Strauss and Buys win cross country in Pietermaritzburg

South African racers test out 2013 Worlds course

Mariske Strauss (Team Contego 28E) and Philip Buys (Scott Racing) took top honors at round 2 of the Cycling SA-MTB Cross Country National Series on a course that will be part of the UCI World Championships later this year.

Racers enjoyed perfect weather conditions on a course that was in excellent shape after overnight rains made its surface tacky.


Right from the outset, Mariske Strauss (Team Contego 28E), racing in the U23-elite category, took control of her five-lap race right through to the finish line, proving her dominance over the entire field.

Having just returned from London whilst on her varsity break, Strauss is now preparing for the first two UCI World Cups of the 2013 season.

"It was a very fun race, and very smooth and at times it felt like free riding," said Strauss. "There were rock gardens and some jumps, and it was a bit different to what I am used to. It was fun but also hard.

"I had a couple of close calls in the rock garden, but mostly enjoyed myself. Well done to everybody and the organisers to putting up an awesome event. I love this course so much, Cascades is so close to my heart. I've been racing for about 11 years now and I figured that any course you race on you should make it your own."

Namibian Vera Adrian, who is currently studying in Stellenbosch for her first year, also loved the course. "I love the technical aspect and the rock garden."

Adrian finished second in the U23 category, five minutes off Strauss' winning time. "The conditions were perfect today, and the track was very smooth. It's a tough course with lots of climbing, but I loved it," said Adrian. "I found it far more enjoyable than the track we raced during the African Continental Champs."

Hayley Smith (Bell), in her last year of school, finished third in the U23 race. "There were a few changes to the track with some more rocks and jumps added in the early parts, which I really enjoyed. I had a really good start and I really enjoyed myself."

Winner of the elite category Samantha Sanders (Valencia) said, "My race went well, better than the African Continental Champs - I felt like I was on better form today. Mariske rode really well again and she seems to be the one to beat. The course was a lot more fun today, they seemed to break up the climbs a bit, but I thoroughly enjoyed the new technical sections that they added."


Philip Buys (Scott Racing) and Brendon Davids (Jeep-Specialized) set a cracking pace in the men's race. Buys raced in the elite category and Davids in the under 23 class. They rode hard, setting lap times of a little over 11-minutes on the course exceeding four kilometres per lap.

Davids, having ridden in the USA last year, kept pace with Buys in the first four laps at which point Buys showed the form he found in the London Olympics, and more recently the Cape Epic, giving himself a very comfortable gap for the balance of the race.

Ahead of the race, Buys was uncertain of his form in terms of speed and acceleration after racing the eight-day Cape Epic endurance race, where he claimed top honours in the African Jersey category with his teammate Matthys Beukes. But his burst of speed on lap four showed his condition.

"The race was a wake-up call for me, it's been two-and-a-half weeks after 'Epic and from the way we raced there I thought I'd be slow today," said Buys. "The first three laps, I wanted to see what my legs felt like and on lap 4, I decided to go a bit faster to see what happens. It was very uncomfortable but we will be racing world cups from next month and I need to be super fast for that.

"I had some better lines coming through the rock garden and thought that I would capitalise on that. I made quite an effort in one lap and created quite a comfortable lead and from then on just kept a steady pace. Brendon is fast and it wasn't easy, but with perfect coaching and recovery support from Jeroen (Swart) we've ensured that I was ready for this race," said Buys.

"Phil's riding strong," said Davids. "I tried to hit it hard from the start because I knew he would be feeling tired from the 'Epic and might take some time to warm up. I tried to get a gap on Phil a couple of times but the course really suits him with a lot of short steep climbs. From the fourth lap, Phil gave an extra surge, and I just couldn't match it. From there the gap pretty much remained the same and I tried to pull it back on the last lap but I got a little squirly on the rock garden, but that's part of racing."

The youth category presented an exciting race between two riders, Matthew Lombardi (Giant-Mavic) and Julian Jessop (Team Jeep) who seemed inseparable as the race progressed. Lombardi, who is one month away from 16, has focussed on cross country racing this season. He began racing when he was 8-years-old, and loved it from the first race.

"The start was hard. Marco (Joubert) put in a very fast start, we didn't know how long the pace would last, but eventually he tapped off and Julian and I just were neck and neck, just fighting backwards and forwards and no-one seemed stronger than the other. I knew from lap 3 already that I wouldn't beat this guy anywhere else but in a sprint finish."

In the junior race, 17-year-old Alan Hatherly (BMC-SA) maintained a strong pace to take the win comfortably, despite recovering from a recent bout of bilharzia. "I put in some good interval training leading up to his race. It rained during the week so I was really glad that the course was dry today. Today's conditions were perfect conditions and it was a good day for me."


Elite and U23 men
#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Philip Buys1:27:25 
2Brendon Davids0:00:40 
3Travis Walker0:04:32 
4Arno du Toit0:05:41 
5Gert Heyns0:07:21 
Elite women
#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Samantha Sanders1:18:39 
2Amy Mcdougall0:03:18 
3Cherie Vale0:06:40 
U23 women
#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Mariske Strauss1:15:46 
2Vera Adrian0:04:59 
3Hayley Smith0:10:29 
Junior men
#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Alan Hatherly1:05:57 
2Carlo Marsoppi0:03:28 
3Nicholas Popich0:03:58 
Junior women
#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Bianca Haw1:04:18 
2Catherine Colyn0:09:48 
3Marne Botha0:10:32 
Youth men
#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Matthew Lombardi1:08:02 
2Julian Jessop0:00:02 
3Marco Joubert0:02:40 

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