Stander and Speedy dominate South African cross country opener

Round 1 kicks off in Durbanville

Beijing Olympians Burry Stander and Yolande Speedy showed that four years later they're still South Africa's top mountain bike racers in the Olympic cross country discipline, winning the elite men and women's races, respectively, at the opening round of the 2012 South African National Cup Series in Durbanville, near Cape Town on Saturday.

Stander (Specialized USN) hasn't been beaten in a domestic cross country race in South Africa since 2003 and he ensured he maintained that dominance by finishing more than one-and-a-half-minutes ahead of runner-up Phillip Buys (Contego). Speedy (Epic Sports USN) hasn't raced cross country for more nine months, but showed she's still the country's finest female lap racer, finishing well clear of her rivals.

Marathon and stage racing are extremely popular in South Africa, but with 167 days until the start of the 2012 London Games and four weeks until the opening round of the International Cycling Union's (UCI) World Cup Series in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, cross country racing is enjoying more attention that normal as riders eagerly vie for national series points and racing sharpness.

At this stage, only Stander is expected to be on the start line in London, but an armful of UCI points from South African men between now and May 23 could see a second men's cross country Games slot secured, while the women have an outside chance of securing one start spot in London. A series of three new international point-scoring cross country races over the next few weeks in South Africa will help their cause.

"This was one of the better nationals I've ever been to," said Stander. "The course was very good, offering a good balance of rocks and sand and ascents and descents. It was also extremely spectator friendly and the crowd that came to watch was great."

Stander and Buys quickly moved to the front on the opening lap of the 4.6km circuit and then traded the lead until lap 4, when Stander powered clear on his own, smoothly clearing every obstacle on the rugged course and showing the quality that took him to the under 23 world title in 2009.

"Phil (Buys) has definitely upped his level this year and he tends to start very strong so I was happy to bide my time until the latter part of the race and try and gain an advantage there," said Stander. "It was one of my most comfortable races ever. I honestly can't say that I made a single mistake, which, on a course that varied and challenging, is rare. And one of my fastest laps was the last lap so it shows my conditioning is very good."

Stander, who started 2012 ranked No. 6 in the world, put his sharp form down to the fact that he's "revisited everything" to be his best in a year that he's made an Olympic medal a priority. He was the only rider to break 12 minutes for a lap on three occasions, one being his seventh and final lap.

"I've honed my nutrition, both on and off the bike, I've hired a coach, Dr Jeroen Swart, who has prescribed me more intensity sessions than what I did when I was self-coached. And because I have to answer to someone, I do them all properly! And I've relooked at my bicycle's components, opting for more robust tyres and parts over super-light ones. I've essentially spent more time and effort on improving my body's performance than my bike's performance," said the multiple-time South African and African champion.

There was a big group of riders doing battle for third place around two minutes behind Buys and Stander. Namibia's Marc Bassingthwaighte eventually claimed third ahead of Matthys Beukes and Rourke Croeser (Orange Monkey Cannondale), who was the first under 23 home.

In the women's race, Speedy took the lead after the first kilometre and never relinquished it. Sara Muhl claimed the runner-up spot, just over five minutes back, and Samantha Sanders was third.

"It's the first cross country race I've done in ages and it went very well. It was my first cross country race on a 29-inch wheel bike and I really have to say it was amazing! It rolled over the rough terrain a lot better than a 26-inch bike would have and I really felt strong on the climbs too," said Speedy, who spent a large part of 2011 recovering from surgery to ease the constriction of an iliac artery.

"Unfortunately there's still not a lot of depth in elite women's cross country racing, but it's good to see the under 23 and junior ranks looking more solid this year. I'll be focussing mostly on cross country racing for the first half of the year and am looking forward to the international races coming up in KwaZulu-Natal over the next few weeks," said Speedy, who was the only woman able to break 16 minutes for a lap (four of her five laps were under 16 minutes).

Full Results

Elite Men
# Rider Name (Country) Team Result
1 Burry Stander 1:24:19  
2 Philip Buys 0:01:43  
3 Marc Bassingthwaighte 0:05:38  
4 Matthys Beukes 0:05:54  
5 Renay Groustra 0:07:16  
6 Louis-Bresler Knipe 0:11:17  
7 Oliver Munnik 0:11:48  
8 Andrew Warr 0:12:27  
-1lap Chris Wolhuter    
-1lap Stuart Marais    
Elite Women
# Rider Name (Country) Team Result
1 Yolande Speedy 1:18:40  
2 Sara Muhl 0:05:38  
3 Samantha Sanders 0:08:26  
4 Nedene Cahill 0:11:08  
5 Julia Colvin 0:15:09  
Under 23 Men
# Rider Name (Country) Team Result
1 Rourke Croeser 1:30:46  
2 James Reid 0:01:44  
3 Brendon Davids 0:02:26  
4 Lourens Luus 0:04:24  
5 Travis Walker 0:06:36  
-1lap Adriaan Louw    
-1lap Gert Heyns    
-1lap Jurgens Uys    
-1lap Arno Du Toit    
-1lap Jason Meaton    
-1lap Shaun-Craig Silver    
-1lap Aaron Adler    
-2laps Bastian Labuschagne    
-2laps Bonani Xatasi    
Under 23 Women
# Rider Name (Country) Team Result
1 Candice Neethling 1:05:45  
2 Ashleigh Parker-Moffatt 0:05:05  
3 Angela Egeland 0:12:26  
Junior Men
# Rider Name (Country) Team Result
1 Dylan Hattingh 1:07:33  
2 Kyle Dorkin 0:01:45  
3 Patrick Belton 0:04:36  
4 Richardt Ferreira 0:05:41  
5 Paul Rodenbach 0:08:24  
6 Frans Grotepass 0:08:50  
7 Edward Best 0:09:20  
8 Matthew Schofield 0:09:29  
9 Jaco Pelser 0:10:34  
10 Jannes Buijs 0:11:55  
11 Ruan Erasmus 0:12:55  
12 Raymond Wagener 0:13:12  
13 Martin Rodenbach 0:13:22  
14 Tim Wilkens 0:14:50  
15 Albert Anderson 0:17:09  
16 Max Sullivan 0:17:59  
17 Christan Kirsten 0:19:18  
18 Werner Van Heerden 0:20:24  
19 Ross Van Der Merwe 0:28:32  
-1lap Declan Sidey    
-1lap Brandon Willcocks    
-1lap Dean Morgan    
-1lap Marthinus Brink    
-1lap Robin Rathbone    
Junior Women
# Rider Name (Country) Team Result
1 Savannah Vosloo 0:51:51  
2 Hayley Smith 0:00:20  
3 Nicole Erasmus 0:01:07  
4 Linda Van Wyk 0:02:55  
5 Marie-Christin Kempf 0:10:44  
6 Tayla Odendaal 0:14:42  
7 Mikayla Oliver 0:15:10  
8 Nicole Van Der Merwe 0:16:04  

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