By Quintin van Jaarsveld
The Lake Eland Quattro Classic powered by the Burry Stander Foundation delivered on all fronts on Sunday, with riders from all corners of KwaZulu-Natal hailing it as an unforgettable experience.
For the tight-knit KwaZulu-Natal mountain biking community, Sunday’s event at Lake Eland Game Reserve was more than just a race.
It was one of the favourite races of South Africa’s greatest ever mountain biker and South Coast legend Burry Stander, and with the Stander family and the Burry Stander Foundation serving as the driving force behind this year’s race, approximately 350 riders converged on the picturesque Oribi-based reserve to support the legacy of their idol.
Riders were treated to spectacular single-track as they traversed open mountain sections and beautiful valley and orchard trails – among game – on their way to obtaining a special commemorative Burry Stander medal.
Overcast Spring conditions threatened to put a damper the day, but with the rain holding out until the very end of the 45km race, it proved to be a non-issue.
“The day and event turned out perfectly,” Burry’s mother Mandie told eHowz!t.
“We’re very happy with the number of riders who came out to show their support and the track was outstanding. We received wonderful feedback from the riders, who loved the single-track and beautiful scenery.
“The Lake Eland management and staff played a big role in the success of the event and as a family we are proud that we could run the event.”
Burry’s brothers Charl and Duane, sister-in-law Charlene and nephew Logan all participated in the event, as did a plethora of Burry Stander Foundation development riders.
South Coast riders featured prominently in all three events (45km, 25km and 10km) and dominated the women‘s races, with Uvongo rider Hayley Smith and Port Edward’s Megan Bircher winning the 45km and 25km races respectively.
Bell Equipment star Smith claimed a comfortable victory in 2:03:42 with Nataschka Mowat second (2:11:30) and Candice Parker-Dennison third (2:18:55).
“I’m very happy with the win, it was an awesome race,” Smith told eHowz!t.
“It’s one of the most exciting courses there is as it had a huge amount of technical single-track, which I enjoy.
“The track also had a bit of climbing and lots of rocks that you have to stay focused on, and it’s not often that you get to ride through a reserve among the animals.”
It was another meaningful milestone for Pure Adventure VELOlife rider Bircher, who edged Courtney Smith by just two seconds to win the women’s 25km race in 1:14:34. Sarah Ryan crossed the finish line in 1:24:16 to round off the overall podium.
“It’s really special to take the win as Burry was my ultimate hero,” 13-year-old Bircher told eHowz!t.
“I really wanted to win the race for Burry and with it being hosted by the Burry Stander Foundation, it gave me extra motivation.
“The course was very enjoyable, especially the sheer drops next to the single-track. There were a lot of rocks and single-track, so you had to stay focused.
“Overall it was a great, well-organised and enjoyable race,” added Bircher, who also won the Burry Stander Sardine Mountain Bike Classic women’s 20km race in Port Edward in July.
The men’s 45km race came down to the wire with Rourke Croeser pipping Travis Walker by just one second to take the win in 1:38:05. Brendon Davids (1:44:08) completed the overall podium.
The 45km category winners were Croeser (senior men), Smith (senior women), Cayde Muldoon (youth men), Alan Hatherly (junior men), Teegan Parker-Dennison (junior women), Jarred Higgins (sub vet men), Debrah Thomas (sub vet women), Shaun Edgar (vet men), Mowat (vet women), Nicky Smith (master men), Ed Cumming (grand master men) and Zibele Bhoyi (novice men).
Gage Hansson won the men’s 25km race in 1:07:03 ahead of Joshua Clipstone (1:07:07) and Lindani Shusha (1:11:47).
The 25km category winners were Hansson, Bircher (sub junior girls), Clipstone (sub junior boys), Nicholas de Bruin (nipper boys), Emma Clipstone (nipper girls), Travis Stedman (sprog boys) and Ryan (sprog girls).
Ethan Scorer and Kim Strauss won the 10km races.
All photos by Gavin Ryan/QuickPix