Ben-Melt Swanepoel (Specialized/Mr Price) and Yolandi du Toit (Bizhub) turned the Nissan Diamond Rush Race over 70km in Cullinan, on Saturday, 24 July, into a true ‘love match on mountain bikes’ by respectively winning the pro-elite races for men and women.
Swanepoel outrode Philip Buys towards the end of the race to win in a time of 2 hours 17 minutes and 14 seconds, and there was no stopping Du Toit once she managed to get past the slower riders on the technical sections. Her winning time was 2:47:37.
The two of them are one of South African mountain biking’s more famous pedaling couples.
Swanepoel proved again that he is one of the most astute riders on the local mountain-biking scene. Quite early during the race, through the first really technical section of the course, Buys, Renier Bellingham (USN) and Ricardo Girlardo (DCM) managed to open up a gap on the rest of the riders.
Swanepoel did not allow this to faze him. There is a good reason why he is known in SA Mountain biking as the ‘diesel engine’. Swanepoel might not be the fastest or best technical rider, but once he gets into a good constant rhythm there is no stopping him. Riders who tried to stay with him described the experience as ‘being slowly killed’ on their bikes. With his consistent riding he is capable of draining the energy levels of the other riders.
This is exactly what happened on Saturday. Swanepoel caught up with Buys soon after the technical section. The two of them then worked together to catch, and pass, Bellingham and Girlardo. On the last climb Swanepoel managed to drop Buys.
Spare a thought for Bellingham. For the second consecutive weekend he proved that he was racing fit, only to be ‘snookered’ by mechanical problems. In Cullinan it was his chain that broke. He also had mechanical problems at last week’s South African Cross-country Championship in Pretoria.
Buys was not too upset about being beaten for the first time in the Nissan series.
“Melt was definitely the strongest rider on the day and he fully deserves his victory. As luck would have it, I got a slight cold a few days before the race. I contemplated not to race, but in the end I decided to give it a go. Perhaps it was not a wise decision, but I watched my heart rate during the whole of the race to make sure that it did not go too high.
“Riding with Melt helped me a lot, especially because he rides at such a consistent pace. In the end, when it really mattered, he was just too strong for me.”
Jock Green (DCM), who finished 5th, said afterwards that he had forgotten how hard mountain biking could be.
“During the past two months I have just been riding my road bike and that definitely does not prepare you for the pain and strain of mountain biking. In mountain biking there is no respite. It is flat out all the way to the finish.”
As far the women’s race is concerned, it was Leatitia Botha (Team Ghost) who took off like a rocket, leading during most of the way.
Yolandi du Toit said she made the mistake of starting too slowly and ended up among the slower riders on the most technical part of the course.
“I had no other choice but to get off my bike and push it along with the other riders. I thought that was it, it was race over and that I would be unable to catch up with the leaders again. But when I was back on my bike and riding again, I managed to catch the other riders one by one and win the race. “
Afterwards Du Toit’s biggest regret was that she did not have an opportunity to ride the technical section. “I was really looking forward to test myself.”
Theresa Ralph finished second and Sanet Smal (Team Ghost) third.