Spur Sizzling Skillz: Episode 4

Climbing

Ariane Kleinhans is known for her climbing powers, and while her incredible fitness gets her to the top quickly, it’s her strong technique that provides the greatest advantage. Let the Swiss Marathon Champion show you how to speed up hills!

 

Schools retain top spots on Spur MTB log

Parel Vallei High School showed their steel at the first race in the Spur Schools Mountain Bike League Western Cape leg logging 479 points to retain the top spot on the mixed team log in which close on 50 schools competed.
Their women’s team also finished first with 160 points, while the Parel Vallei men’s team had to bow the knee with 319 points to defending champions Paul Roos Gimnasium, who is in a comfortable lead on the men’s log with an impressive 460 points and overall second.
DF Malan finished third overall with 266 points, second in the women’s category with 137 points and third in the men’s category with 129 points.
A close third spot on the mixed team log went to Montana with 208 points, while the women’s and men’s team finished respectively third and fourth with 82 and 126 points respectively.
The Western Cape also has a healthy Primary Schools participation with Kenridge logging 412 points to retain the top spot with a strong home schooler contingent snapping the second position with 208 points, followed by Totius in third with 189 points and Eikestad Primary in fourth with 160 points.
League director, Meurant Botha of Amarider said that the league has been growing at a steady pace with a marked improvement in rider skills as well as a large number of first time participants, which according to him shows that the league is achieving its goals of more kids on bikes as well as competitive participation.
“In addition we had three development teams competing from Jonkershoek in Stellenbosch, Elsiesriver and Kayamandi for which the league provides free entries and transport funding assistance. While the key focus of the development programmes is getting more kids on bikes and to drive a better lifestyle and attitude of the local community children through sport, clubs like Songo have riders that are progressing and competing on a higher level as well as still introducing children to riding,” states Botha.
Western Cape riders still have three events in which to generate points to secure a spot in the Spur Schools League National Finals in Magaliesburg in October. The top three mixed teams as well as the top men’s and women’s team and the respective individual categories winners will be invited.
The first sub-junior boys race was won by Samuel Swart of Montana High School followed by team mate WG Van Der Walt in second and Joshua Burger of Parel Vallei in third. Stefke Tolmay of DF Malan High School took line honours in the girls race with Nienke Moster of HTS Drostdy second and Julia Marx of Springfield Covent in third.
Jamie Penfold of Paul Roos Gimnasium rode and exceptional race to finish first in the youth men category followed by Ryan Peter Kellerman of Parel Vallei second and George Ducharme also of Paul Roos in third.
Carla Hollander is in top form and clinched first in the youth women with Michaela Beaton of Rhenish Girls High School second and Emma Bekker of Bloemhof Hoër Meisieskool in third.
The youth men B race was won by Mulder Oosthuizen of DF Malan with Ilan Meintjies of Paul Roos Gimnasium second and Johan Kruger of Durbanville High School in third.
Newcomer to the league, Mia de Villiers of Paarl Girls High had a comfortable win in the youth women with Carla Steyn of Parel Vallei showing good form in second and Nadia van Niekerk of Bridge House securing the third podium position.
The juniors wrapped up the day with Jana Barry of Parel Vallei finishing first in the girls race with Courtney Webb of Westerford High School second and Jessi Nixon of Fishhoek High School third.
In the showstopper race of the day, the junior men had the spectators glued to the track as Matthew Keyser and team mate Joshua De Freitas of Parel Vallei High School really pushed hard for the win, but it was Matthew who game through strongest in the end. Robert Hobson of Paul Roos Gimnasium was third.
Online entries for the second Western Cape Spur Schools MTB Race to be hosted on Saturday, 23 July at Bloemendal Wine Estate just outside Durbanville are now open so be sure to visit the website www.spurmtbleague.co.za for details.
For more information on the league, visit www.spurmtbleague.co.za, or contact Amarider’s Michelle du Preez at 021 8844547 or michelle@amarider.co.za
Follow us on face book at SpurSchoolsLeague, twitter #spurMTBleague and @spurMTBleague.

On top of the World… almost

UCI Marathon World Championships, 26 June
Laissac, France

Ariane: 4th place

Fresh from her Swiss Marathon Championships victory, Team Spur’s Ariane Kleinhans was eager to pitch herself against the best in the world on a demanding and technical 70km course at the UCI World Marathon Championships in Laissac, France.

A build-up week of rain and overcast weather had left large sections of the course wet, particularly those deep in the dense natural forest. While it made for near-perfect traction in some of the singletrack, it meant riders were splattered in mud almost as soon as they hit the dirt roads outside the start village.

Race day itself was sunny and humid, and contributed to the red-hot racing from the gun. Ariane’s winning Absa Cape Epic partner, the Danish powerhouse Annika Langvad, showed her colours early on, attacking in the first kilometres and pulling clear of the field.

Unfortunately, Annika would go on to take a wrong turn while in the lead and then suffered a flat tyre and a mechanical issue, all before the second water point, effectively ruling her out of contention for the podium. She continued riding despite her hardships and finished a respectable ninth.

For Ariane it was another solid day of powerful pacing, which kept her in sight of the top five. Up front, her young Swiss countrywoman Jolanda Neff was piling on the pressure, unaware she was in the lead. Neff hadn’t seen Annika’s wrong turn and believed her father, who was supporting her on course, was giving her time gaps to the lead. In fact, he was calling the time back to second-placed Sally Bigham from Great Britain! Neff only realised she had won after crossing the line.

As the race progressed on Ariane consolidated her fifth position and started working away at the time gap to fourth. Just before the final waterpoint Ariane made the move past Frenchwoman Helene Marcouyre and trailed third-placed Frenchie Sabrina Enaux by just over two-and-a-half minutes. The final 10km descent saw Ariane pull back another minute, but it wasn’t enough and she came home in fourth, only 90-odd seconds behind Enaux.

“On the positive side I paced myself really really well,” a disappointed Ariane said. “I had something left for the last climb, I still had a good feeling from Swiss champs on how to pace myself and it definitely paid off. It was quite a battle for that fourth place actually!”

“It’s too bad that Annika couldn’t show what she was made of: she booked out really early and she could’ve taken that win pretty easily. She is super strong. She’d already said goodbye to all of us in the first kilometres… but she’s going to show next weekend who’s the world champ in the cross-country.”

 

Spur Sizzling Skillz: Episode 3

Starting Fast!

South African Cross-country Mountain Bike Champion James Reid has spent years honing his mass-starting technique. Here he shows you how to make sure you’re the first rider into that first singletrack section!

Ariane rides away with Swiss Marathon Champs jersey

A rare moment of indecision darted across Ariane Kleinhans’s face at the start line of the Raid Evolènard, Swiss Marathon Championships in Evolène on Sunday, 19 June. She was puzzling at the grey skies all around her. Should she race with a wind vest or not?

Freezing overnight showers had abated for the 10am start, but a glance at the dark clouds shrouding the towering snow-capped peaks above her had her second guessing her race apparel layers. A flimsy wind vest might be the difference between victory and defeat in the Alps.

Ariane was going all in for her national championship jersey. With true Swiss precision, she had studied the course and broken the race profile down to five feedzones. Using power data from last year’s race, where she finished second to seven-time Swiss XCM Champion, Esther Süss, she had meticulously measured her race nutrition to within grams and millimeters – she wouldn’t be taking any extra weight on the climber’s course. She had practiced her sprinting line into the finishing straight, should the race be reduced to an all-out brawl over the final flat kilometres. She was racing her superlight Specialized S-Works Fate hardtail. She had opted for S-Works Fast Traks, the lightest tyres in Specialized’s range. Ariane even decided to race without a spare tube…

As the announcer counted 30 seconds to start, Ariane’s eyes sharpened. She stripped her wind vest from her body and threw it over to her support crew. If you want it badly, you’ve got to risk it. All in!

The starter’s gun pierced the crisp air and all hell broke loose. 120 riders jostled for position in the mass start down Evolène’s narrow main street. 62km and over 2600m of vertical ascent lay ahead. When racing for a jersey in Switzerland you better come ready to climb…

The route featured a lung-busting jeep track and then singletrack climb from the start, up the western walls of the valley. Within the first 9km, riders ascended 600m. Ariane had the experience of last year’s second place playing through her mind in the early racing. “I went way too hard in the beginning and really paid for it last year,” Ariane said. “This year I really wanted to make sure I was pacing myself right so I discussed it with my coach Andrew Smith and we figured out good power numbers for me to start out with.”

“Esther went quite hard in the beginning and I didn’t have a problem staying with her. Nadia Walker also stayed with us. I realised Esther was slowing down a bit and I started pacing. Nadia came to the front and entered the singletrack first and went into the first climb ahead. So I pushed past them to get into the next singletrack.”

Ariane’s early attack paid off – at the first feedzone at 15km she had opened up a two-minute gap on Nadia Walker, with Esther Süss following closely in third. Another precipitous climb awaited, before a high-speed descent brought the riders to the finish village of Les Haudères at the 35km mark.

As the race passed through Les Haudères the gap had grown to three minutes. Although Ariane couldn’t see her competitors, the race was far from over. The weather was closing in on the eastern mountainside and Ariane had taken so few spares, and such light clothing, she couldn’t afford to put a foot (or tyre!) wrong.

And now the proper climbing started! “I was surprised [at the time gap], I thought maybe Esther had a mechanical. I was riding in a comfortable zone and pacing myself really well according to the numbers that I got from my coach,” she said of the start of the race’s major climb at 35km. The 18km ascent would take riders high above the valley floor and into the snowline in two parts. A short, slippery, technical singletrack descent punctuated the 1,100m slogfest.

Ariane kept applying the pressure, pacing to perfection and opening up a six-minute gap by the time she hit the final climb in freezing rain and cloud. A nervous descent to the valley floor in Les Haudères followed. Ariane knew the race was hers to lose. “My only concern [at that stage] was the equipment. Not that I don’t trust my equipment, but I didn’t take any spares with me, except for one Co2 bomb. When I heard the gap was at six or seven minutes I looked at every rock I rode over very carefully,” Ariane said, laughing. “I didn’t take any risks in that last downhill!”

Ariane’s equipment and skills kept her upright and she powered home, with an eight-minute win over second-placed Nadia Walker and Esther Süss in third, a further five minutes back.

“It was really special to celebrate the win with Nic [Lamond, Team Spur Manager]. It’s definitely a very special moment for me – to grab that jersey is huge! I’m just really really happy to be the Swiss Champ,” an elated Ariane said.

“I want to say thank you to Team Spur for the opportunity; to my sponsors for making this all happen: Spur, Specialized and everyone else involved; and to all the people supporting me out there. The organisers of the race did a really good job. It was a very cool day and we even got a TV team there and got to organise some time with the kids. They are so cute! All the little kids came to the prizegiving and we had an autograph session. It was just heartbreaking how they come there, smile and look up to you. That’s what we there for – to help kids live their passion and motivate them.”

Elsa Bike Trophy 2016

Elsa bike Trophy, 12 June
Estavayer-le-Lac, Switzerland

Ariane: 2nd place

With 32 Elite ladies drawn to the 2016 edition of the Elsa bike trophy, in Estavayer-la-Lac, Switzerland, an exciting race was in store in one of the last opportunities for the contenders to flex their muscle ahead of the XCM World Champs in two weeks.

Team Spur rider, Ariane Kleinhans would used the Elsa Bike Trophy to settle into her marathon rhythm against the best after two UCI XCO World Cups in Albstadt, Germany and La Bresse, France, respectively. Light showers had soaked the forest floors of Estavayer-la-Lac and Ariane’s technical skills experience from the two muddy XCO World Cups would come in handy.

“It was a very muddy race, it rained quite heavily before the race and the technical sections are all in the forest so that just doesn’t dry here,” Ariane said. “The race is quite fast here generally and we averaged around 20km/h. There were a lot of tar and gravel sections and a few single tracks through the forest. The World Cups helped me gain some essential technical skills.”

Swiss Marathon Champion Esther Süss and Ariane were together for the first 17km, before Ariane lost focus briefly, and Esther edged away. Ariane went into full timetrial mode to try bring Esther back but the gap was too much. Ariane is happy with her form and her second to a woman of Süss’s experience but hopes to get one over her countrywoman in a week.

Ariane’s next race will be at Swiss Marathon (XCM) Champs in Evolène, Switzerland on 19 June and then onto UCI Marathon World Champs in Laissac, France on 26 June.

 

 

Spur Sizzling Skillz: Episode 2

Hopping Pavements

Mountain biking is about dealing with whatever the trail throws at you. Successfully getting you and your bike up and over rocks, steps and bumps is an important skill to master. Watch Ariane Kleinhans from Team Spur show you the simple approach to getting over an obstacle, so you can practice on a pavement at home.

Spur Sizzling Skillz: Episode 1

Pre-race Bike Check

Watch Team Spur mechanic JP Jacobs, take you through an essential pre-race bike check. Make sure your machine is safe and ready to rip up the trails at your next Spur Schools Mountain Bike League event!

Spur Sizzling Skillz: Introduction

Meet Team Spur

Spur Schools Mountain Bike League Ambassadors Ariane Kleinhans and James Reid will be at the League’s National Final in October. If you want to see them there you’ll need to brush up on your technical skills! Check out the series of basic tips and skills Ariane and James have created to help you go faster and have more fun. Now get riding…

Ariane and James gear up for World Champs battles

It has been a month of hard lessons and hard-fought victories spanning both hemispheres for mountain bike stars, Ariane Kleinhans and James Reid of Team Spur.

The final local Olympic selection races had our South African XCO Champion, James battling rivals at cruel altitudes and in a variety of harsh conditions throughout April and May.

James bounced back quickly after the disappointment of failing to defend his African Continental Champion’s jersey in Lesotho in early April, where the altitude (over 3,000m) had got the better of him.

Training sensations were very positive and a solid build up to the Pietermaritzburg MTB Festival at the end of April in his hometown had him excited at the opportunity to assert himself on fellow Olympic contenders. But fierce weather scuppered that chance in under 20 minutes, as debilitating mud caused a mechanical failure and James recorded a humbling DNF without even completing Lap 1 of the UCI Hors Catégorie race! It was a bitter disappointment for James and the team as well as his many fans. Cycling South Africa had moved mountains to host the race at the old UCI World Cup venue and James barely fired up the engine.

Despite leading the Stihl SA XCO Cup Series by a healthy margin and having contributed the bulk of the UCI points that had allowed South Africa to qualify two Olympic mountain bike places, James now found himself locked in a tight battle for one of those coveted two spots in Rio.

Meanwhile, after some downtime immediately after her historic third Absa Cape Epic victory, Ariane was scoping out the UCI Marathon World Champs course in Laissac, France, and getting her mind and body ready for the big day in late June.

Her first chance to fly the Team Spur banner in Europe came at the Rothaus-Hegau Bike Marathon on 8 May. A decorated field had pitched up in the German town of Singen and Ariane was among the lead pack inside the first 10km when Great Britain’s Sally Bigham launched an attack. Bigham was familiar with the course from previous years, and timed the surge to perfection. Ariane and fellow Swiss powerhouse Esther Süss found themselves in a singletrack bottleneck, caught behind slower riders. The Swiss pair teamed up and quickly started working their way through the slower pack together. Unfortunately, Ariane flatted and then encountered a technical issue with her tube’s valve. This put her way back in the field. But she was determined to claw her way back to the pointy end, and called on all her racing experience to secure a resilient fifth place. Bigham took the honours, with Süss in second.

Back in South Africa James’s chance to race in the Olympics in August would now hinge on Round 4 of the Cup Series, held at Settlers Nature Reserve in the heart of Port Elizabeth on 14 May. The country’s top riders heaped praise on the technical nature of the world-class course – many saying it was one of the few truly international-level XCO loops in the country.

James knew he wouldn’t be given an inch by his rivals so decided to dictate the pace from the gun. In the first five minutes James piled on the pressure, with only Alan Hatherly able to respond. The talented U23 rider was tough to shake but James turned the screws when Hatherly faltered through a technical section and the elastic snapped. James steadily built his lead to well over a minute, until a crash into a backmarker on the final lap reduced the gap to Hatherly, who came in second, 55 seconds adrift.

“After Alan’s technical error I opened the taps as wide as they could go and pushed the gap,” James admitted. “Hats off to Alan, it was a pressurised race, everyone knew the stakes and I am super happy to come away with a win”

It was a good confidence booster on a number of levels. James’s Specialized S-Works Epic was flying, sure-footed through the technical obstacles and climbing like a rocket. James felt physically powerful, able to push a race-winning pace throughout. Technically, James was the only Elite Men’s rider on the podium to clear the entire race course, which included a steep and highly technical descent, without dismounting.

James’s Olympic ambitions were now in the hands of Cycling South Africa selectors, but he received the exciting news that he had been selected to represent the country at the UCI XCO World Champs in the Czech Republic in July, which immediately became the next point of focus.

Two days after the PE race James took to the skies, he was jetting off to Europe for his first round of the 2016 UCI XCO World Cup series. He was accompanied by Team Spur mechanic JP Jacobs, and the pair were met in Zurich by Ariane. The three headed off to Albstadt to the Squirtlube athlete house to prepare for their first UCI XCO Cup of the 2016 season.

Albstadt was a rude welcome to the high-intensity demands of World Cup racing. Ariane lapped consistently to a solid 53rd but found passing on the tight track extremely tough. James had a string of mechanical issues after being rear-ended by another rider that erased his powerful start. He ended up being lapped while in 88th position.

Then it was onto the most recent round of the UCI XCO World Cup in the pristine French town of La Bresse on Sunday, 29 May. Both Ariane and James had a point to prove after tough racing in Albstadt. With showers predicted for race weekend, and an incredibly challenging course, the team moved into town early in the week and set about familiarising themselves with the 4.3km test of lung capacity, climbing power and handling skills. JP had his work cut out for him, keeping the bikes rolling smoothly despite the muddy build-up from each practice lap.

Although race day dawned with pleasant, if overcast, conditions, overnight rain made for some very sketchy sections. Many of the world’s top pro riders came unstuck on the rocky and slippery descents, and knee-deep ruts were quickly carved into the fastest racing lines. This had a capacity French crowd chanting at riders all day. The atmosphere was charged with frenetic energy – from the racers as much as the vociferous fans on the sidelines.

Ariane started at 11.20am in 52nd position on the grid. She had opted for her lightweight S-Works Fate hardtail, and was hot out the start gate as a result. She was in a decent position for the first technical climb as the race strung out. Up front it was her countrywoman Jolanda Neff who, despite crashing heavily and flatting on the final lap, put on a masterclass of technical riding to claim first place. Ariane decided to play it considerably safer on the slick course with two critical marathon title races looming on the horizon.

“It rained during the night on Saturday. Certain sections were very slick,” Ariane said. “I struggled a bit with it and decided to ride cautiously. I had a really good start but just wasn’t good enough in the technical stuff and got pulled back by other riders. It wasn’t my best result. But I’m learning and figuring this thing out and I’ll get better – we just have to try again.”

Ariane had high expectations for her two World Cup ventures and was disappointed with the outcome. Yet the learning from the high-intensity bar-to-bar racing will stand her in good stead for her Swiss and World XCM Championships next month.

James had a mental mountain to climb after his underwhelming 88th finish in Germany. Although he could take some solace from the fact that it was mechanical bad luck that had pushed him way down the results list, he knew the French race would be brutal as a scrum of highly motivated European athletes were gunning for Olympic selection. A long Olympic qualification period for James in South Africa prior to Europe was starting to take its toll, and he would be asking increasingly tired legs to perform one last time before a scheduled break…

Starting in 41st position James dropped the hammer with a seething mass of 133 riders. The pace through the sleepy town of La Bresse was electrifying as the peloton hit the first bottleneck climb. As with Albstadt, James had a strong start and jumped from 41st on the grid to 34th in the first lap despite being held up in the manic traffic. The plan was to control his effort though the intensity of the first lap, keeping it steady rather that burning all his matches early on. James kept to the plan for the most part, passing riders who let the buzz of La Bresse get the better of them.

“I just had to start conservatively up the climb so as to not burn my cards early on,” James said. “I ended up coming through the start lap in 32nd but was still running a little hot. I lost a few places on the second lap where the cards settled themselves and then just plugged away at it consistently .”

It was a consistent performance, and James is happy, if not ecstatic, with his 40th place. Importantly, it was a technical and mechanical trial that James and his S-Works Epic passed with flying colours. No crashes and no flats!

The first tests of Team Spur’s European tour are over and Ariane and James have acquitted themselves well. Plenty to learn from as the pieces of the high-performance puzzle come together neatly.

Ariane now switches to marathon-mode for a fun jaunt with James at the famous Elsabike Trophy on 12 June in Estavayer-le-Lac in Switzerland, followed by the Swiss XCM Champs on 19 June in Evolène and a (short) week thereafter the UCI XCM World Champs in Laissac, France.

James has plenty of time to get the legs fresh again with his next big performance the UCI XCO World Champs in Nové Město na Moravě in the Czech Republic on 3 July, followed by Round 4 of the UCI XCO World Cup in Lenzerheide, Switzerland.