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Burry the man to catch

The best marathon mountain bikers in the country descend on the Valley of a Thousand Hills for the SA MTB Marathon Champs on Sunday and it will give a clear indication of their form ahead of the UCI MTB World Cup event in Pietermaritzburg in April.

All eyes will be on local hero Burry Stander who will aim to continue his giant-killing spree of 2011 with another solid showing on the weekend. The champs will also provide Stander with a great opportunity to sharpen his form ahead of the World Cup which starts on 22 April and serve as a crucial Olympic qualifier.

The former world marathon bronze medallist recently managed to get a sneak peak of the course ahead of Sunday’s big event. ÔÇ£That is the best marathon course I’ve ridden to date. I’ll be very surprised if anyone does under four hours,ÔÇØ said Stander.

Stander, who claimed the SA Cross Country Elite Men’s title earlier this month, has shown strong form early in on in the season and has been dubbed as one of the favourites for Sunday’s event.

The course has deliberately been designed to be tough and will suit the high calibre of elite athletes who will be scrapping it out for the SA MTB Marathon Championship jersey and coveted title. When compared to the usual 120 kilometres norm, this relatively short marathon distance is expected to take the top finishers around five hours to complete.

Team Garmin/Adidas riders Phillip Buys and François Theron, who also showed great form at the recent SA Cross Country Champs held in Stellenbosch, will be amongst the top contenders vying for the win. They will be joined by their accomplished Namibian team mate Manie Heymans who will use the race as valuable preparation for the upcoming Cape Epic.

ÔÇ£Phillip is definitely capable of winning, especially if the course is technical. If Phillip and Burry can get away from Kevin Evans and David George, who will also be piling on the pressure, the race to the finish line could be very interesting,ÔÇØ said Heymans.

The duo of Max Knox and Brandon Stewart (DCM Chrome) are also not to be forgotten. The two work well as a team and know how to stamp their authority on an event of this calibre. Both Knox and Stewart are capable of pulling off a win as they regularly have done in the past.

The gruelling nature of the terrain and the scorching heat synonymous with the depths of the Inanda Valley promise to make Sunday’s event rather taxing on all.┬áWith temperatures expected to reach well over the 30 degree mark, failing to take the time to look after their hydration and nutritional needs could well be the breaking point for many.

The track will see over 650 riders face its wrath as it circumnavigates the serene Inanda Dam, giving riders spectacular views of the world famous Valley of 1000 Hills as they tackle the intense climbs and leave their mark on the newly cut single tracks.

The eighty kilometre elite course has been prepared by approximately 300 local community members over the past three months.ÔÇ¿ÔÇ¿The SA Marathon Champs also marks the launch of the Durban Green Corridor, a new initiative by the City of Durban, which aims to connect Blue Lagoon with Inanda Dam through a series running and cycling trails developed by Impi Concept Events.

ÔÇ£The community really have embraced the event and are extremely excited about hosting it in the ‘Real Africa’. They are sure to be out in their numbers supporting the competitors on the day,” said Stuart Berry of Impi Concept Events.

The event has been designed to accommodate riders of all abilities with distances of 80km, 40km and 20km to choose from.ÔÇ¿ÔÇ¿More information on the SA MTB Marathon Champs, in association with the City of Durban, can be found at www.cyclingsa.com


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