Oct 13, 2016

It was another great weekend for Team NAD Pro MTB.

Nico and Gawie raced gallantly to second place overall at this weekend’s Berg and Bush mtb stage race. The race which starts in the Free State takes riders from the top of the Drakensberg escarpment near Harrismith into Kwazulu Natal and the Em’seni camp site on the banks of the Tugela river.

The welcome hospitality from the event organisers and surrounding farmers makes the event a massive success and popular with riders. In 2016, no less than 12 pro teams lined up to start the Berg&Bush Descent. The 3 day race covering just on 200km started off on Friday morning at 06.30am in misty conditions. It was clear that the race will be fast and hard with every single team fighting for the victory. The first stage which covered 100km saw riders dropping from the escarpment into the Kwazulu Natal. The single track traverses the edge of the escarpment and is not for the feint hearted. Once at the top, the descent provides riders with amazing single track including the world famous, Solly’s Folly. A mix between open farm roads and jeep track guided riders into the bushveld of Natal and onto the farm of Gary Green and his neighbours. 

The XC riders made the race hard from the start, but were unable to capitalise on their fast descending skills which opened the door for the seasoned marathon riders to close in on the stage victory. Erik Kleinhans and Matt Beers were able to open up a 10 second gap over Nico and Gawie in the final few meters of the stage to claim the honours on day 1. 

“This was my second time racing Berg and Bush. This race does not typically suite our riding style, but it is a massive amount of fun and great way to sharpen up our legs. We missed the early break on the first stage by sitting behind a slower bunch of riders heading into the single track. This allowed 2/3 teams to ride away. We were able to close the gap on the open road and Team Telkom alongside Matt and Erik made the pace hard up front. Telkom had a puncture and were not able to close the gap. Nico rode exceptionally well on the second part of the stage and really drove the pace when he needed to. We knew that it would come down to who could enter the final single track first and we just missed it. Erik and Matt managed to enter first and secured the stage win” - Gawie

“I was actually surprised at how much downhill there was on stage 1. There were a few little climbs, but nothing major. The XC guys did everything they could to enter the single tracks first and it paid of initially for them. It was positive racing out there on day 1. We worked well with the stronger teams and pushed the pace when needed to. We lost a few seconds toward the end of the stage, but we knew that the overall was more important than a costly puncture and just made sure that we finished at the front of the race” - Nico

“Stage 2 was a short stage. Just on 59km meant that the start was intense and super fast. The XC riders targeted the stage for many reasons and they made it hard for everyone. While they were fighting it out on the single track, we made sure that we stayed smooth and out of trouble. The Scott LCB guys laid down the pace and got away on the single track alongside Davids and Hatherly. We were chasing back most of the day and managed to catch some of the teams toward the end of the stage. Erik and Matt were able to open a gap on the field, but we managed to finish second on the stage” - Nico Bell

After two stages of racing, Team NAD was second on the GC with just on 1min40sec down on the race leaders, Kleinhans and Beers. 
Stage 3 was the shortest of the race and saw riders compete for victory over 49km of racing that included the infamous Spionkop climb. 

“The final day was hard. Nico felt a little under the weather and it was amazing that he was actually able to race as hard as he did. Fighting a cold leading up to the race was not ideal, but he soldiered on and fought hard throughout the race. Another fast start saw the field string out from the gun. Many of the teams who were not in contention for the victory mixed it up with the top contenders which made it hard and sometimes a little dangerous. We rode a hard but steady pace and kept out of trouble. The 15km single track down the Spionkop mountain was incredible, but made passing impossible. We decided to keep it safe and stay out of trouble and secure the second position on GC” - Gawie

Results overall men:
1 Matt Beers and Erik Kleinhans - Red E Topeak Ergon - 07:25:17
2 Nico Bell and Gawie Combrinck - NAD PRO MTB - 07:26:56
3 Gert Heyns and Philip Buys - Scott LCB Factory Racing - 07:29:33

Overall the Berg and Bush was another amazing experience and the hospitality was incredible. 

This coming weekend Nico and Gawie will race the National MTB Series, Rooiberg which takes place in Limpopo. The ultra marathon race should suit our riders and they are in high spirits ahead of the race. 

Highlights from the Berg and Bush: 

Gawie is coached by PCG Elite Master coach Hunter Allen


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