Nico Bell claimed his first national marathon championship victory while Robyn de Groot made it her fifth at the SA MTB Marathon Championships at the Cascades MTB Park in Pietermaritzburg this weekend.
Bell started against a tough field but as the group diminished he was able to create a gap of almost three minutes on the shortened 80km route.
Disaster struck defending champion Max Knox in the form of a puncture roughly 20km into the race and forced him to withdraw.
The field continued to shrink as Gawie Combrink was the next to withdraw due to an injury he had suffered at the sani2c a week prior.
Philip Buys looked like the third rider to possibly cut short his race but fought through an onset of cramp during the approach to water point three.
He lost a total of two minutes after he stopped to recover and was forced to fight his way back to make up time.
It was on the last 20km loop that his efforts paid off as he climbed two places to finish in second, followed by Gert Heyns.
“It was a hard route today. There was a lot of climbing and at 35km in there was a very steep climb,” said Bell.
“When we hit the concrete section, Philip upped the pace and I was on his wheel.
“As he sat up I went past him and I kept going harder and harder. I tried hard to open it up my gap even more.”
In the women’s category, De Groot made it five out of five national marathon championships as she defeated Amy Beth McDougall and Christie-Leigh Hearder.
De Groot had been nursing a cold throughout the week and considered withdrawing from the race at the first water point but her continued pressure on McDougall paid off.
“I pushed on and put some pressure on Amy and got a nice gap and just maintained that until the end.
“It’s really nice to make it five of five,” she said.