Swiss marathon specialists Urs Huber and Ariane Kleinhans shattered the men’s and women’s course records in claiming dominant victories at the 2014 Fairview Attakwas Extreme mountain bike marathon near Oudtshoorn in South Africa’s Western Cape province on Saturday.
Huber, a 28-year-old former Swiss national champion, clocked a time of four hours, 47 minutes and 46 seconds, which was almost nine minutes faster than the previous record set in 2013 by his compatriot, Christoph Sauser. It was Huber’s first attempt at the 121km event, which includes a demanding 2 900 metres of vertical ascent.
Sauser, the current marathon world champion, finished second in four hours, 54 minutes and 33 seconds to also eclipse his previous best time. He was nonetheless still well behind the rampant Huber, who rose to global prominence when he finished as runner-up in the 2013 Absa Cape Epic stage race with German teammate, Karl Platt.
Platt placed third on Saturday, with the Czech Republic’s Frantisek Rabon securing fourth in his first race as a mountain bike pro following a decade-long career as a road cycling pro. Erik Kleinhans was the first SouthAfrican finisher in fifth place.
“I must say I was surprised to win by such a big margin,” Huber said afterwards. “Being the first race of the year, I didn’t know what my condition was like and I’m still in training, so I didn’t peak especially for this race.
“This Attakwas race was a very good all-round test. The first half was very rough and technical. I couldn’t ride up some of the climbs. Not many of us could. The second half was more rolling, but still long and tough,” he added.
Huber took the lead by riding away from the defending champion, Sauser, with 70 kilometres remaining while climbing through the Attakwaskloof Pass, a rugged, scenic 300-year-old ox-wagon pass through the Outeniqua Mountains.
‘I just rode my own pace’
“I didn’t attack Christoph. I just rode my own pace and I noticed he couldn’t stay with me,” Huber explained.
“I thought that with the tough last 60km I should wait for him, but then I realised we were both riding alone, and so were the others behind him all riding alone.
“The wind wasn’t so strong, so I decided to give it a full go from there and it paid off. This is definitely one of the best wins of my career.”
Fourth successive women’s title
Current Swiss marathon champion, Ariane Kleinhans, who lives in South Africa, captured her fourth successive Attakwas Extreme women’s title in five hours, 40 minutes and 38 seconds, slicing almost two minutes off her previous best mark. She placed 22nd overall in the 1 000-plus field.
South African marathon champion, Robyn de Groot outsprinted Ischen Stopforth after almost six hours of racing to claim second place in her first attempt at the event. Stopforth, meanwhile, became the first woman to finish eight editions of the race.
‘It’s never an easy race’
“I’m very pleased to win again. It was a good winning margin, but it’s never an easy race this. I was hoping for a fast time and I pushed it really hard in the final 50km. A lot of the time there I was on my own,” Kleinhans said, reflecting on her performance after finishing.
“Early on it was just Robyn [De Groot] and I in the lead and in a rough section I got away from her because she is not so good in the technical stuff. Then I tore a tyre sidewall and managed to nurse it to the first tech zone where I got another wheel.
“I managed to catch Robyn again before the King of the Mountain at about 55km, and then I just focused on staying smooth and trouble-free to the finish,” Kleinhans concluded.
A number of celebrities took on the challenge too: former Springbok rugby players, Joel Stransky (06:46:33) and Stefan Terblanche (6:46:37), finished in 130th and 133rd respectively, while TV and radio presenter Liezel van der Westhuizen (09:49:18) was 726th and actress, Hlubi Mboya (10:05:10) 758th.
- Urs Huber (Sui, Team Bulls) 04hrs 47min 46sec
- Christoph Sauser (Sui, Specialized Racing) @ 06min 36sec
- Karl Platt – (Ger, Team Bulls) @ 07:19
- Frantisek Rabon (Cze, Specialized Racing) @ 07:23
- Erik Kleinhans – (RSA, Team RE:CM) @ 09:41
- Ariane Kleinhans (Sui, Team RE:CM) 05:40:38
- Robyn de Groot (RSA, Biogen Toyota) @ 16:48
- Ischen Stopforth (RSA, Sasol Racing) @ 16:49
- Jeannie Bomford (RSA, USN) @ 29:00
- Jennie Stenerhag (Swe, Sasol Racing) @ 33:18