Midmar, Howick, Lidgetton, Karkloof
KwaZulu-Natal’s newest cycling stage race, The Midlands MTB Stage Race, kicked off in Howick on Friday, June 29, with Andrew Hill and Henry Liebenberg overwhelming favourites to claim the inaugural title.
The three-day event on the beautiful trails around Howick and Karkloof has filled a surprising hole in the crowded stage-racing scene. Considering the area is home to some of the oldest races in the country, it is astonishing that The Midlands event is the only multi-day race based in the trail-rich area.
Hill and Liebenberg represent a classic experience and youth combination with the tactical nous and endurance of Hill complementing the technical ability and speed of his young partner. The combination should have the beating of all their challengers in the main event, the three-day full marathon, which sees riders tackle a trio of very different courses.
In the 56km opening stage on Friday riders circled Midmar Dam, while the 59km second day, which takes riders north of Howick into the Lion’s River and Lidgetton areas has more climbing, before the final 49km day in the Karkloof Forests, an area where Liebenberg is expected to show off his technical skills and will in all likelihood take the lead for most of the stage.
The mixed category should provide closer, tighter racing with the always competitive Dreyer duo of Martin and Jeanie (Hattons Cycles 2) the team to beat, but they will face some competition from Hayley Smith and Adam Allan (Bell Equipment).
In the men’s solo three-day race Jordan Wisdom and Neil Crosthwaite are tipped to lead the way with Matthew Myburgh likely to be in contention, while Ballito’s Natalie Bergstrom is the clear favourite to claim the women’s solo honours.
The Midlands MTB Stage Race has been designed to be a “family-orientated” three-day stage race that offers fun but achievable 50 to 56km stages. There is also a two-day half distance option with a few fathers and daughters joining the traditional husband/wife or father/son teams.
For more info: www.themidlandsmtb.co.za