Bike battle on at Berg & Bush

The racing is on at this year’s Grindrod Bank Berg & Bush Descent, with some of South Africa’s top stars lining up to fly through the veld for three days; all riders can expect dashing descending and sublime singletrack.

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The Descent, the first of the three Berg & Bush events, starts this Friday, 5 October, from the Windmill Farm on top of the escarpment. After some short, sharp climbing, riders will ride along the famous Great Wall My China before descending down Solly’s Folly and into the KwaZulu-Natal bushveld. Day 1 will see riders tackling a 98km-long course, with Days 2 and 3 offering shorter, punchier routes.

 

In the mix for the men’s title will be Matt Beers and Nico Bell (NAD Pro), who will arrive at the Berg & Bush fresh off their victory at the 3 Towers Stage Race, while the ladies race should feature familiar faces Amy Beth McDougall and Samantha Sanders (Dormakaba) leading the charge.

 

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“The field looks quite strong at Berg & Bush, so I expect some messy racing up front,” says Matt Beers, winner of the 2016 event alongside Erik Kleinhans.

 

“With one long day followed by two shorter days, the first day is really key. You need to get a gap there and hold on to it. The trick is to avoid going too hard in the first 50km, because you can easily blow out from there.”

 

For the ladies race, McDougall and Sanders are the clear favourites. “It felt good to ride so well with Sam during 3 Towers,” says McDougall. “I struggled on the first day because of the heat, but on day two and three I was firing again, so I feel like I’m in good shape for the Berg & Bush. It’s really one of my favourite events on the calendar; the vibe is amazing, the food is great, and just being in the Berg & Bush environment with so many cool people is something I always look forward to.”

 

McDougall’s comments are echoed by Beers. “I don’t think there’s any other stage race like it; it feels very luxurious, the setting is incredible and the crew and people involved make you feel very welcome.”

 

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Other strong contenders in the men’s race include Philip Buys and Matthys Beukes (PYGA Eurosteel) with the second PYGA Eurosteel team of Julian Jessop and Phillimon Sebona also in with a shout.

 

One of the more intriguing battles of the weekend will take place outside of the main race, with the Volvo Spionkop Summit shaping up yet again as a thrilling Saturday afternoon spectacle. For the glory, and a healthy R20 000 pay day (for both the male and female winner) for just 1.3km of effort, riders will sprint from the entrance of Spionkop to the summit.

 

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The race within a race is open to anyone, but naturally the winners tend to come from the top five in the field. After reaching the summit first in 2017, in a blistering time of 4 minutes and 38 seconds, winner Matthys Beukes could only blurt out the following comment:

 

“Hard. That’s the only word to describe it. Hard. Hard. Hard.”
For Beers, even though it’s an extra few kilometres of riding, the Spionkop Summit is too tempting to ignore. “All the guys will be racing, so I will definitely have a crack at it. The prize money is good, but the atmosphere from the spectators is also quite special. And sometimes it’s just nice to get back on your bike again instead of sitting around all day.”

 

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