After a successful start to the 2016 season, it was time to change from the road bikes to the mountain bikes. Team NAD headed to Cape Town for round one of the Ashburton Investments National MTB Series hosted by Meerendal Wines.
The race was decorated by international riders from Team Bulls, Stockli and a host of South African Mountain Bike teams.
Gawie before the start of the Ultra"
On a beautiful summers morning, the race started at 0630 am and from the gun, the international riders made their intentions clear. The message was clear, they were there for the win. Although the international contingent on the day would have no effect on the overall series, it was a very important race for Nico and Gawie. The goal is simple. To win the 2016 Marathon series.
“It is a very important race for us as a team. We are focussed on the National Marathon series for 2016. We travel all the way to Cape Town for this one. After Mpumalanga Tour, we had a little bit of rest to ensure that we arrive in the Western Cape in the best possible form. That said, the route does not suit either of us. The route is full of short punchy climbs that would help the lighter guys in the field. “ – Nico Bell
For the 2016 edition, the organisers changed the route to start with the Stairway to Heaven climb. A steep climb that saw the field split immediately and separated the contenders. 3 Of the international riders got away early and Nico, Gawie and the USN duo of Waylon Woolcock and Darren Lill formed a small group in pursuit of the leaders. Each time the chasing group made a little time back to the leaders, they turned on the gas and it was a game of Cat and Mouse.
“It takes me a little while to warm up, so I just sat at the back of the group to stay out of trouble. Gawie and I worked hard to close the gap to the leaders and Waylon hung on As soon as we hit the front, the guys made the pace harder up the singletrack climb and we were not able to go with them. I took a few chances on the downhill to try and make up some time and went down on my left side. Nothing major, got up and fixed the brake before getting going again. I started reeling in the riders one by one until I got to Simon Stiebjahn (Bulls) who sat my wheel and we fought it out to the finish. I took 4th place in the end and in doing so finished as the first South African.” – Nico Bell
“We rode really well as a team. I am very proud to be part of this setup. My day went as planned until we hit the single track climb, then the wheels came off.” – Gawie Combrinck
A hard day out where temperatures reached 40 degrees Celsius and little to no respite from the heat.
In the end Mathias Fluckiger took the win with Nicola Rohrbach in second place. Stiebjahn rounded out the podium with Nico in 4th place and the first South African rider.
Elite men – 101km Ultra-marathon:
- Mathias Fluckiger (SUI) Stockli 4h22m31s
- Nicola Rohrbach (SUI) Goldwurst Power/Felt 4h25m36s
- Simon Stiebjahn (GER) Team Bulls
- Nico Bell (RSA) Team NAD
- Gert Heyns (RSA) SCOTT LCB Factory Racing
- Darren Lill (RSA) USN Purefit
- Waylon Woolcock (RSA) USN Purefit
- HB Kruger (RSA) Team Telkom
- Erik Kleinhans (RSA) Topeak Ergon
- Andrew Hill (RSA) TIB