Maties shine in Stage One of Varsity MTB Challenge
The men and women from the University of Stellenbosch took full advantage of the fact that Varsity MTB Challenge is taking place in their backyard, finishing Stage One in first place, for both the Varsity Sports MTB men’s and women’s classifications, in Franschhoek on Saturday morning.
The stage began at 8am, at Nederburg wine farm, in perfect race conditions. The five Varsity Sports teams took up their positions at the front of the grid, as Varsity MTB MC, Doug Bird, signalled for the inaugural race to begin.
The young Maties, UCT, NMMU, Pukke and Tuks teams led the pack at the start, but would see stiff competition from alumni riders representing their former universities throughout the stage.
In what may be one of the toughest starts to an MTB race in South Africa, riders faced a steep climb in the first 10km of the 53km stage. The route began with a contoured jeep track heading towards Wellington, with riders climbing as high as 755m above sea level.
After the initial climb, Dominic Calitz broke away from the leading pack and would ultimately finish the stage solo, coming in first with a time of 2:22.41.
“Firstly, thank you to the organisers for such a fantastic route. It was excellently marked out and not once did I get lost,” said Calitz. “The first 10km was a group of 10 riders and I broke away from the group halfway up the first climb. I kept it constant, I kept the pace and the rest I did on my own.”
Calitz was closely followed by Maties’ Varsity Sports MTB team, who came in with a time of 2:29.15, thanks to Carl van Wyk and Ian Lategan. The stage ended with a deceptively tough final 7km. With challenging jeep track and loose terrain, it was a tricky end to the first day for the riders.
“It was very rocky,” said Calitz, commenting on the final section of the stage. “I would say the first half was not as rocky as the second half. The first half had smoother trails; the last half was hard on the legs.”
Calitz went as far as to say that he should have opted for a soft tail with all the loose rocks, rather than a hard tail when selecting his bike, when asked by MC Doug Bird whether he had made a wise selection of bike.
Riders will have an afternoon to kick back, nurse the wounds and ice the bruises before Stage Two kicks off at La Paris on Sunday morning at 8am.
Dominic Calitz (2.22.41)
Mariske Strauss (2:53.48)
Varsity Sports MTB:
1. Maties (2:29.15)
2. UCT (2:33.10)
3. Tuks (2:33.13)
4. NMMU (2:52.53)
5. Pukke (2:59.57)
1. Maties (2:53.48)
2. Tuks (3:32.13)