Howick – The 2015 Sappi Karkloof Classic MTB Festival is set to serve up a weekend of action-packed off-road adventure as this year’s edition of the country’s biggest mountain biking festival prepares to celebrate turning 21 years-old this May.
The event has grown in leaps and bounds over the years and from its humble beginnings of just a modest marathon, it is now a weekend full of mountain biking activities that involve the whole family and riders of a variety of MTB disciplines.
The Karkloof Classic prides itself on being the biggest mountain bike festival in the country and with such a diverse three day programme on offer, it is no surprise that it has proven so popular with local riders and those from further afield alike.
The festival’s flagship event is the 60km Sappi Karkloof Marathon takes place on Sunday 10 May and is once again set to attract a number of the country’s top riders eager to fight it out for one of top titles in local marathon mountain bike circles.
The weekend’s appeal stretches far beyond the 60km marathon though as the Friday 8 May sees riders take on the unique 20km Karkloof Night Race which offers a whole new experience to riders before Saturday 9 May’s STIHL Karkloof Enduro brings the adrenalin junkies from around the country to the region.
Then, on top of the 60km marathon, Sunday’s jam packed programme also includes a number of different events for riders of all ages and abilities. The aQuellé 40km Half Marathon, aQuellé 20km Family Ride and aQuellé 10km Kids Ride each offer up unique challenges and experiences that will test the whole family and provide a day’s worth of excitement and fun for all.
The sharp end of this year’s 60km clash has been blown wide open with the news that the African Continental MTB Champs will be taking place in Rwanda over the same period as the Karkloof Classic, potentially ruling out defending champion Rourke Croeser, 2014 winner Brendon Davids as well as a host of the nation’s top MTB riders.
The door has been left open for a new champion in 2015 and there are a number of potential title challengers starting to queue for a shot at this year’s spoils. Triple Quattro ROAG Series champion and stalwart of KZN mountain biking Andrew Hill (TIB Insurance) immediately springs to mind as a firm pre-race contender along with Travis Walker (Full Dynamix) and Alan Hatherly, should the youngsters enter race. Hatherly, the Kargo PRO MTB and Elite Athlete Development Programme star, has been in devastating form of late and will almost certainly be a strong threat when the 60km marathon gets underway at the Karkloof Club.
There will also be a potential charge for the podium by Martin Dreyer’s RMB Change a Life MTB Academy and, led by veteran John Ntuli, the team could produce a number of strong performances through the likes of Sthembiso Masango – who recorded a sixth place finish in the 50km Marathon at the recent PMB MTB Festival, Bongumusa Zikhali, Ndumiso Dontso and Sipho Kupiso.
The ladies race will be equally affected by the national XCO team’s absence with defending champion Candice Neethling (Pam Golding/Freewheel Cycology) and Under-23 sensation Bianca Haw also expected to do duty for the national side in Rwanda. With Neethling’s absence the door is open for 2015 runner-up Jeannie Dreyer (USN/Hi-Tec) to mirror Neethling’s efforts by etching her name on the winner’s trophy for a second time in three years should she tackle the testing marathon course in the Midlands.
There is also strong junior flavour starting to waft through into the senior ranks with the likes of Frankie du Toit and Julian Jessop making names for themselves. Jessop managed to outsprint veteran Andrew Hill for third place at the 2014 edition and the former junior SA Marathon Champion has been making great strides of late following a broken back last year.
Riders and spectators can follow news and developments via the event’s Facebook page (Karkloof Mountain Bike Club) or on Twitter (@KarkloofMTB). More info can also be found at www.karkloofmtb.co.za