The 2015 African Mountain Bike Continental Championships took place in Musanze, Rwanda from 8-10 May. Sub-tropical climates of the East African country provided a rather slippery terrain on which the riders had to compete, making this past weekend’s racing an unpredictable and unforgettable experience for all involved.
Team South Africa made their country proud, by claiming both the Men and Women’s Elite titles. Elite Men winner, James Reid, took first place ahead of Matthys Beukes (second) and Rourke Croeser (third), leaving an all green-and-gold podium.
Team RECM rider, Reid, said that the race didn’t play out as he expected it to due to rather unfavourable weather conditions. “We could see from the women when they came off the track that they were coated in mud. It was very slick and wet and on the start line it was raining. That will always be a factor, and mud can obliterate even the simplest of tracks,” he said.
“It was fast for the first couple of laps but then the gaps were big and consistent and you got going in your own rhythm. The conditions definitely affected the speed and difficulty of the track,” he added.
When asked what the African Continental Champion title feels like to Reid, he had this to say: “There are three big titles to achieve in South Africa: SA Cross-country Champs, SA Marathon Champs and African Cross-country Champs. Every year I try to aim for as many possible – last year I got two of three. I have never won an Elite African title, and it means a lot.”
He also mentioned that, because of the multicultural and diverse field of riders from all over Africa and being in Rwanda, the race was a truly African experience, which made it that much more special.
Reid is back home for the next few days before he heads to the to the Czech Republic World Cup, and then the World Cup in Germany.
The Elite Women’s title went to Bianca Haw, with Cherie Vale (RSA) finishing in second place and Namibia’s Michelle Vorster claimed third.
“The course was super muddy from all the rain but the mud didn’t stick to the tyres – so that was nice, but it did make it very slippery over the rocks,” said Haw. “The track itself was awesome – I loved it. It was fast and flowing with only two climbs but they were pretty hard: the first was between four and five minutes on an open road; the second went up a single-track path in the mud and was difficult to get up, but it was ride-able,” she said.
The Red Bull rider also mentioned that the rest of the track was fast flowing, where a lot of power could be put down. “This, in the end, made it an extremely difficult track as there was no time to recover,” she added.
Haw was overwhelmed by the camaraderie and support from the spectators. “The crowds were awesome and they lined the entire track screaming and shouting,” she said.
Feeling prepared for the racing on Sunday, Haw was happy with the altitude training sessions she had had prior to being in Rwanda. “It helped me a lot as we raced close to 2000 metres above sea level. We also arrived early in the week to practice so I got the course waxed – well as much as I could have,” she said.
“I also practiced different lines depending if the race would be wet or dry so I had a lot of options,” she added.
On her title win at a young age, Haw had this to say: “Its my first year racing in u23, but this year we raced in elites to gain maximum points. It was so great to get it.”
In the Junior races on Saturday, Namibian Brandon Plaatjies took the Men’s gold, and Zimbabwe’s Skye Davidson, the Women’s.
Cycling SA MTB Commission Director, Brett Coates, said: “We went to Rwanda to earn UCI points and we have achieved that with a clean sweep. We have scored important points all the way down the line and I am very proud of the team. That was a huge achievement – mission accomplished! I am sure that each rider will remember the experience in Rwanda in those testing conditions for many years to come.”
Summary of Results from African Continental MTB Championships XCO (RWA)