By Quintin van Jaarsveld
Mountain bikers from not only across KwaZulu-Natal but from all corners of the country will descend on the South Coast this weekend for the much-anticipated Burry Stander Sardine Mountain Bike Classic.
Last year, the South Coast’s pre-eminent mountain biking event was reborn after it was renamed in honour of the late, great Burry Stander.
Over 600 mountain bikers entered the newly-christened event, establishing it as a celebration of the extra-ordinary life of the South Coast’s favourite son and South Africa’s greatest ever mountain bike rider.
With funds raised going towards the Burry Stander Foundation, the celebration is set to continue at Port Edward Holiday Resort, which will once again play host to the event this weekend.
Proceedings will get underway with trail running on Saturday before mountain bikers take centre stage on Sunday.
Burry’s mother, Mandie, said the family are looking forward to what was one of Burry’s favourite events.
“This is a very special event for us as a family as a lot of memories were built around it,” Mandie told eHowz!t.
“Burry always tried to be back home to support this race. I remember after the race in 2012 we all had lunch at the restaurant … it was so nice that we could all participate in the race, little did we know how our lives was going to change shortly after that event.”
Among the field for Sunday’s races will be Burry’s father Charles, his brothers Charl and Duane, his young nephew Logan and five riders of the Burry Stander Foundation Development Team, who will be riding in their first race.
Defending champ touch-and-go
Like the Stander family, the event holds special significance for local mountain bikers who idolised Burry.
At the top of that list is Uvongo ace Hayley Smith, who had gotten to know the two-time Olympian and won the women’s race last year.
Reflecting on her win 12 months ago, the Bell Equipment rider said: “It was a very special win. I really wanted to win it for Burry and I thought of him throughout the race.
“It was a very emotional race … it was difficult to focus, especially after we had the moment of silence, but I’m just glad that I could get the win.”
Smith, the current, two-time KwaZulu-Natal women’s Under-23 cross-country champion, is struggling with a recurring back injury that could see her miss the weekend’s race.
She said she would be devastated if she’s unable to recover in time and said if that’s the case she’d show her support from the sidelines.
“It would be fantastic to race this weekend to defend my title. I love the course and it’s always an awesome local event to do.
“It’s a special event for me and I will be very sad if I can’t race,” said Smith.
Saturday’s line-up offers trail runners a choice of a 20km (7.30am) or a 10km (7.45am) route.
Sunday’s 40km classic, which forms part of the ROAG Series, gets underway at 8.30am and will be followed by 20km (8.30am) and 10km (9am) events.
The races all pass through wonderful facilities such as the Mattison Square/Cow Shed, Beaver Creek Coffee Estate and Cafe, Crags View Wild Care Centre and Clearwater Trail Centre and Cafe.
The route comprises of beautiful private farmlands, dam and stream crossings, coastal forest, grasslands, rocky outcrops with fantastic views of the Ezemvelo Umtamvuna River Gorge and Indian Ocean.
Prize money will be awarded to the first three places in each age category in the 40km classic and in the Sprog Series as well as to the overall podium finishers of the 20km men’s and women’s races.
All riders will receive a medal upon completion of the races and lucky draw prizes will also be up for grabs. The prize-giving function will be held at 1.pm.
Registration is from 6.30am to 7.30am on both days.
To enter and for more information, go to http://roag.co.za/enter-an-event/mtb/sardine-classic.aspx or phone 086 100 7624 (to enter) or 083 549 6710 (general enquiries).