the first climb.  Me and Brendon got a slight gap on the rest heading back to the start finish for the first time. I made a mistake  hesitating on which line to take at a corner and slid out, burping my tyre. Halfway up the next climb I decided to bomb it up. Having dropped back to about 10th position I chased back but had to make a wheel change before the start of lap 2 because the tyre kept losing air. I started making my way up the field and by lap 3  was sitting in 3rd position with Brendon still in the lead and James lying in 2nd.  I had a reasonable gap on Luke, Rourke and Arno. On the second last lap I made a mistake in the rock garden puncturing my tyre, forcing me to make another wheel change with a lap to go.

Rourke, Luke and Arno were now back on my wheel all wanting that last podium spot. I started to struggle on the climbs as the efforts of catching up started to take its toll. In the end Arno took 3rd with Luke 4th Rourke 5th and me 6th.  Brendon had a great race clocking fast consistent laps.

With the U23s having a separate race, Phillip had a relatively leisurely ride. Renay Groustra had some problems so he was not able to put pressure on Phillip.

I am happy with my form, training is going well.  I will move on. Lots of big races this year.  Onwards and upwards.

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The chasing group

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SA XC Cup #1 Durbanville

This weekend was the first national XC Cup race of the year held at the Slammer track in Durbanville, Cape Town. The track opposite to the Willowbridge Mall had short steep climbs  going up  and down in a small area making it very spectator friendly.  The track was very dry and dusty the day before and the rain prediction was welcomed by most riders as this would settle the dust.  The rain didn’t stop though and it soon turned into another muddy race. The track became slippery in places but everything was rideable. The mud  made it more fun to ride though.

The Elite men’s field included some world-class riders like the Swiss Florian Vogel, Ralph Naf and a few other international riders who honoured the race with their presence. We also had a strong South African field. I knew that I shouldn’t start too fast as I haven’t done much intensity training yet. After a good start going into the first single track within the top 10 riders, I stayed with the chasing group for the first few laps, holding back because I knew that it was a long 8 lap race and that riding good constant lap times would make for a solid race result. After about 4 laps I moved up to 5th overall with Philip Buys, Ralph Naef, Florian Vogel and U23 rider James Reid still ahead. I kept my own pace and was later overtaken by fellow U23 Luke Roberts.

Going into the last of the 8 lap race I caught up to Ralph Naef who had tyre problems, he asked for a CO2 bomb  and thinking that I wouldn’t need it I gave him mine. Half way into the last lap my front wheel suddenly lost a lot of air. I couldn’t believe it.. I was still able to ride but struggled on the corners and bumpy sections. Ralph soon caught up to me and in a showing of sportsmanship did not pass me, following my wheel all the way to the finish. I really appreciated this. Despite losing time on the last lap I kept my 5th place overall and finished 3rd in the U23 category.

Pro Elite Men:

  1. Philip Buys (Elite Men) 01 hour 39 minutes 04 seconds
  2. James Reid (U23 Men) 01:39:28
  3. Florian Vogel (EM) 01:41:10
  4. Luke Roberts (UM) 01:41:58
  5. Gert Heyns (UM) 01:43:36
  6. Ralph Naef (EM) 01:43:37
  7. Renay Groustra (EM) 01:44:22
  8. Travis Walker (UM) 01:44:39

I am satisfied with this result it shows that I am still on track with my training for the rest of the year’s racing. Looking forward to the next big one, the African Continental Champs in Pietermaritzburg.

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First action of 2013

Some serious stuff

A lot has happened since my previous post.  We saw the endgame of Lance and the happenings surrounding David George.  For a youngster starting out, it leaves one with plenty to think about.  It is time for the UCI and Cycling SA to take bold and effective steps to prevent doping and safeguard our sport.

We also saw the tragic loss of Burry Stander. Burry inspired everyone in the cycling community showing that a South African can make it to the top of the mountain biking world.  His loss is tragic on so many levels.  His riding brought opportunities to South African riders, and we are going to miss him a lot.

End of season racing 2012

Dirtopia MTB festival Greyton was great fun.  I was joined by school friends, we camped and had a great time. I did the Hillclimb, Duel and my first Enduro.  An Enduro consists of a series of mostly downhill runs (we did 12 runs over 3 days) that are added together for a total time.  It is about riding awesome sections you have not ridden before as fast as possible.  In between there is time to ride to the next section and socialize a bit. Oliver Munnik wrote it all and best here. I will be back next year.  This is an awesome event and excellent value for money.

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Camping at Dirtopia MTB Festival

I also did a local race the PSG Garden Route Trail Series #1 near Sedgefield. Farmer Rob layed out the course.  This race offers an opportunity to holidaymakers to ride in the Knysna forest on Rob’s personal single track . Some of the best riding in the country.  They had good prizes, I won a Bryton GPS.

Team Contego

I am very happy to be part of Team Contego for the upcoming season. They will support me in reaching my goals and I am very thank-full for the opportunity.  We will be racing Giant bikes and I am very happy with my new XTC Advanced Sl 29er, full review coming soon.

My first race of 2013 and first race for team Contego was the Cycle Fest in KZN.

The Cycle Fest (XCO Cat 1)

Pietermaritzburg KZN

The South African XC season kicked of  early this year with the Burry Stander Memorial XCO at The Cyclefest.  Having a XC race so early in the year was very strange for me as the international season only really starts in the month of May.  It was a nice opportunity to get some UCI points early in the year and it’s always good getting an opportunity to compare yourself against your rivals. Going to KZN is always an adventure for me because it feels like going to another country. It really is a strange place. Strange weather and interesting people. We knew from the start that it would be more of a Mud Fest than a Cycle Fest. The track at Cascades was different from the Cascades I am used to with rawer single track and also less manicured.  I enjoyed riding it. Although there weren’t any real obstacles it was a fun track to ride.

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on the start line

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Cycle Fest XCO

With it raining all week we knew that it was going to be a muddy race. Having raced in Cascades in the mud before I knew that it was going to be fun. I was uncertain which tyres  to use but I decided to stay with my normal dry weather tyres which would give me an advantage over mud tyres on most of the climbs and open contour roads. As long as it did not stop raining I would be fine but I knew that if the track dried up it would turn into sticky peanut butter mud.

I got off to a good start going into the first single track in 3rd position. Towards the end of lap one I settled into 2nd position behind Philip Buys (Scott) and a few seconds ahead of Max Knox (Specialized) and Rourke Croeser (Kargo). I stayed in 2nd place for the next few laps with Philip out of sight and Max and Rourke not far behind.

The rain stopped after lap 2 and the sun was out. The track got slower and more eroded each lap forcing us to run more and ride less. I soon realized that narrow mud tyres would have been great for the last lap or two as the conditions turned into a mess. Towards the end of the last lap, still in second, my bike seized up completely and I couldn’t push or ride my bike because the wheels just couldn’t turn anymore because of the mud. After a few long minutes of struggling and being passed by guys on cyclocross tyres while  standing next to the track removing wheels and scraping mud of your bike you know that you must have made a mistake or two. Or maybe its just bad luck? I guess that is part of mountain bike racing.

In the end I finished 6th Overall and 4th U23. Although it was a disappointing result, the race gave me some confidence for the rest of the season. It showed me that everything is on track for a good racing season. Congratulations to my team mate Mariske on winning the ladies race.

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Later on the same day it was time for the XC Eliminator. A shorter form of MTB racing. 4 riders on a MTB track of about 800m. The top 2 goes through to the next round. A super fun and very spectator friendly event.

What made it even more interesting was the presence of MTB Downhill World Champion, Greg Minnaar. I made it through all my heats including a fun duel with Greg in the semis.

The final saw me racing against junior rider Dylan Rabello, SA MTB legend Fritz Pienaar and Greg Minnaar. The first corner was the deciding moment in the race when Dylan and Fritz went down. Greg slipped through and I managed to finish in 2nd. This is a great format which I really enjoy. I would love to see more of these events at MTB weekends in South Africa.

Well done to Max Cluer and the Advendurance team on organizing a great MTB weekend and thank you to Team Contego for making the trip possible!

Racing the World ChampPhoto by: BOOGS Photography

Racing the World Champ
Photo by: BOOGS Photography

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XC Eliminator Podium
Gert Heyns, Greg Minnaar, Fritz Pienaar

Attakwas

This weekend I did the Attakwas MTB Challenge, one of South Africas toughest one day mtb races. At 120km it is longer than what I am used to as a XCO racer.  I figured that it would be good training and it is close to home.

Unfortunately I had tyre issues on the day which cost me a lot of time. I felt good though and kept a good pace throughout the race. Thank you to the following people for giving me CO2 bombs and tubes on route: George Nel, Quintin Myburgh, Oliver Munnik and Stuart Anderson.  Sauser took the win, the RECM team all looked very strong.  Thank you to the Ride Life team who sorted my bike and got all the KZN out of my bearings after the Mud Fest in time for Attakwas.

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To Hell and Back

climbing Swartberg pass

This weekend I raced my first race since taking a few weeks off. The to Hell and Back 2day MTB stage race from De Hoek into the Gamkaskloof or Die Hel as it is also known. This is one of the oldest races in the country, one of the old classics. The 60km route into the Swartberg mountains, offers 1800m of climbing and some cool descends before returning on the same route the next day. It is also a very scenic route.

I have attended the race almost every year for the last 18 years as my family would normally be assisting the race organizers, the Van der Walt family. It was always great fun sleeping the night out in the Hell, after watching the likes of my mom and  Kevin Evans racing during the day.  My mom had the better of the 16 year old Evans, but he managed to make amends in later years.

I did my first H&B when I was 15, but due to the race rules for juniors later enforced I could not participate since 2009. This would be the 1st time that I would actually be racing the H&B, and I was eager.

After the start at De Hoek we sat together in a group till we went through the farms.  Here Timothy Hammond and me managed to open a gap.

We hit the 8,5km Swartberg pass with a slight gap. We stuck together going up the pass and worked together to try and open the gap on the other guys. We rode together till about the 45km mark where I managed to get a gap on Tim. I tried to open a big enough gap that I could defend on day two. I climbed Heart Break Hill at a good pace and descended the pass into die Hel to take the stage win with a 3,5 minute gap on 2nd and about a 9 min gap to 3rd position.

top of Swartberg pass

Heartbreak hill day 1/fun downhill day 2

After gaining a good lead on day one it was time to relax and recover for the next day. The whole atmosphere of camping in the kloof is one of the things that makes it a nice event. After a relaxed evening of chatting and just chilling we enjoyed the braai and had a good night’s rest.

sunset

camping

Day 2 started with the big climb up Elands pass and I followed the pace set by the front group. A group of 5 rode together for most of the day. I had a  problem with my rear derailleur,  forcing me to stop often to put the chain back on but I managed to get back to the front group for most of the day. As we hit the back of the Swartberg pass the pace got faster and I struggled to catch up with the front runners.  In the end I was lucky to finish 4th on day two, and to barely hang on to my overall lead.  Timothy Hammond took second overall and Franso Steyn third.

climbing Elands pass out of die Hel

stage win

final podium

We had a great weekend and I was very happy to win this race as it has always been one of the races I wanted to win one day. It would have been nice if Kevin and my mom also raced.  Perhaps next year.

Strava files day 1 and day 2
If you want to see more of Jacques Marais’s photos of the event click here

Gert

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