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Hatherley, Vale grab second spots for SA at XCO Cup Series
- Updated: February 28, 2016
New Zealand’s Samuel Gaze (S-Racing XCO) and Switzerland’s Esther Süss (Wheeler) placed their racing prowess in the spotlight when they won the Pro-Elite men and women’s races respectively by a large margin at Helderberg Farms in Somerset West on Saturday for the second round of the Stihl 2016 SA XCO Cup Series.
Riders from across the world took part, representing countries such as New Zealand, Netherlands, USA, Denmark, Namibia, Switzerland and Germany with a strong field of Elite riders.
Not to be outdone, the Junior, Youth, Sprogs and Nippers classes were equally well supported as they took to the 4.90-kilometre course with an elevation gain of just over two hundred metres.
Gaze, the 2014 Commonwealth Games silver medallist, had a good start and led the seven-lap race from the get go, finishing in a time of 1hr 30min 18sec, with Philip Buys (Scott Factory Racing powered by LCB) and Danish rider Simon Andreassen (S-Racing XCO) jostling for second position. At the end of the fifth lap of the seven-lap race, Alan Hatherly (Kargo Pro MTB Team) launched an attack, which would ultimately see him claim second place (1:32:36), which was a fantastic result considering he worked his way through the field from 10th place in the opening lap.
During the final lap, Buys managed to put some space between himself and Andreassen, finishing third (1:33:31) with Andreassen fourth (1:33:51) and Team Spur’s James Reid (1:34:08) chasing hard and settling for fifth place.
‘The race went great for me, I felt in control from start to finish,’ said Gaze. ‘It’s a great stepping stone for me, obviously, being the main preparation for the first of my selection races for the Olympic Games this year. I felt great the whole day and I’m really happy with how things are tracking along.
‘My coach, Christoph Sauser, and me have been working pretty hard to get things right. As for the rest of the race, it was run amazingly and the course was great. The guys put a great effort into the trails and I’ll be back here training again sometime soon.’
In the Elite Women’s race, 41-year-old Süss – a former Mountain Bike Marathon World Champion and multiple winner of the Absa Cape Epic – claimed the victory in 1:32:35 after a solid performance over six laps when she passed South African champion, Cherie Vale (Novus OMX Pro Team) on the first lap. Vale worked hard to maintain the gap to under one minute in the following few laps, finishing overall under two minutes off the winning pace.
For Vale, who fell ill just prior to the opening round of the Series at Mankele, she looked back to her usual self and had a strong start with equally strong competition, finishing in 1:34:26.
Kargo Pro MTB team riders Frankie du Toit and Hayley Smith, unfortunately both took a tumble in the opening lap, which set them back and saw them working through the field as the race progressed. Genevieve van Coller put on an excellent performance to finish in third place (1:39:47), holding off a rampant Du Toit.
Both Du Toit and men’s silver medallist Hatherley were part of Team South Africa at the African Youth Games in Botswana two years ago.
‘I’m super chuffed with my result today,’ said Vale. ‘I was looking forward to the race at Helderberg because it is pretty much my home ground, well for now, because I’m moving to Pietermaritzburg tomorrow.
‘I’m still on a high from getting married last week and then having such amazing support this week. John Wakefield helped immensely with my preparations, taking us out on the track on Tuesday and doing some hot laps.
‘I’ve really been able to just focus on racing this week and my heart was set on doing well. I was focused on the start and Esther was strong. I wanted to see how long I could stay. It’s great to see so many more women racing and I’m especially happy for Genevieve’s third place today.’
Vale gave Road to Rio 2016 reasons for her move back to KZN earlier in the week. ‘My husband Heiko [Redecker] has got a job up there and also I want to be near the Cascades track because that has similar obstacles to the Rio course and obviously I want to try and get to Rio for the Olympics.
‘I’ve been in the Cape for eight years now and not ready to go back but the plus is that I’ll get to see more of my family.’
The third round of the Stihl 2016 SA XCO Cup Series, will be hosted by the Tshwane Metropole and takes place at Wolwespruit Mountain Bike and Trail Park in Erasmuskloof, Pretoria, on 27 March.
Picture of Vale leading Süss on Saturday, courtesy of Chris Hitchcock
Pro-Elite Men (seven laps)
1 Samuel Gaze (NZL) 1:30:18
2 Alan Hatherly (SA) 1:32:36
3 Philip Buys (SA) 1:33:31
4 Simon Andreassen (DEN) 1:33:51
5 James Reid (SA) 1:34:08
6 Michiel van der Heijden (NED) 1:34:28
7 Gert Heyns (SA) 1:35:57
8 Martin Gujan (SUI) 1:37:20
9 Arno du Toit (SA) 1:38:35
10 Stuart Marais (SA) 1:38:44
Pro-Elite Women (six laps)
1 Esther Süss (SUI) 1:32:35
2 Cherie Vale 1:34:26
3 Genevieve Vvn Coller 1:39:47
4 Frankie du Toit 1:40:29
5 Hayley Smith 1:44:26
6 Candice Neethling 1:45:35
7 Mandy de Beer 1:51:13
8 Hanli Cilliers 1:53:56