The Western Cape of South Africa is home to some of the largest and most rugged mountains in the country. The ground is harsh, as can be the vegetation, but these ancient eroding mountain sides lend themselves to incredible enduro racing! The majestic Jonkershoek Nature Reserve and the MTO trails that line its valley are renowned for serving up an epic day of enduro racing on long and testing stages with demanding liaison climbs. Round 1 of the 2021 Enduro Western Cape season was no different.
Check out the event highlights video above or read on for a recap and some images from the sun-baked Jonkershoek Valley!
It was a hot day in the valley that made for tough riding conditions given all the stages were pedal accessed and there was very little tree coverage after the recent fires. A few of the mountain streams were still running after the winter rains, providing an opportunity to cool the body temperatures down and top up the crucial liquid supply!
The EWS Qualifier event would entail 4 stages, all pedal accessed, with 1650m of descent (and ascent) over the course of the day. Stage times were between 5 and 8 minutes per stage for the top riders aside from the shorter steep and terribly rocky Stage 2. The stage breakdown was as follows:
2.7km / 350m
4.23km / 500m
1.7km / 300m
3.5km / 500m
On stage 1 it was already evident who was looking on form to take the top podium positions in Jonkershoek with Matt Lombardi and Zandri Strydom claiming the first stage wins of the day and continuing to tick them off throughout the rest of the day!
Zandri Strydom, traditionally an XCO rider, took to the races aboard the short travel 120mm Epic EVO. She made it work for her and dominated the women's field! / Regular EWS racer Matt Lombardi flexed his international prowess and showed other local racers what it takes to compete on the world stage.
After 4 enormous stages, and 4 equally enormous climbs, the large volumes of dust had settled in the Jonkershoek Valley. Returning from a season of racing enduro in Europe, Matt Lombardi took a clean sweep, winning all of the stages! Fitness and a lot of time on the bike paid dividends in Jonkershoek. Adi van der Merwe finally got himself on a full sus bike and showed what he is capable of with a strong second! Local legend and silent assassin Lance Morris wasn’t far off his heels in 3rd.
Zandri Strydom also earned herself a convincing win in the women’s race, even on a short travel bike. We can’t wait to see what she can do when she goes full enduro! Jessi Nixon was the next fastest lady with Annemi Pfister in 3rd. The top 5 women had 4 young riders in the mix and it looks like the competition will be heating up in years to come!
Philip George Van Schalkwyk and Keagan Brand in the u16 Youth Category were both lighting it up finishing 7th and 10th overall respectively! There are certainly some talented riders in the female junior categories as well with Jenna Byrnes bringing home 4th place and Anvia Bredenkamp in 5th! With a few first-timers racing the Lite as well, the enduro bug seems to be biting the youth in South Africa!
1st. Matt Lombardi - 22:25.989
2nd. Adi van der Merwe - 23:15.373
3rd. Lance Morris - 23:23.197
4th. Gary Barnard - 23:36.857
5th. Keira Duncan - 23:39.275
1st. Zandri Strydom - 26:37.49
2nd. Jessi Nixon - 28:34.433
3rd. Annemi Pfister - 31:07.672
4th. Jenna Byrnes - 31:26.721
5th. Anvia Bredenkamp - 33:26.685
The landscape in South Africa is a breeding ground for enduro racing and as the local culture is shifting from marathon focused events to trail riding this category of racing is beginning to take off!