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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
As 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.
What a day! As Shlomi said, “this is just incredible”…
[Photographs with thanks to our friend, Andrew McFadden – BOOGS Photography.]