Neethling and Stander lead South African mountain bike series

Olivier and Muhl are top women

Downhiller Andrew Neethling rode to victory at the opening round of South Africa's national mountain bike series, while Burry Stander dominated the cross-country event.

The first leg of the 2009 MTN National Cup took place in Stellenbosch at the weekend in hot, dusty conditions.

Trek rider and Cape Town native Neethling, who ended 2008 in 14th place on the UCI world rankings after finishing 11th in the World Cup, clocked a time of 2min 11.34sec for the fast, narrow descent through the forests of Jonkershoek.

Johann Potgieter (Cannondale) secured second place less than five seconds back, with Neethling’s younger brother Jonty (Morewood Fox) rounding out the podium in front of a large, enthusiastic crowd. 

Neethling, whose new Trek Session 88 was only released from Customs last Wednesday, said: “I made a few small mistakes near the top on the first run but was really pushing hard in what was basically a ‘feeler’ run, which I felt was necessary since I was riding not only a new bike, but a new brand and haven’t done a race for quite a while.

“On the second run I went out a bit harder at the top, overshot a turn on what is a really narrow course and had a small crash. Luckily my first run was a solid one! 

"There are some big expectations when you come home to do a race. You’re expected to win so it’s quite a relief, although the aborted second run left me feeling a bit frustrated. It’s still feels good to win, especially in front of friends and family.”

South Africa’s 2008 World Cup champion, Greg Minnaar, missed the event as he is in the USA. In the women’s event, Rika Olivier eclipsed Gina Nixon and Vicky Phillips to claim victory.

Men's podium: (From left) Pierre van der Merwe, Jonty Neethling, Andrew Neethling, Johann Potgieter and Gary Barnard

Women's podium: Vicky Phillips, Rika Olivier and Gina Nixon

Decisive performance from Specialized's new recruit

Africa’s top cross-country racer, Burry Stander (Specialized), won his event by more than seven minutes. The new Specialized recruit and 2008 under-23 World Cup champion took the lead early on, completing the six laps of the technical 8.2km course in 2:15:24. 

Renay Goustra (GT) and Johnny Kritzinger (Schwinn) rounded out the men’s Pro-Elite podium in second and third respectively, and were the first two Elite men home.

“I had some pressure on me after having a really good year of international results in 2008 so I was kind of the guy with a target on his back today. I wanted to prove a point in my first race and I think I managed that,” said Stander.

“Renay took the start out really fast and by halfway through the first lap I took the lead and kept that same pace going. It seems the other guys must have faded a bit."

On a roll: Burry Stander charged to a dominant victory in the Pro-Elite men’s race

In the women’s race, regional champion Sara Muhl (Jeep) gave the home crowd good reason to cheer when she captured a comfortable victory over Tania Raats (Bell Equipment), with Julia Colvin (Maverick) a close third.

Muhl, a regular member of the South African national team, clocked 1:55:04 for the four-lap race to get her year off to a triumphant start and secure 30 UCI points. Raats, now back in the Elite category following a return to fitness after a knee injury, finished just under three minutes later, less than half a minute ahead of Colvin. The first under-23 woman home was Janneke Leask, who was fourth overall.

Current national champion Rourke Croeser (Mr Price/Scott) had his hopes of success dashed by a puncture on the first lap, leaving Adriaan Louw to top the Junior men’s podium with an emphatic victory. And in the Junior women’s event, Candice Neethling triumphed after a hotly contested three-lap battle with Caitlin de Wet (Mr Price/Scott).

Men's podium: Max Knox, Johnny Kritzinger, Burry Stander, Renay Goustra and Craig Paul

Women's podium: Julia Colvin, Sara Muhl and Tania Raats

MTN National Cup round 1 standings

Downhill

Men (overall)

1 Andrew Neethling (Trek) 2:11:34
2 Johann Potgieter (Cannondale) 2:16:25
3 Jonty Neethling (Morewood/Fox) 2:18:15
4 Gary Barnard (Morewood/Fox) 2:19:69
5 Pierre van der Merwe 2:20:58

Junior men (17–18 years)

1 Pierre van der Merwe 2:20:58
2 Luke Davis 2:22:05
3 Kenneth Sinclair 2:25:40

Elite women

1 Rika Olivier 2:50.02
2 Gina Nixon 3:09.43
3 Vicky Phillips 3:17.83

Cross-country

Pro-Elite men

1 Burry Stander (Specialized) 2:15:24
2 Renay Goustra (GT) 2:22:29
3 Johnny Kritzinger (Schwinn) 2:23:56
4 Max Knox (DCM Chrome) 2:25:26
5 Craig Paul (Jeep) 2:26:13

Junior men

1 Adriaan Louw 2:02:44
2 James Reid 2:07:46
3 Ruan du Toit 2:11:29

Pro-Elite women

1 Sara Muhl (Jeep) 1:55:04
2 Tania Raats (Bell Equipment) 1:58:03
3 Julia Colvin (Maverick) 1:58:40
4 Janneke Leask 1:59:12
5 Genee Steyn 2:06:04

Junior women

1 Candice Neethling 1:26:17
2 Caitlin de Wet (Mr Price/Scott) 1:28:36
3 Mariske Strauss (MTN/Energade) 1:37:49

For full results, see the Fritzpienaar Cycles website.

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