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Rossouw returns to winning ways at Barberton showdown

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An exhausted winner Jacques Rossouw rolls over the finish

An exhausted winner Jacques Rossouw rolls over the finish
(Image credit: Zoon Cronje)
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Third place Jacques Janse van Rensburg from the MTN Qhubeka team

Third place Jacques Janse van Rensburg from the MTN Qhubeka team
(Image credit: Zoon Cronje)
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Ariane Kleinhans won the women's race

Ariane Kleinhans won the women's race
(Image credit: Zoon Cronje)
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Rwandan Adrien Niyonshuti leads the pack up one of the many climbs

Rwandan Adrien Niyonshuti leads the pack up one of the many climbs
(Image credit: Zoon Cronje)
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Race winner Jacques Rossouw in full flight

Race winner Jacques Rossouw in full flight
(Image credit: Zoon Cronje)
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One of the many mechanical issues that Adrien Niyonshuti experienced on the day

One of the many mechanical issues that Adrien Niyonshuti experienced on the day
(Image credit: Zoon Cronje)
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Adrien Niyonshuti sets the tempo

Adrien Niyonshuti sets the tempo
(Image credit: Zoon Cronje)
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The podium

The podium
(Image credit: Zoon Cronje)
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A tired rider after the race

A tired rider after the race
(Image credit: Zoon Cronje)
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Racers in action in Barberton

Racers in action in Barberton
(Image credit: Zoon Cronje)
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Max Knox utterly exhausted

Max Knox utterly exhausted
(Image credit: Zoon Cronje)
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Max Knox and Jacques Janse Van Rensburg

Max Knox and Jacques Janse Van Rensburg
(Image credit: Zoon Cronje)
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Current South African marathon champ Karien van Jaarsveld

Current South African marathon champ Karien van Jaarsveld
(Image credit: Zoon Cronje)
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Darren Lill makes his way up the final climb of the day

Darren Lill makes his way up the final climb of the day
(Image credit: Zoon Cronje)
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The women's podium with Ariane Kleinhans Luthi on the top step

The women's podium with Ariane Kleinhans Luthi on the top step
(Image credit: Zoon Cronje)
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The Barberton marathon race venue

The Barberton marathon race venue
(Image credit: Zoon Cronje)
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The high mountains surround the small lowveld town

The high mountains surround the small lowveld town
(Image credit: Zoon Cronje)
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It's second place for Kevin Evans in Barberton

It's second place for Kevin Evans in Barberton
(Image credit: Zoon Cronje)
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Daren Lill

Daren Lill
(Image credit: Zoon Cronje)
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Kevin Evans gives chase

Kevin Evans gives chase
(Image credit: Zoon Cronje)
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Jacques Janse van rensburg on his way to third

Jacques Janse van rensburg on his way to third
(Image credit: Zoon Cronje)
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Jacques Janse van rensburg rides through the forests

Jacques Janse van rensburg rides through the forests
(Image credit: Zoon Cronje)
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Gold for glory

Gold for glory
(Image credit: Zoon Cronje)
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Erik Kleinhans from Contego

Erik Kleinhans from Contego
(Image credit: Zoon Cronje)
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Darren Lill, South African road champion, gives chase

Darren Lill, South African road champion, gives chase
(Image credit: Zoon Cronje)
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Kevin Evans grimaces after his gutsy ride to second in Barberton

Kevin Evans grimaces after his gutsy ride to second in Barberton
(Image credit: Zoon Cronje)

Seven years almost to the day after his last major marathon victory, Jacques Rossouw (Fedgroup - ITEC Connect) made a triumphant return when he claimed a dominant victory over a strong field at the MTN South African National Mountain Bike Series marathon in Barberton.

Four-time South African marathon champion, Kevin Evans (Nedbank 360Life) finished second with Jacques Janse van Rensburg (MTN Qhubeka) claiming third place. Defending champion, Max Knox (Decca Ghost) had to be content with fourth and South African road race champion, Darren Lill (Team Bonitas) rounded out the top five in a gruelling five-hour battle

The 120km race, which included over 3000 metres of vertical ascent, was contested by one of the strongest fields ever assembled in a South African national series event. The Barberton event marked the start of the prestigious eight-race series, which, with over 15,000 participants, is the world's largest mountain bike series.

For Rossouw, the venue of his victory was significant. In 2005, he won the Barberton Classic (as it was then known). He was one of the most dominant riders in the country at the time, but it was his last major victory before his retirement from the sport at age 24. His premature retirement was forced by illness, brought on by overtraining and a compromised immune system. But in 2011, after a six-year break, he began a comeback, wiser and hungry for success.

Patience has never been his strong point, but Rossouw displayed plenty of that in Barberton on Saturday. Power on the other hand has certainly been his strong point - his nickname is "Big Blade" - and he showed plenty of that too, but only when necessary.

Rossouw raced the perfect race. He lost teammate Brandon Stewart after 10km due to a damaged rim, but that failed to rattle Rossouw, who sat patiently in the lead pack up the first climb, a 13km, 925m dirt road ascent, only turning an angry pedal at the summit to secure the King of the Mountains prize. He then sat in again down the long descent.

"Adrien (Niyonshuti) and Jacques (Janse van Rensburg) of the MTN team pushed the pace up the first big climb. I just sat on their wheels and waited for the top to get the King of the Mountain sprint. Then I waited until the start of the second climb, where I had decided before the race to make a big move," explained Rossouw.

And it was on this steep 8km climb at 79km that he launched his race-winning move.

"I didn't attack, but just picked up my pace. I saw Kevin (Evans) taking some strain, so I took it up another notch and only Jacques (Janse van Rensburg) and Max (Knox) and Darren (Lill) stayed with me for a while and then they dropped off. I kept a steady pace to the top and was told I had a three-minute lead. I went hard on the descent to try and increase my lead a bit, but then took it a bit easy on the next section with lots of river crossings as I didn't want to do anything silly and risk bike damage," said Rossouw.

The 30-year-old Capetonian then upped his pace again in the final 10km and claimed an emotionally charged victory in a time of 4 hours, 58 minutes and 58 seconds. He slumped over his bike after crossing the finish line, clearly having given his all.

"I wanted to prove to myself and to everyone else that I am serious about this comeback. I trained really hard over the past few months and wouldn't be able to be in this position if it weren't for Brandon Stewart, my teammate and employer and our sponsors. Brandon has been coaching me and has also given me so much advice about race routes and other riders. It's a good way to start our first full year as Team Fedgroup - ITEC Connect."

"We're a very new team and today we went from underdog to top dog in 120km," said Stewart. "Obviously it's good to win the first big race of the season, but to beat such a strong field is very good for our confidence. We prepared very well for this race and it showed in the end."

In the women's race, Ariane Kleinhans (Contego Giant) claimed her first Barberton title, securing victory in a quick 3:14:49, which gave her third place overall in the event. Second place went to rising star, Candice Neethling (Team BMC), with Ischen Stopforth (Team bizhub) completing the first three positions.

Round 2 of the South African Marathon National Series will take place on February 18 in Tulbach, Western Cape.

Full Results

Elite men
#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Jacques Russouw4:58:58
2Kevin Evans0:04:20
3Jacques Janse Van Rensburg0:06:15
4Max Knox0:07:12
5Darren Lill0:09:22
6Nico Bell0:14:09
7Charles Keey0:16:02
8Adrien Niyonshuti0:16:04
9David Morison0:17:45
10Dave George0:18:53
11Erik Kleinhans0:22:50
12Neil Macdonald0:26:33
13Waylon Woolcock0:30:17
14Rourke Croeser0:30:20
15Oliver Munnik0:30:22
16Greig Knox0:33:01
17Shan Wilson0:38:23
18Ruan Du Toit0:38:42
19Andrew Hill0:43:18
20Jock Green0:49:26
21Gawie Combrinck0:52:44
22Pieter Venter1:02:42
23Guylin Van Den Berg1:12:23
24Dwayne Klingbiel1:14:16
25Brett Dickson1:17:24
26Jaco Du Toit1:20:59
27Sven Kleine1:22:21
28David Low1:25:29
29Stuart Spies1:36:12
30Gerard Dirks1:45:00
31Heine Engelbrecht1:46:49
32Russell Lewis2:18:56
33Jp Jung2:18:57
34Werner Ravyse2:37:06
35willem bezuidenhout2:44:13
36Carl Van Maanen2:44:57
37Charles Mansfield2:46:37
DNFDawie Kriel
DNFFranco Ferreira
DNFPaul Alexander Van Zweel
DNFChristopher Jennings
DNFBrandon Stewart
DNFPaul Cordes
DNFAdrian Enthoven
DNFRenay Groustra
DNFTimothy Kock
DNFJacques Rossouw
DNFMatthys Beukes
DNFJozua De Kock
DNFJoao Mendes
DNFSebastian Jahnke
DNFGert Janse Van Rensburg
DNFMalcolm Dods

Elite women
#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Ariane Kleinhans3:14:49
2Candice Neethling0:12:34
3Janine King0:43:02
4Nicci Grobler0:45:57
5Ashleigh Parker-moffatt0:51:10
6Sarah Hill1:55:00
7Eliziah Rouwenhorst2:00:02
8Linky Scholtz2:02:09
9Renthea Boshoff2:02:35
10Gretna Muir2:03:26
11SHARON BELL2:12:44
12Yolandi Le Roux2:19:23
13Elizabeth Delport2:20:50
14Patricia Ackermann3:06:35
DNFAmy Mcdougall
DNFSamantha Sanders

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