Burry Stander (Specialized/Mr Price) won the MTN National Cross Country pro-elite race at Mankele on Saturday (12 June) in dramatic style.
Saturday’s race was almost a carbon copy repetition of the way in which Stander had won the same event last year and one can be forgiven for thinking that drama, Stander and Mankele go hand in hand.
Last year Stander won at Mankele despite the fact that the cleat on one of his cycling shoes was torn loose during the race, forcing him to stop twice to change shoes.
Stander started his race on Saturday in emphatic style, displaying why he is the current u.23 world champion. He completed the first lap in 17 minutes and 34 seconds and was the only rider who managed to complete a lap in less than 18 minutes. After two laps, when he led Matthys Beukes (Scott) by almost two minutes, then disaster struck.
On one of the smooth, supposedly easy, riding sections, the front wheel of Stander’s mountain bike was cut open by a sharp rock.
Stander said: “That is mountain biking. You sometimes suffer a setback when you least expect it. I tried to ‘plug’ the tyre, but to no avail. The cut was just too big. That left me no choice but to take off the tyre completely and ride on the rim. I think I must have run or rode on the rim for about two to three kilometers to get to the technical section at the top of the mountain where Cherise (Taylor) was waiting with a new wheel.”
“Luckily for me, my bad luck occurred on one of the steepest sections of the route, which meant that I did not lose too much time. I think I probably lost about three to four minutes.”
Beukes, who impressed with his consistent riding style, managed to take the lead after lap three, but Stander rode like a man possessed and with lap times of 18:14 and 18:15 he managed to catch up with and pass Beukes within two laps. From then on there was no way of stopping Stander.
Stander’s slowest time was 18:57, which he rode during the 7th lap. This was still one of the six fastest lap times of the day.
Stander won in 2 hours 13 minutes and 37 seconds. Beukes was second in 2:16:30, Ben-Melt Swanepoel (Specialized/Mr Price) finished 3rd in 2:20:58 and Paul Cordes (MTN-Energade) 4th in 2:23:28.
According to Stander the reason for his victory was that, after he had punctured, he realized that he had to stay calm.
“Nothing could be gained by panicking because panic is usually a certain way to disaster. I could have punctured again or could even have taken a tumble.”
Beukes said he was under no illusion when he was told about Stander’s bad luck.
“The worst mistake I could have made when Burry punctured was to go flat out in an effort to win the race. I knew that Burry would catch up with me again. There is a good reason why he is the u.23 world champion.”
“So I just kept on riding at the consistent pace with which I felt comfortable. To finish seconds behind Burry is, as far as I am concerned, a good result and I am very pleased with my consistent lap times.”
Yolandé Speedy (MTN-Energade) won the pro-elite women’s race, with Mariske Strauss (MTN-Energade) second and Caitlin de Wet (Specialized/Mr Price) third.
James Reid (Specialized/Mr Price) won the junior men’s race, Luke Roberts (Wsquared/Subaru) was second and Arno du Toit (Specialized/Mr Price) third.
Bryce Munro won the u.23 men’s race, with Dominic Calitz second and Adriaan Louw third.
Patrick Belton won the race for youth men, Evan van der Spuy was second and Murray Starr third.
As expected, Candice Neethling (DCM) won the junior women’s race quite comfortably. Emily Clark finished second, ten minutes behind Neethling, and Simone Vosloo was third, 30 minutes slower.
Images Courtesy Zoon Cronje