By winning the MTN Barberton ultra-marathon on Saturday (28 January), Jacques Rossouw (Team FedGroup-Itec Connect) at long last completed a hat trick of victories. Kevin Evans (Nedbank360Life) was second and Jacques Janse van Rensburg (MTN-Qhubeka) third.
In South African mountain biking Rossouw’s hat trick was probably the longest in the making. His previous victories in Barberton were in 2004 and 2005.
Rossouw retired from cycling at the end of 2005, which meant that his Barberton victory was to be the last of his professional career. However, last year his teammate, Brandon Stewart, persuaded him to make a comeback.
The moment Rossouw got back on his mountain bike, the proverbial cat was let loose among the pigeons. He took off with a bang by finishing third in the MTN Gravel Travel and followed this up by almost beating Kevin Evans in the MTN Ride Crater Cruise.
Rossouw’s results had everybody talking and predictions were made that this was the rider who would spice up the 2012 MTN ultra-marathon series.
That was exactly what he did on Saturday.
“It was very important for me to win, especially because the last time I had won a race as a professional had been in Barberton. “My whole training programme was geared towards peaking on Saturday.”
According to Evans he was surprised by the way in which the race played out. “Usually there is one serious attack on the first climb that leads to the bunch being split and three to four riders getting away. “This time round it did not happen. At the top of the climb there were still 12 of us left. “It stayed this way for 75km, up to the foot of the last climb.
“I expected Max Knox (Ghost) to be the first to attack as he did the previous three years, but he did not.
“It was Jacques who upped the pace. I immediately realized that it would be a mistake to try to keep up with him because he was really setting a hard pace.
“So I settled down, riding in my own comfortable rhythm.
“Jacques (Janse van Rensburg), Knox and Darren Lill (Bonitas) tried to stay with Rossouw, but they could not keep up with him and, slowly, they started to drop off one by one.
“I first managed to catch up with them and then to pass them, but Jacques was just too strong.”
According to Rossouw, he gave one huge sigh when they reached the foot of the last climb.
“I realized that this was the time for my do or die effort and so I attacked.
“After my first acceleration I looked back and saw that Kevin was battling. This immediately gave me some extra motivation. “I accelerated again, making the pace even harder for another two to three minutes. Nobody could keep up with me. “I then took a slight breather. Jacques, Max and Darren immediately took advantage of that and started to close in again.
“So I decided to up the pace again and settled into a steady hard grind to the top. This time I got away.”
At the moment there seems to be no way of stopping Ariane Kleinhans (Contego/28E/Giant).
During the women’s marathon, she simply left all her rivals for dead on the big climb. “Ariane was unbelievable. You could say that she just flew away from us,” Ischen Stopforth (Bizhub/FCF) said.
Candice Neethling (BMC) was second and Stopforth third. According to Stopforth, Barberton is always an interesting race. “You know that everybody has been training since December, but you have no idea of what they are capable of.
“Barberton is the first race of the year in which everybody takes part and it gives you an indication of what they are capable of at the moment.”
Two weeks earlier Kleinhans also won at Attakwas.
Yolandé Speedy and Karien van Jaarsveld (MTN-Qhubeka) both experienced chain problems early during the race.
MTN Barberton Ultra-marathon, 120km
1 Jacques Rossouw (FEDGROUP – ITEC Connect) 04hr58min58sec
2 Kevin Evans (Nedbank 360Life) 05:03:18
3 Jacques Janse van Rensburg (MTN Qhubeka) 05:05:13
4 Max Knox (Decca Ghost) 05:06:10
5 Darren Lill (Team Bonitas) 05:08:20
6 Nico Bell (Bell Cycling) 05:13:07
7 Charles Keey (Blend Property Group) 05:15:00
8 Adrien Niyonshuti (MTN Qhubeka) 05:15:02
9 David Morison (Blend Property Group) 05:16:43
10 David George (Nedbank 360Life) 05:17:51
MTN Barberton Marathon, 75km Women
1 Ariane Kleinhans (Contego Giant) 03hr14min49sec
2 Candice Neethling (Team BMC) 03:27:23
3 Ischen Stopforth (Team bizhub) 03:33:58
4 Karien van Jaarsveld (MTN Qhubeka) 03:47:04
5 Janine King 03:57:51
For full results and more info visit www.advendurance.com
Photo credit: Zoon Cronje