This past weekend Nico and Gawie took one step closer to the top of the South African MTB standings.
A well deserved and hard earned 3rd place in the Tankwa Trek 3 day stage race boosted the team’s confidence heading into the final training camps for the 2017 Cape Epic.
The Tankwa Trek which played out in the Koue Bokkeveld saw a huge field of international riders toe the line in preparation for the Cape Epic. Multiple Cape Epic champions Karl Platt and Urs Huber took the honors ahead of Team Telkom’s Waylon Woolcock and HB Kruger. Nico and Gawie raced home in 3rd position after fighting hard over the 270 odd km of racing. “It was a great event. Great training and our preparation is on point” – Gawie Combrinck
Racing away from Mpumalanga means that we have to travel. Our VW bus made the journey from Nelspruit to Ceres in no time and carried all of our spares and equipment needed for the event. Morne Van Rensburg made sure that we are well covered and took up the driving duties. All we had to do was show up and race our hearts out, which we did.
Day 1 | 89km – 1990m ascent
“A recently cut track take riders towards the Witzenberg valley were Hannes and Sakkie Hanekom, who needs no introduction as mountain bikers, are responsible for this amazing route. The track into the valley is via an old ox wagon trail recently opened and boasts a fast winding single and jeep track descend. A single track over rocky outcrops hugs the foothills of vast mountains towering over the valley. Eventually leading riders onto the climb of the day, a 12 km traverse through pine plantations that ends up overlooking Tulbagh on the right and the stunning Witzenberg valley on the left. A well-earned, but tricky descend bring riders back into the heart of the valley; a short tar road section leads to the exit via the ox wagon track. Another 15km’s and riders will be home after a great day of pure mountain biking. The second hardest day of this year’s race”
“As much as I prefer to race in Mpumalanga, The Tankwa Trek is a great race in the Western Cape. It has a great vibe, awesome race village and a great all round event. The heat on day 1 played a massive factor. I felt a little sick at times and we had to make a few unwanted stops. It was difficult racing and we lost around 1 minute on our South African competition, Team Telkom. It was still a great stage. We managed to stay with the competition when it counted, the equipment worked flawlessly and the route was spectacular” – Gawie Combrinck
“Yeah, it was hard from the start. We had to stay on the wheel of the top riders and hung on for the biggest climb of the day. Gawie had a few little niggles on the stage, but we managed to consolidate and finish the stage in 4th position” – Nico Bell
Day 2 | 87km – 2200m ascent
A start through the race village take riders away from Kaleo through the orchards of the Bokkeveld towards the Ceres valley via a brand new single track, aptly labelled the DUTOIT drop. A 3 km single track descend with a 10% decline! Once in the valley, riders will tackle a few more old trails cleaned up by local farmer Mauritz Walters and Tankwa Trek single track guru, Ernst van Dyk. They have planned a tough but very rewarding day out, the 4 water points and over 2000 meters of climbing probably made the penny drop! The approach to the climb of all climbs is through undulating farm roads until the water point marks the start of the solid-surfaced jeep track that takes you up and up towards the mast, also known as the Merino Monster. Taking into account the weather, its proximity into the race and the gradient this is probably the meanest ascend in SA mountain biking. The climb will be well rewarded by a mind blowing descend down to Kaleo. Definitely a tough day!
“I woke up and felt great. There was some rain and it calmed down some of the dust. This year we had an elite UCI category which had its own start. This made life much better as we did not have to fight some of the fun riders. The big climb of the day was always going to be super tough. The Bulls team and Telkom were able to make a little time on us, but we were able to make up the lost ground on the descent. The tracks were incredible and made for great racing” – Gawie Combrinck
“The Merino Monster. The name says it all. The first 10km had some great single track and we managed to stay safe and out of trouble. Everyone sat and waited for the climb and then the field exploded. We rode our own pace to the top and were able to gain time on the descent. The flat run into the finish provided us with an opportunity to make up the final ground on team Telkom and we narrowly lost the sprint to secure 3rd place on the day. We also moved up to 3rd place on GC. A great day out on the bikes and very enjoyable racing” – Nico Bell
Day 3 | 89km – 1250m ascent
Single track here we come, Koue Bokkeveld style… The day starts with undulating roads where riders can share war stories of the days gone by, farm roads and a bit of jeep track will take everyone towards Morester, a farm owned by Charl van der Merwe. Mountain biking mad Charl spends loads of time cutting in new single track around the harsh and incredible rock formations that the area is so well known for, this is his passion. His apples are known to miss him when he leaves home for days on end only armed with his bike and shovel. Around 30km’s of sculptured single track will be unleashed on this day, riding never experienced before, tracks through rock formations, narrow water crossing bridges and a route flowing back towards the finish of a ride never to be forgotten – the Tankwa Trek is changing the face of mountain biking, be there. Pure bliss!
“It was supposed to be the ‘fun’ day… It was hard. The racing was on from the gun and the first 20km was super fast. We made sure that we got to the singletrack first and stayed out of trouble. The bunch managed to catch Team Topeak and everyone rode together until the final 10km. The hard effort caught up with us and we got to the line with two other teams. At the end of the day, we finished in 5th place and 3rd place overall. The equipment worked well and we have made our final decisions for the Epic. It is getting real close and we are more ready than ever” – Gawie Combrinck
“Third on GC, that is great for this time of year and we are on target for our goal at the Cape Epic. We were able to gauge our competition for the Cape Epic and test our equipment that we want to use for the race. Everything worked well and we are pleased with both the result and the outcome” – Nico Bell
1 | Team Bulls
2 | Team Telkom
3 | Team NAD Pro MTB
After a solid training block and racing Tankwa Trek, the men are now taking a little break from riding and will get back to training later this week on another specific training camp.
Thank you for the continued support and love over the weekend.
Team NAD Pro MTB
*images | Zoon Cronje