By Staff Writer: Jess Meniere
Beneath the undulating backbone of the Simonsberg mountain range, MTB racers lined up on Plaisir Wine Estate for the first King Price Trailseeker event of 2022.
This mountain bike experience, which saw racers peddle, push and pull themselves through the Banhoek Nature Conservatory, had something to offer for every participant. The various race distances – 10km, 20km, 30km and 65km – in all age categories with e-bike options; broaden the riding field, and welcome professional athletes, adventure cruisers, novices, veterans, school riders, masters and weekend mountain bikers.
Joining the women’s elites and challenging some of South Africa’s strongest MTB riders, was Tokyo-Olympic-Champion and 3x World Cup Champion, Jolanda Neff.
While this was Neff’s first-time riding these particular trails, she secured her first-place title early on in the race and finished incredibly strong. Having just completed an intensive training camp with her Swish team in South Africa, Neff had not planned to race the Trailseeker marathon, however her last-minute decision to race saw her position 20th overall, with a 10-minute-plus advance on the second female.
Although Neff “could feel the week she spent training on her legs,” and the dry-heat and still-air added to the mix of navigating technical conditions; her highlights included “passing her dad in the race after approximately 1-hour and 6-minutes,” the winding single-tracks, sweeping vistas, and more importantly, the strong community-element. Neff emphasised Trailseeker’ success in creating an all-inclusive event; as she noted many families, like herself and her father, were able to share today’s trails. Neff congratulated all those who raced; specifically paying tribute to the young, junior riders, who conquered similarly challenging segments, and at times, the same technical trails as Neff had.
Clipping in their cleats at this morning’s start-line, and joining Jolanda Neff in the competitive league at Banhoek Trailseeker 2022, was Tokyo Olympian, Filippo Colombo and Elite XCO World Cup Winner, Simon Andreassen. Colombo fought for his victory, crossing the finish line seconds before second-place SA rider, Marco Joubert, and third-place titleholder, another home-rider, Arno Du Toit.
In the women’s marathon league, our-local legends, Amy McDougall claimed 2nd-place and Kim Le Court, “super happily took 3rd,” sharing “it was something special to share the start-line with an Olympian.”
The awards ceremony was carried out under the early afternoon sun, among the throng of food booths and coffee stands to a mixed crowd of supporters and racers. Riders lounged across the estate’s picnic-grass area, proudly wearing their dusty riding gear, muddied socks and a look of victory. Names of competitors echoed through the speakers and were met with cheers and claps. Champagne bottles were popped and medals – bronze, silver and gold – dangled from veterans to juniors necks.
The first King Price Trailseeker event of 2022 set the standard for the rest of this year’s sporting calendar. Trailseeker not only welcomes highly-renowned intentional athletes but simultaneously recognises our local talent. This event is pioneering and paving the route for a future generation of MTB athletes with its inclusion of young riders.
Faces look forward to hosting and cheering you on at Trailseeker’s second event in Sondela, on April 9th 2022.