Round two of the Ashburton National MTB series introduced a brand new format of racing to the South African calendar.
A two day stage race that runs over Saturday and Sunday with the winner of the race decided after the second day of racing. In order for riders to stay in contention for an overall series win, rider will have to complete 8 stages from a possible 12. Round two took place in Sabie, a popular venue for all racers and as close to a home race as we get.
A massive downpour caused the route to be water logged and played a huge outcome in the results.
Stage one of racing kicked off with a 75km route and just about 2000m of ascent. Nico managed to finish the stage in 4th position alongside Gawie who would cross the line in 6th.
“We opted to ride our training bikes for this race. We knew that the mud would cause damage to our bikes so it was the safest option. There is very little difference between the S-Works Epic and the Epic World Cup that we rode for this race.
The first day started off very hard. The mud made it super slippery and even on the first climb it was tough. The race split apart on the Mamba climb and we were able to go with the split. Racing conditions were all time and even though it was not ideal, it was great to be out in testing conditions. The Epic can throw anything at you and better to test the equipment now. 4th Place on the first part of the race in the new format was pretty good with all the international competitors taking part” - Nico Bell
“Remember those days as a kid when you went to the supertube and spend all day slipping and sliding? Well this weekend was just like those days gone past. The pace was high from the start with all the young guns and the international racers. The climbs were super tricky and if you missed the line, you have to get off and run a little. Unfortunately I had to run a little, but this was part of the race on the day and made the most of my running abilities. I caught up with the main field again and then dropped on the biggest climb. I spent the day yoyoing between the front bunch and the second bunch. I had a few tiny tumbles, but no major injuries. We managed to catch a few riders toward the end of the day’s racing and managed to finish in 4th and 6th with just one rider splitting our team” - Gawie Combrinck
Day two of racing. The rain stopped and the second day of racing featured a 50km, enduro style loop with 1400m of ascent.
“Stage two and we did not know what to expect. We normally battle out over 75km + and 50km sounded like a sprint. The climbs were not as long and it was very up and down. The York trails were awesome and we rode some of it last year in the York Corporate challenge, so it was great to have the upper hand. It was super slippery with green moss all over the single track. You could not touch the front brake and it was a tricky day out on the bikes. Max Knox attacked from the gun and the Bulls riders followed pursuit. A select group formed behind the leader and we worked well together to reel in Max. It was a day of tactical racing with the points from the previous day on the line. You had to mark your competitors closely and work out who would eventually be part of the results and who is not part of the battle on the day. We still needed to play it safe and that is exactly what I did. In the final kilometer to the line, I managed to read the course better and was able to out sprint Phillip Buys to second place on the day. My 4th and 2nd position afforded me the 4th place overall for the weekends event” - Nico Bell
“Tough luck. Stage two was awesome, but within the first 200m I had a stick stuck in my rear deraileur and had to turn back for Morne to fix it. I lost around 10+ minutes with the repair and from there it was a TT to the line. The trails were great and it was fun catching up to the guys ahead. I was hoping to get back to a top 10 overall and I managed to finish 8th over the two days of racing. I am sorry that I could not be there to help Nico, but that is part of racing” - Gawie Combrinck
Nico and Gawie now head off on a two week training camp before taking on the Nissan race in Pretoria. They are in good spirits after the weekend and are on track with their Cape Epic campaign.
Thank you for the support this weekend.
Team NAD Pro MTB.
Gawie Combrinck is coached by PCG Master coach Hunter Allen