What could be better than racing your mountain bike on a tropical paradise island, sharing time with good friends and eating local cuisine (yip, that’s a French word…) to refuel for the next day’s ardour? That’s exactly what the Southern Tropical Challenge in Mauritius is all about.
This Mauritian 4 day stage race attracts riders from all over the world with grand champions such as Julien Absalon, Thomas Dietsch and Stephane Tempier all toeing the start line at some stage. As well as being a sponsor for the event, Mauritian logistics company Velogic allowed me the opportunity to start this year’s edition alongside my regular partner Yannick Lincoln, who just happens to be the race organizer and founder too.
As you can imagine the cycling community on an island stretching a mere 60km x 90km is pretty small, but boy do they pull together to produce an outcome far greater than the sum of its parts. Yannick has a full time job as a biokineticist and in his spare time he is trying to qualify for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. With his limited time he relies heavily on the brilliant team around him and some committed volunteers to ensure that the event runs smoothly.
The race retained its popular format of a Thursday afternoon prologue followed by 3 longer stages, raced in pairs as is the norm at MTB stage events. Paradoxically, a puncture on the way to the start was actually good to get the adrenalin flowing and would prove to be our only slice of bad luck during the whole race. Another South African/Mauritian coalition of Ian Pienaar (Europcar) and Olivier Le Court beat Yannick and me by 7seconds over the 8,5km prologue course at the Dodo Club to take the first leader’s jersey of the 2014 race. The fact that I took an ignominious tumble in some long grass while attempting to pass a team close to the finish might or might not have had an influence on our narrow defeat…
Despite threatening rain clouds, conditions stayed mostly dry for the next day’s 65 km stage. Overnight rain had turned the Marc Bassingthwaighte signature cross country course at Domain Lagrave into a skating rink, making for some anxious moments on the tree root invested sections of the trail. Afterwards we continued descending away from Curepipe for the first half of the stage which meant a tough latter half as we had to climb back up to the finish venue at the Dodo Club. Most of that vertical gain was made on the Le Vallon climb where Yannick and I managed to separate ourselves from the 3 other leading teams. We extended our advantage on the interminable drag back to the finish with Thomas Dietsch (Team Bulls) and his partner Julien Nayener (Velo Vert) finishing second on the stage.
Day 3 featured the intimidating 10km Camphrier climb which starts out on painfully steep concrete strips, slowly merging into a mere footpath over the 750m of ascent. Loose stones, peaty earth and moss covered rocks are but a few of the challenges which make this climb so daunting. The beautiful approach to the climb through the antelope rich Yemen Reserve was like a death march as everyone knew what was coming. Towards the top of the climb Yannick and I finally broke free of our competition and we raced home steadily to take another stage win. We also extended our lead, but were always riding conservatively to minimise all potential risks.
The race’s luck finally ran out on the last day of the race as a threatening cyclone that made its way past the island brought with it strong winds and copious amounts of precipitation. In reference to the previous night spent in tents Yannick said in his inimitable French accent – “eet was like sleeping in ze chopper!” Enough said.
The mud was thick as we left the tea plantations of our hosts at Bois Cheri and made our way toward the finish line at Point D’Esnay on the coast for the final stage. Yannick and I played it safe, watching as Ian and Olivier battled with Yannick Cornille and Stephane Urbain (team explosive Riders) for stage honours. The Mauritian coalition finally broke free of their Reunion Island competitors, taking the stage win a few seconds ahead of Yannick and me who rode in vigilantly for our 3rd consecutive STC title. In one of his last races as a professional Thomas Dietsch extruded the best from his partner and despite 3 punctures during the race they managed to hang on to 3rd place overall.
1. Yannick Lincoln & Melt Swanepoel
2. Olivier le Court & Ian Pienaar
3. Thomas Dietsch & Julien Nayaner
In the 6 years since its inception the race has really matured, annually improving on the previous rendition to become a premier event. Every year the accommodation, venues and catering improve and the trails on a lava born island are quite unique making for a singular experience. This race has the makings of a spectacular event and with the added benefit of a holiday in idyllic surroundings afterwards, who wouldn’t want to put this event on their bucket list…?
Until next time, happy trails!
What a privilege to be woken in the morning by the sound of the beautiful, Notorious Narina Trojan.
We are in the fortunate position to have a healthy number of breeding pairs @ Induna Adventures.
If you want to be part of the lucky few people to witness the Narina Trojan, and other Lowveld endemic birds, be sure to book a Horse Trail, Mountain biking (red route) or sabaan hiking trail at Induna Adventures
Hi all you Isuzu 3 Towers cowboys!
Christmas is coming a little earlier this year! Isuzu 3 Towers will be on SuperSport next week. The footage looks awesome. Big Shot media has a way of making everyone look like they know, what they are doing! Ok not everyone, but they did their best.
Yes it’s that time off the year, when we take the riding a bit more chilled and focus on having fun on the bike.
I have decided to control my Christmas weight gain, by doing the Tim Noakes diet. Well I am not sure which one to follow, so I am going to combine his old and his new diet. This is called the Tim Jokes diet!!! (Best of both worlds, meat & carbs rock).
Some cool facts to share around table!
- The stage video’s will be up on the 3towers website after it has been aired on the big box!
- Entries open 23rd of Feb 2015 for all the 3 Towers rock stars
- Entries open 2nd of March 2015 for all the guys that want to become rock stars
- Isuzu 3 Towers is freaken awesome CHINA!
- Monday, 03 November, 2014 21:00 SuperSport Eight
- Monday, 03 November, 2014 21:00 SuperSport CSN
- Tuesday, 04 November, 2014 01:30 SuperSport CSN
- Tuesday, 04 November, 2014 01:30 SuperSport Eight
- Tuesday, 04 November, 2014 12:30 SuperSport Select SA
- Wednesday, 05 November, 16:30 SuperSport Eight
- Thursday, 06 November, 2014 18:30 SuperSport Eight
- Friday, 07 November, 2014 01:00 SuperSport Eight
- Friday, 07 November, 2014 13:00 SuperSport Eight
- Sunday, 09 November, 2014 03:30 SuperSport Eight
Make sure you don’t miss the show, be warned immediate riding will be required straight after!
Race dates for next year:
|Day & Date
||MTB Event name
|Sat: 21 March 2015
||Sappi Mankele MTB Challenge
|Sat&Sun: 18&19 April 2015
||Nationals Cross Country & Down Hill
|Sat&Sun: 4&5 July 2015
||Mankele Valencia Avalanche
|Fri,Sat&Sun: 2-4 October 2015
||Isuzu 3 Towers Stage Race & Challenge
From one good thing to another and after last weekend’s fun in the North West Province it was time for the Isuzu 3 Towers held at Mankele Bike Park in Mpumalanga. I am always super motivated for this Lowveld event, as it is like a home race for me.
I was supposed to team up with Gawie Combrinck for the race, but a last minute change of plan meant Gawie would be riding with Johann Rabie as they are building up to the Cape Pioneer Trek. Either way, we were in for a tough race as this year’s event had one of the strongest fields assembled in SA stage racing.
I was resolute to compete at the event as I can’t miss out on my annual slice of singletrack bliss and luckily I found an enthusiastic partner in Willie Smit. Willie is actually a road cyclist on the Pro Continental Vini Fantini team in Italy. Being a professional cyclist Willie is plenty strong, but not used to the specific effort required by mountain biking. Compared to our competition I knew we would also be outgunned in the technical handling department, but I was hoping a combination of ignorance, sheer willpower and luck would make up for any potential shortcomings in our partnership.
As the name suggests the Isuzu 3 Towers is held over 3 days and each day our route would pass by a radio tower. Of course these towers are situated at the highest geographic points necessitating a substantial amount of climbing, i.e. suffering. From each day’s heady heights we descended back down to the Mankele valley floor through technical bush tunnels and natural singletrack.
The recipe was the same for each day – get up at 5am, have breakfast, start racing at 7am, taste blood at 7.05am and continue until reaching Mankele where you collapse into a heap until the evening’s delicious dinner and humorous race briefing.
Willie and I held our own finishing the weekend in 6th spot just 15 seconds off the ‘MTB podium’ (MTB racing always recognises top 5, not only top 3). It was a real pleasure riding with Willie as he gave 110% every day and you can’t ask for more from a partner.
The race for the top positions was very exciting with 3 teams dicing it out every day. Philip Buys and Matthys Beukes (Scott Factory Racing) proved to be the most consistent winning the final stage and the whole event along with it. Rourke Croeser and Brendon Davids (Kargo MTB) took the Queen stage on their way to finishing 2nd overall with James Reid and Konny Looser (Trek/Wheeler) winning stage 1 and finishing 3rd overall.
1. Matthys Beukes & Philip Buys (Scott Factory Racing)
2. Rourke Croeser & Brendon Davids (Kargo MTB)
3. James Reid & Konny Looser (Trek/Wheeler)
4. Gawie Combrinck & Johann Rabie (EAI)
5. Guylin van den Berg & Bradley Stroberg (IXU)
6. Melt Swanepoel & Willie Smit (EAI/Vini Fantini)
As always the Isuzu 3 Towers DELIVERED and in my opinion it was one of the best editions to date. The Mankele team have the organization dialled, the trails are awesome, the weather was great and the competition drove everyone to give their best making for record stage winning times.
If the Race edition was too much for you, there was also the possibility to do the Challenge event (50km a day as opposed to the race’s 70km) and even a ‘Light’ edition which had about 25km on tap every day. No matter how you look at it, there was no excuse not to be part of this great event.
Thanks Mankele crew for an awesome ride!
Until next time, happy trails!