Running as a standalone event and not part of the Eselfontein festival, this year’s Ezel returned to the eco-hut campsite with a smaller and more limited group of riders taking on the lunar landscape that we’ve come to know over the last few years. The later than usual 9am start gave the 67 riders some time to thaw after an icy evening in the tents, but temperatures soon hit the low 20’s for a perfect day of biking. Stage 1 stayed the same as last year - with a fairly chilled liaison to warm up the legs, and a fast & flowy downhill segment to ease riders into the swing of things. The new stage 2 required a long climb way past the pipeline, which had to be repeated for the unchanged stage 3. Stages 4 and 5 remained unchanged, challenging man an machine to their absolute limits. For some, it would be an extremely long day out on the bike - only finishing just before 6pm - meaning a 9 hour day of rocks, sweat and (close to) tears...
And for the first time ever, we've had a repeat winner. Taking it on year one, Matt Lombardi managed to tie everything together again three years later. With a total racing time of 26:44.601, he smashed the field by winning 4 of the 5 stages. 2nd place belonged to Luke Moir 1.21 behind Lombardi. Last year's winner Keira Duncan travelled down from KZN to defend his title, but it wasn't to be, as he unfortunately only managed to take 3rd spot, just 14 seconds behind Moir. On the ladies front, Frankie du Toit took the win in her maiden attempt at the EzelEnduro with a total racing time of 33:36.705. 2nd spot belonged to Steffanie Grossmann, followed by Louise Kotze in 3rd.
Still some remaining snow on the peaks around the camp site. It's gonna be a cold one...
Some forms and signatures.
Sunrise to a very chilly morning indeed.
Meal prep for a long day out in the mountains. Got mayo?
Some do everything in their power to avoid the enduro-gap. Dave on the other hand has perfected it. #sosexy
Top op SS1, riders getting ready to drop in.
This is what the camera will do to you. Daniel Dobinson coming in hot and losing it in corner 1 of stage 1.
Last year's winner Keira Duncan on his way to 3rd for the day.
It seems as if ezel kicked things up a notch with longer stages, and a tougher route than ever this year. I was happy to be back at my 4th ezel and I was in the mood for a bit of redemption. I had a nice couple of early stages before charging hard on stage 4 and 5, the longest and most physical stages of the race. I had my bike perfectly set for the terrain and I kept things consistent the whole day and took the overall! I'm glad most of the main suspects were present, including some up-country flavour. Ezel is a special race that tests us all and I'm pumped to have taken the title again! Big thanks to the organisers! This one was a proper one.
Matt Lombardi | King of Ezel 2018
Pro marathon racer Dylan Rebello taking on his first ever enduro event.
It was my first EzelEnduro, and I really enjoyed it. It’s a proper enduro - it really tests you as a rider in terms of skills and your fitness and your stamina. I could really feel it in my arms and shoulders and back - the things that don’t take strain on a normal ride. Racing wise, it was good - I had a mechanical on the first stage and a crash on the second, so I was a bit frustrated. The last three I just tried to keep it clean. The last two were super rocky and absolutely wild - I loved it. The vibe around the event is so rad - the people are very inclusive and welcoming, and nice setting as well. Definitely one of my favourite weekends on a bike.
Frankie du Toit | Queen of Ezel
Julien Louw still all smiles going up liaison 5.
Me and my friend Devin had to drive back to CT the same day. We stopped at Steers and grabbed a burnt burger and we just sat there not speaking to each other. It was like we had just been to war - a feeling of being shell shocked. That last stage was just crazy. I was in a complete state of shock I think(or maybe just a serious sugar low). I was pushing up pretending to myself that there was no ******* way we were gonna ride down there. I kept on trying to push myself to check for lines but again I kept on just looking up the mountain trying to make my legs keep pushing up. At the top I walked another 100 meters or so to just try get into the zone and try at least shake myself back into reality. I kept my air phones in and put on this great drum and bass track. I felt it was appropriate to try get some rhythm going over those rock slabs. I honestly must have gone into some crazy Zen mode because if I think back at what speed I rode that trail on the bike I was on its flipping ridiculous I didn't end up in hospital - one of the best moments was coming down stage 5 and having your friends and fellow riders shouting loudly in support. The portage to stage 4 was just insane - I was walking/climbing and ridding and thinking - what drugs are those people on that they came here trying to find trails to ride bicycles on - even the ******* motorbikes must be getting destroyed. At the start of stage 4 I decided to leave my iPod on again because I thought it’s better to rather listen to music than hear rocks smashing my bike and my tyres tearing apart. Half way down the track I changed to some "system of the down" - I had a chuckle to myself and thought it was so appropriate for that trail. I promise I had the worse case of lock fingers after that stage. I simply couldn't open may hands. It's almost as if somebody had glued my hands to the handlebars. I was honestly so happy to have gotten off that mountain alive - EPIC EPIC adventure.
Nils Hansen | Winner of the hardtail category
Luke Moir going strong during SS5 on his way to an impressive 2nd overall.
Women's podium: 1 Frankie Du Toit, 2 Steffanie Grossmann, 3 Louise Kotze
Men's podium: 1 Matthew Lombardi, 2 Luke Moir, 3 Keira Duncan
Top 3 Men: 1 Matthew Lombardi (Specialized) - 00:26:44.60 2 Luke Moir (Silverback Volvo SRAM) - 28:06.12 3 Keira Duncan (Team PYGA Leatt Dovehouse) - 28:20.10
Top 3 Women: 1 Frances Du Toit (BMT) - 33:36.70 2 Steffanie Grossmann (Mannie's Bike Mecca) - 34:36.393 3 Louise Kotze (Mannies Bike Mecca) - 40:31.00
Big shoutout goes to Andrew Cattell and Simon Duffett from The Brand Stable/ION. To Red Bull and Deon & Janene Malherbe from Eselfontein. All the Race Volunteers and Dave Hartly for the use of his moto. To Dave Mercer for Trophies. All the girlfriends & wives of the organizers and Rob Stark fo the beer.