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Uphill MTB battle for Strauss and Buys
- Updated: July 29, 2014
By Mark Etheridge
Strapped-up Mariske Strauss dug deep to finish a gutsy 10th in the women’s mountain bike event at the Commonwealth Games on Tuesday.
The race took place in six laps through the lush Cathkin Braes Park and saw a Canadian 1-2 (gold and silver) from Catharine Pendrel and Emily Batty.
In the build-up to the race Strauss’ name had stood out as a possible podium finisher but a nasty crash in practice before the race made it more a case of survival than success.
The event was raced over a course that team manager Brett Coates described as not very technical, nowhere near as technical as the Cascades course in Pietermaritzburg and used for a previous World Championships.
The Cape Town based athlete maintained contact briefly but after two laps was 11th and 3min 01sec adrift.
She went on to overtake a host nation rider in the final stages of the race to seal 10th place out of 22 starters and ended 7:48 in arrears.
‘It was hectic out there,’ she said after her race. ‘It was a super course but I wasn’t at 100%, I hurt myself and am stiff everywhere.’
Explaining the cause of the stiffness she said of her pre-race crash: ‘It was down the steep rock drop … I made a rookie error, went over the handlebars and landed up on my chest, a bit like a scorpion.
‘But it’s not all that serious, I bounce not break and team physio Tarina van der Stockt and the Games medical staff did an amazing job of getting me to the start line, even though I was stiff and sore when I started.
‘At least I didn’t mess my face up like at Cascades a couple of years back. I had a huge blue eye and it looked like I had taken a real sucker punch. My poor brother … when we walked down the street, people looked at him very funnily.’
And the bouncy blonde took a pragmatic view of her performance. ‘Of course I’m disappointed but hey, I’m young and will bounce back.
‘Next up are World MTB Championships in Norway next month and there’s also another World Cup event in France that I’m riding.’
And further up the road for the Orange Monkey team rider? ‘Well the race for Rio 2016 Olympic points has already started so that’s a big target.’
In the men’s race, contested over an extra lap, Strauss’ SA counterpart Philip Buys, led the field for the short starter lap.
But the 2012 Olympian slipped back to seventh spot after the first proper laps and ended 13th, more than 10 minutes behind the gold and silver-winning New Zealand riders.
‘In the beginning I was feeling good and was comfortable in front but we weren’t going fast,’ Buys told the SASCOC website. ‘I wanted to settle in at around the second or third wheel and wanted to lead in the technical bit in the forest.
‘The Kiwi guys went into the lead midway through the first lap and things just got too fast from there.’
But Buys knows that there was a reason for his flatness. ‘I picked up some sort of virus two weeks ago and was in bed for four days. I told myself mentally that it would be OK but I still missed nationals because of the virus.
‘I recovered well after the Epic [he was on the podium on that occasion] but I guess my immune system hasn’t recovered properly.
‘It’s very frustrating because I think I could have done well here, the course was quite flat which suited me and everything was perfect … except for the legs.’
Buys can’t afford to dwell too much on this result though as he has World MTB Championships in Norway at the end of August and beginning of September. ‘Hopefully we can get a better result there,’ he ended.
The rhythmic section of Team South Africa’s gymnasts at the Games have returned home. And to date, young Grace Legote has been the most successful SA gymnast at the Games.
She had a fifth place finish in the Clubs final, seventh in the Ribbon final and 10th in the Individual All-Around.
Although she missed out on a medal her routines and enthusiasm made her one of the host nation’s favourites and she even managed to secure a slot on the front page of The Guardian on one occasion.
It could even have been better as she was lying in third spot in the Ribbon section after qualifiers and on target for a medal but an unfortunate error at the end of her routine cost her that chance.