The 2016 Ashburton Investments National Marathon Series,
A second Ultra Marathon in as many weeks for Team NAD. Sabie, only a short drive from Nelspruit is a local favourite on the race calendar for Nico and Gawie. The altitude and terrain suit the riders and it means that there is virtually no travelling involved.
With the 2016 Absa Cape Epic around the corner, a big international contingent lined up on the start line. Team Bulls’ Karl Platt and Urs Huber were the main instigators on the day. Local riders Max Knox, Team Telkom and USN were all looking to test early form and tget a feel for the competition.
The route at Sabie consists of 115km and over 3000m of vertical ascent. The ‘Mamba’ switchback serves as the main climb of the day and comes at the 19km mark. Across the route, riders will face great singletrack and various types of terrain. The Sabie race has been called the Bench Mark of Ultra Marathon racing in South Africa. More than 2000 riders attend the weekend, taking part in various distances.
“Nico and Gawie at the start of Sabie”
“The start was fast as always. We knew that it would be. I started the first climb on a good tempo and within myself. All of the main contenders on the day stayed on my wheel. I just wanted to stay out of trouble early on.
On the second climb, on the way to the Mamba, Max Knox attacked and Urs Huber from the Bulls and a few others went with him. The attack split the whole bunch and people were in tatters. Groups started forming and no one wanted to work to catch the early break. We kept on chasing as hard as we could. After a fast downhill, an untimely puncture halted my efforts. After a quick fix, I managed to get going and caught the group ahead of me. After a short respite, I managed to ride away from the group and focussed on making my way back to the 4 leaders. The temperature caught me off guard and I ran out of water. A costly mistake that would end my charge for the day. Nico managed to pass me and we could ride together for a while, but my lack of hydration caught up to me. Struggling with cramps for the last part of the day, I managed to ride home in 7th place. An expensive, but valuable lesson learnt.” – Gawie Combrinck
“Gawie leading the field on the first climb | Zoon Cronje”
“Sabie is always a hard race. There is more than an hour and thirty minutes of climbing and the legs take a beating. With all the international riders in South Africa preparing for the Epic, the race started very fast. Gawie did a great job at setting the tempo early on. On the second climb of the day, Max attacked and I could not go with the break. At this point, I decided to ride at my own tempo and settled into a good rhythm. I could see Gawie ahead of me in a small group containing Waylon and Darren Lill from Team USN, who will be one of our biggest challengers for the African Jersey at the Epic. When I reached the tech zone at 75km, Nohan, our team mechanic told me that I was in 9th place and could not see anyone close to me. The legs slowly started to come back and I was able to catch a few riders on the second loop. Close to the finish I managed to catch Darren and with only a few meters to the finish passed him to secure 5th place overall.” – Nico Bell
“Nico passing the Tech Zone | Photo by Nohan, Team Mechanic”
Final Results for Team NAD
5th – Nico Bell
7th – Gawie Combrinck
Photo | Zoon Cronje”
Next up, the team head back over to Cape Town for Tour De Boland. A 6 day Road Stage race, which will be the final big preparations for the 2016 ABSA Cape Epic.