The elite ranks were bolstered by the appearance of rising star Alan Hatherley and Matt Beers. Stalwarts Craig Boyes and Waylon Woolcock made another appearance in the elites showing that it's possible to hold down a job and mix it at the sharp end.
SRAM (through its distributing partner Cape Cycle Systems) has been supporting local events and athletes for many years and in 2018 we decided to throw our weight behind the Western Cape XCO Series. We wanted to do this as we are firm believers in being part of the process of finding and developing current and future talent and giving back to the very riders who support us and the SA cycling community.
We were buoyant to not only see the strength in numbers from riders and spectators, but also the growth on both ends as the series progressed. It was also so rewarding to meet and interact with the riders and spectators at each event and to share in their stories.
Currently, SRAM supports some of the biggest and most recognised riders and events on a global platform and we have no doubt that South Africa can compete on an international level, but to do so need support and investment from the industry role players. For that reason we would like to thank the Western Province MTB Commission, our joint title sponsor Tygerberg Mountain Bike Club and all the other sponsors, parents, race venues and the series' media partner Bike Hub for all their hard work and commitment to an excellent series. Trust we will see you all again in 2019 for what will be another year of great racing and development of current and future talent. Warren Lamb, SRAM SA (Cape Cycle Systems)
Despite loads of new track, gap jumps, and cyclocross-style bunny hop climbs being available to course organisers, they chose a more open, flowy track using only one section of the new XCO trail. Removing the more technical stuff obviously made for more passing opportunities and less work for the medics.
The new section used was not without a few technical challenges. The descent comprised a rocky gap jump and three consecutive log drops that needed a touch of speed to avoid face standing over the bars. The B-lines severely penalised riders that didn't commit to purchasing air-time. Anyone who thinks that the bike makes a difference should have been there to watch Woodstock Cycles owner and Sub Vet podiumist Nils Hansen launch his old school hardtail down this descent. He barely touched the ground, skimming the surface like a Basilisk Lizard running across water. Brilliant to watch and no doubt has led to a spike in hardtail searches on Bike Hub this week.
The wind picked up drastically from midday onwards with all the climbs facing into the brutal headwind. They were long climbs too, a mix of wide open jeep tracks, which are easy to pass on and an energy-sapping technical single track climb. Each lap was just under 4km long and climbed 180 metres, tough work for on-the-limit riding. The smart riders tucked in behind the pace setters and waited until late into the race to make a move that could not be marked by the tiring windbreaker.
We recognise that the XCO Series, and the Spur Schools MTB League, are the foundation of the sport in our country. Although the latter is clearly a ship that has been sailing for many years, with a big corporate sponsor leading the way, the same was not the case for the imminent 2018 provincial XCO series. With a large portion of our club members being children and youth, we felt it was time to give back and invest directly into the sport itself at this level, and ensured that our children can continue to take part, develop, and enjoy the provincial series.
During the season it was especially pleasing to see the growing numbers in the very young age categories, and therefore know the sport of “XCO racing” is getting more and more attractive to the children – no doubt that the international (healthy) scene of XCO racing, and frequent visits by the world’s best racers to our country, are partly the reason for the kids now getting onto their bikes and taking part in this exhilarating format of bicycling. We do however feel there is a lot of potential for the senior categories (vets up to masters) and look forward to working with the WP MTB Commission, in addressing some of the false perceptions among our older riders, that this discipline is beyond them and too dangerous, etc.
All in all, we are happy that our investment made such a big difference this year, and have received nothing but praise from our members for this bold step we took this year. Morné Veer – Tygerberg Mountain Bike Club
Watching Hatherley and Beers destroy the rest of the field showed what sort of level these guys are at. XCO racing requires an intensity that sends riders into the red for an extended period but rewards with close, action-packed racing and entertaining descents. The crowd is always close by too, right next to the track, cheering riders on. It's certainly a spectator-friendly discipline.
The full results are available here.