Some 200 brave mountain bikers tackled torrential rain squalls, high winds and chilly temperatures for the second edition of the JBay MTB Open, which formed part of the JBay Winterfest.
So harsh were the conditions, that the 85-kilometre long route was cancelled as it was deemed to be too dangerous. The 2014 event then featured three routes, a 20km fun ride, a 40km and 60km.
All routes included fast farm roads, cattle tracks and purpose-built singletrack. The was 20km aimed at beginners and those doing an MTB race for the first time, while the 40km was for the more adventurous fun rider looking to ride a significant distance. Both routes were fairly flat and non-technical, but because of the extremely muddy conditions proved very challenging. Riders struggled with traction as the mud clogged their tread and made the open stretches very slippery. There was also a stretch of open district road with a block headwind.
The 60km route required good technical proficiency and some serious training in the legs. With the added competitive element of the 85km riders being grouped with the original 60km entrants, the pace was fierce from the start. About three kilometres in, five riders broke away and duelled it out through the singletrack section next to the Seekoei River. From there, there were a few attacks and about halfway into the race it was a three-way race. “Myself and Henno (Cronje) managed to pull a gap and then unfortunately for him he got a puncture,” said Roger Pheiffer, who claimed the win. “From there I just had to maintain it home,” he said, commenting on how tough the conditions had made the route.
“The singletrack really awesome,” he said. “I really enjoyed that and it worked in my favour as I built a gap there. It was very slippery all round and we had to get off and run here and there. The worst part was undoubtedly the wind though, there were some sections were we had to ride on the road and that pummelled us a bit.”
The women’s 60-kilometre event was won by favourite and defending champion Anriëtte Schoeman who also finished fifth overall. “It was muddy and messy the conditions were pretty rough out there,” commented the diminutive Port Elizabeth local and multiple Cape Argus Pick n Pay Cycle Tour winner. “It was a mud bath and they shortened the distance but the route was well marked and it was good fun.”
“I always enjoy the open road, being a roadie,” said Schoeman, going on to say how the singletrack was pretty tricky. “It was a slip and slide and I had to get off my bike a few times.”
Schoeman used her vast racing experience to get an early lead and hold on to it from there. “I tried to get a good lead early on, in case I got mechanicals or anything,” she said. “Fortunately everything went according to plan.”
The event started and finished at Fountains Mall offering a great base for spectators and supporters. Fountains Mall also sponsored cash prizes for winners to a total of R36 000 with both the winner of the women’s and men’s 60km taking home R5500 for their efforts.