Points and Podiums

After their troubles in England last weekend, Martin Gujan and Martin Gluth managed to transfer great form into great results this weekend in Haiming, Austria.

This Hors Categorie race in Haiming, Austria, always draws an impressive elite field and this weekend was no exception. The course was almost all singletrack which twisted, traversed and steeply sloped up, down and around the pine-forested hillside. The soil was dry and loose, adding another technical element for the riders to tackle. With a few laps completed on Saturday afternoon, Guschi and Martin were happy with the track, despite knowing it would offer absolutely no respite once the gun went on Sunday.

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Martin smile

With a belly full of Kaiserschmarrn it was off to bed!

The morning brought sunshine to the stunning Otztal region and the boys were in an equally bright mood as they headed out for a leg-loosening spin. With a second breakfast-come-lunch complete and the bikes fully prepared, it was time to head down to the venue and get the warm-up under-way.

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Although still relaxed and joking, the tension was rising and the race faces were on. With gridding complete and the crowds in place, the countdown began. The staff scattered to the two technical/feed zones and the gun went.

From row three Guschi sprinted into the top ten by the end of the start loop. Meanwhile Martin had more traffic to contend with but still managed to hold his own as the race funnelled into the singletrack.

Jockeying for position and jostling with roots and traffic jamming made it hard to find a rhythm in the opening lap. After that the race began to settle as riders found their place in the pack. That said, the pace was relentlessly fast and the fight for position was never-ending.

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Guschi soon found himself in the fight for the top positions, and Martin was working his way through the field into the top twenty. It was clear that a podium was a possibility for Guschi who, during the middle sector of the race, caught up to Rudi van Houts who was riding in fifth position. The battle was on!

Assessing van Houts’ strengths and weaknesses, Guschi was able to calculate how hard to push and when to make his competitor suffer. With a time gap of 6 seconds growing to 9 seconds on the final lap, Guschi gave it everything to make it stick until the end. It paid off splendidly and he crossed the line in fifth to take the final podium spot and some very well-deserved UCI points.

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Martin fought hard to stay inside the top twenty and was looking comfortable in 19th position until a twig flicked up and got caught in his rear mech. Sensibly he stopped and removed it rather than risk snapping the chain or breaking the mech hanger but this lost him four places. Martin finished in 23rd position, a result that he was initially a little disappointed in but ultimately shows that the young rider has good form and great potential.

It was a successful weekend full of fun and which leaves the riders with confidence as we lead into the first World Cups of the season.

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There was also racing for Mariske Strauss and Cherie Vale this weekend as they took to the start line for the third round of the South Africa Cup.

After a hectic month of racing which saw them complete the Cape Epic and then two XCO races, the girls took some rest and came into this race with fresh legs.

Mariske did her National Champion’s stripes justice with another win in the series, whilst Cherie raced to third place. Another strong performance from the girls on home soil and more points in the bag as they too now look forward to the opening World Cups of the season which they will fly out to Europe for.

Before that, however, are the African Continental Championships where our riders will look to dominate.

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Weekend Race Preview: Haiming and Mpumalanga

This weekend four of our riders are racing: Martin Gluth and Martin Gujan are at the Ötztaler Mountainbike Festival in Haiming, Austria, and Mariske Strauss and Cherie Vale are racing the third round of the South African XCO Cup in Mpumalanga.

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Following bad luck last weekend at the British National Series, the boys are looking to make up for lost points this weekend at the Hors Categorie race in the mountainous Tirol region of Austria. The Otztaler Mounainbike Festival is a real stalwart of the cross-country calendar and a prestigious event to race. The course is “really cool!”, says Gujan. The track traverses through steep, rooty forest, offering the riders a technical challenge and some lung-busting climbs. The crowds are big, the atmosphere is fun and the start list is World class so we are in for a great weekend of racing.

Meanwhile the girls will be at Mankele Bike Park for the third instalment of South Africa’s finest domestic XCO racing. Following a heavy schedule in March, Mariske and Cherie are now rested and ready to rock! You can follow the action from Mpumalanga live at www.streamit360.mobi from 1000 local/European time.

Best of luck to all our riders and everyone racing this weekend.

#weareOMX

 

Hadleigh Park: An Olympic Home for our Olympic Dream

We are delighted, and very honoured, to announce that Hadleigh Park is now the official home of Novus OMX Pro Team.

collage image_20150420134113Hadleigh Park was the venue for the outstanding 2012 Olympic Mountain Bike Races. The course, man-made especially for the world’s biggest cross-country MTB event, will now become accessible to the public and is set to establish itself as a World-class training facility for top domestic and international mountain bikers when it opens on 29th April.

 

Among those elite athletes will be the Novus OMX Pro Team riders. Hadleigh Park will be a place for our riders to train together, with coaches and individually on one of the world’s most technically challenging courses. The rock gardens and features – unchanged since the London Olympics, despite much talk to the contrary – will provide skills practice, whilst the steep climbs offer a chance for some serious climbing and interval training. The high-intensity and technical training the riders will do at Hadleigh Park will noticeably transfer into their World Cup racing; to have an Olympic standard course to train on is an invaluable asset to our team.

 

Hadleigh Park also offers our team inspiration. The whole ethos and ambition of Novus OMX Pro Team revolves around the Olympic dream. A decade ago, the team started as a group of local Essex lads who – though they had no idea at the time – were riding just thirty miles away from a future Olympic XCO track, and who were at the start of a journey that would lead them to 2015 and into Olympic qualification. Now the stall has been set out: Novus OMX Pro Team is looking to qualify riders for Rio 2016 and aiming to be the number one team in the World by the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. A British team with an Olympic dream and an Olympic home. It is fitting in so many ways.

 

Overlooking the bright lights of London, Hadleigh Park is a unique track with a special feel.

Overlooking the bright lights of London, Hadleigh Park is a unique track with a special feel.

 

Our youngest team member, Isla Short, is the current British National Junior Champion and future Olympic hopeful. With her heart already set on Tokyo 2020 she says,

“Being able to spend time with my team on the 2012 Olympic course is an incredible opportunity, not only because it was part of our home Olympics but because it is a World-class course. It provides good insight into the types of tracks used at the highest level of racing, and gives us an idea of the skills we need to be able to compete at this level.”

 

To be associated with Hadleigh Park and the London 2012 Olympic course is a real honour and privilege. Essex County Council has been hugely supportive and we are very much looking forward to forging a strong partnership with them and helping to promote Hadleigh Park as an internationally attractive mountain bike facility.


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Chairman of Active Essex, Gary Sullivan OBE, says,

“As we are nearing the official opening of Hadleigh Park we are excited to announce that Novus OMX Pro Team have decided to make our world class venue its home. This is just another way that the Olympic Legacy lives on here in Essex with aspiring Olympians training at the venue.”

Following the huge success of the London 2012 Olympic races, it is fantastic to see that Hadleigh Park will soon open to the public, so that the inspiration and motivation the Olympics provided for Britain can live on and manifest itself in future champions. Maybe even an OMX champion!

 

To find out how you can ride in the tracks of your Olympic heroes, visit www.hadleigh-park.co.uk or like Hadleigh Park on Facebook and follow @hadleigh_park on twitter.

British Series, Plymouth – Demons and Heroes

The second round of the British Cycling XC Series was all set for success. Martin Gujan and Martin Gluth had flown to the UK on Friday and travelled to the course at Newnham Park in Plymouth. The World Cup course of pre 2000 was a big it with the riders who loved the technical elements and really looked forward to racing in the UK. Furthermore, Martin and Martin were both showing some great form following their results in South Africa and some really positive training.

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Unfortunately things went wrong rather quickly. Before the race had even left the arena both our boys were cursed with bad luck. Martin Gluth’s chain broke, leaving him with no choice but to start running to the pits, and Martin Gujan broke a spoke which resulted in the flat rear tyre. Gujan recalled,

“I kept on going with the flat. I was riding in last position when I saw my team member Martin Gluth running with a broken chain. He was so kind to give me his rear wheel that I could keep on going.”

With this wonderful display of sportsmanship, Gujan was able to  begin his chase. And what a chase it was! Making his way through almost the entire Elite field, and posting the fastest lap times in the second half of the race, Guschi clawed his way back to within a whisker of the podium but eventually had to settle for sixth. In a field of this quality, sixth is a respectable result in its own right, but after a mechanical that saw him dead last before he’d even left the arena, this was quite a remarkable ride from Martin.

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The younger Martin also rode a magnificent comeback. With a snapped chain and Guschi’s flat rear wheel, Martin ran about 1.5km to the pits. By this point he was not only at the back of the Elite field but also behind the Junior and Master categories, too. With a new chain and wheel, Martin began the task of riding himself back into the race. Weaving through the traffic and powering past his competitors, he managed to climb all the way up to 19th position by the end of the race. It was a somewhat heroic performance, on all accounts. He reflected,

“From the second lap until the finish I managed to ride top 3 lap times even though I was held up in traffic the whole race. That’s the positive thing I can take with me: my shape is good!”

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Races like  can be hard to mentally digest.

 

Two in-form riders. Two mechanicals in the opening seconds of the race.
However, despite the frustrations, we can draw upon the positives: an amazing gesture and wonderful example of team spirit with Martin Gluth giving Martin Gujan his wheel, and then a magnificent fight-back from both riders
Top athletes and top guys!


As ever, the team are extremely proud of our riders. When the bad luck demons strike, heroes fight back!

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#weareOMX

A Cape Epic Retrospective

Four weeks ago began an epic journey:

 

The Cape Epic once again did its name justice. The scenery, course, kilometres, climbing and the commitment of the riders were all epic!

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The eight days of the Cape Epic catapulted the Novus OMX Pro Team into the media spotlight in a way never before experienced. It all started on Sunday 15th March with the Prologue, a 20 kilometre time trial on the slopes of Table Mountain.

 

For Martin Gujan and Fabian Giger, a truly world-class professional Swiss pairing, the Cape Epic could not have got off to a better start. They came into the race under the radar, inexperienced and with no grandiose statements of intent, but made their mark very quickly. An awesome display of speed and skill saw them win the opening day and go straight into the overall leader’s jerseys. The Novus OMX Pro Team brand was now very much at the forefront of world mountain biking’s attention.

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For the Novus OMX Pro Team girls,an all-South African pair of Mariske Strauss and Cherie Vale,the Epic got off to a more steady start. A conservative approach, which they hoped would see them safely through the race without mishap, mechanical or meltdown, saw them sneak inside the top ten on day one, and then gradually work their way up the rankings as the week went on.

 

Starting in Cape Town, the race transferred to beautiful Oak Valley, Grabouw, and proceeded onto the long hours and many miles in the saddle each day which characterise the Epic. Oak Valley saw both Novus OMX Pro Teams settle into the race and look to consolidate strong starts. With two fifth places Martin and Fabian established themselves as contenders for stage podiums, and in addition they maintained a very respectful fifth place in the general classification. Mariske and Cherie were also showing some good form, moving up a place in the general classification thanks to a tenth and eighth place on stages one and two respectively.

Gujan Mariske start

Confidence and camaraderie were at a high as the longest day loomed. The transfer from Oak Valley to Wellington was 121km of harsh dirt roads. Under the baking hot sun and into strong head wind, this stage was never going to be an easy affair. Indeed, it was the day it all got a bit too epic for Cherie. Her body was tired, her legs heavy and soon her head was battling with the effort as well. This was when the strength of Mariske and Cherie’s partnership really shone. Protecting Cherie from the wind and offering food, encouragement and advice, Mariske coaxed her friend and team mate through to the finish line. Cherie was a broken rider when she arrived in Worcester, barely able to get off her bike, and struggling to find any positivity.

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What makes the Cape Epic so unique, and what makes the riders so inspirational, is that the following day the girls were back on the start line, smiles across their faces and ready to go into battle with 111 kilometres and 2000 metres of climbing. The boys too were motivated and ready not only to complete the next stages but to race them, pedal to metal, at the front of the elite pack. Their fitness, finesse and focus were truly remarkable to witness.

 

And so it went on. Both teams were making a real impression on the race, both in terms of their results and their professional but personable manner off the bike.

 

From Worcester the race moved onto Wellington. This transfer stage was billed as the ‘King Stage’ thanks to its long distance, technical trails and copious amounts of climbing. In spite of everything that the day threw at them, the Novus OMX Pro Teams conquered the stage in fine fashion, both pairs taking sixth on the day.

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Stage six offered mixed fortunes for the team. After riding the previous stages with a mind to get through the Epic and not burn-out, on stage six Mariske and Cherie switched up their strategy and chased down a podium. Their self-belief was rewarded with a fantastic third place. Their big smiles broadened, a Cape Epic podium was theirs to savour.

Cherie Mariske start line

For Martin, who had ridden out of his skin all week – up at the front of the race and challenging some of the very best riders in the World at a discipline he doesn’t specialise in, in a race he’s never done before – the tank emptied! Like Cherie on stage four, Martin had to dig very deep into his reserves of energy and spirit, and like Mariske, Fabian’s job was to see that the pair could pull through. With their overall standing at stake, the boys mustered every last watt to power through to the finish and onto the final stage.

 

Stage seven, day eight, took the riders on their final leg of the Epic journey, from Wellington to the wine estate of Meerendal. The girls finished with a solid sixth place on the day and the boys, a week after they stormed to the prologue victory and into the leader’s jerseys, performed an amazing comeback to once again ride onto the podium. Attacking the overall race leaders on the last climb, the boys crossed the final finish line of the Cape Epic just a few seconds down on the win and to the rapturous applause of a huge crowd.

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With the podium ceremonies over, it was time to pop the corks on Meerendal’s sparkling wine and toast the end of a testing, sometimes stressful but ultimately hugely successful week. Novus OMX Pro Team entered the Cape Epic as outsiders for a possible podium finish on a single stage, and finished up with three podiums, a day in the Elite Men’s leader’s jerseys, and the utmost respect from the mountain biking world. Ninth place overall for the Martin and Fabian and sixth for Mariske and Cherie, coupled with the three podium places, exceeded expectation. Our athletes put on a stunning performance, highlighting themselves and the team as world-class.

 

The five o’clock starts, the midday heat, the almost interminable miles and the nightly knowledge that tomorrow would bring the same were all eventually worthwhile. Martin and Fabian, and Mariske and Cherie, did the team very proud.

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The Cape Epic journey has finished, but the 2015 season is only just starting…

 

We are full of confidence and we are ready to race. #weareOMX

 

Pietermaritzburg Podium Blitz

There is much more to a race than results, but today the results of the Novus OMX Pro Team riders speak volumes…

First, two seconds, third and fourth at the Hors Categorie Pietermaritzburg MTB festival. Again the riders have exceeded their own expectations and demonstrated that they are really world-class competitors.

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There was a lot of talk of rain in the days leading up to the race, with a typical Pietermaritzburg torrential downpour on the forecast. Thankfully though the heavens held their load until well after the race, meaning the riders could enjoy the Cascades MTB Park course – widely considered the most technically challenging in the World – at its finest.

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The Elite Women’s race got under way at 1000, with Mariske Strauss, Cherie Vale and Isla Short all taking the start. Taking into consideration the technicality of the course and the early stage of the season, the main aim for the girls was to get round in one piece and post a solid result; nothing spectacular. Even with this in mind, Isla rocketed around the opening section of the course and by the half way point had already pulled clear of the main bunch, with only the young Danish talent, Malene Degn, in front. A strong start, but could she hold on to that position for another hour and a half? Answer: yes! With super strong climbing and sensible descending Isla consolidated her position, lap on lap, to take a very impressive second place at only her third Elite race.

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Behind her Cherie also got a great start, moving into third place by the half-way point. Mariske was slower to get going, experiencing some serious discomfort from an existing injury. However, playing it safe and settling into a rhythm – even if it was somewhat slower than she is capable of – allowed Mariske to continue and even catch up to Cherie in third. Following the most intense block of racing and travelling that Cherie has ever experienced, the fatigue was kicking in. Mariske caught Cherie and was able to take third place, while Cherie comfortably held onto fourth spot – both great results, especially with all things considered.

Second, third and fourth…not bad at all!

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Onto the Elite Men’s race and still the rain held off. Martin Gluth and Shlomi Haimy have had a fantastically fun week on the Cascades course, both boys loving the rock gardens and jumps. Now it was time to tackle not only the course but their competitors.

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From the gun Shlomi and Martin were in the mix at the front of the race. Soon Shlomi was out front with South African rider, James Reid, and Martin was fighting to find the best wheels to hang onto to stay in the top five. A small crash caused James trouble with his shoe and forced him to stop in the tech zone. Shlomi was now out in front alone with three full laps (out of five) ahead of him. Behind him, Martin’s pace was shedding the numbers from the chase group, until eventually, with a carefully considered attack, he jumped into second place. Our two riders were now in control of the race; strong, skilful, consistent.

DSC_1054As the race drew close to an end it was hard not to get too excited. With such a challenging course a lot can go wrong in a short space of time. However, there was no need to worry, as Shlomi and Martin completely mastered the course and the race. It was a stunning victory for Shlomi and a fantastic second place for Martin. They were exhausted but ecstatic! It was clear to see just how much this meant to them, and also to the team.

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What a day! As Shlomi said, “this is just incredible”…

#weareOMX

 

[Photographs with thanks to our friend, Andrew McFadden – BOOGS Photography.]