From one good thing to another and after last weekend’s fun in the North West Province it was time for the Isuzu 3 Towers held at Mankele Bike Park in Mpumalanga. I am always super motivated for this Lowveld event, as it is like a home race for me.
I was supposed to team up with Gawie Combrinck for the race, but a last minute change of plan meant Gawie would be riding with Johann Rabie as they are building up to the Cape Pioneer Trek. Either way, we were in for a tough race as this year’s event had one of the strongest fields assembled in SA stage racing.
I was resolute to compete at the event as I can’t miss out on my annual slice of singletrack bliss and luckily I found an enthusiastic partner in Willie Smit. Willie is actually a road cyclist on the Pro Continental Vini Fantini team in Italy. Being a professional cyclist Willie is plenty strong, but not used to the specific effort required by mountain biking. Compared to our competition I knew we would also be outgunned in the technical handling department, but I was hoping a combination of ignorance, sheer willpower and luck would make up for any potential shortcomings in our partnership.
As the name suggests the Isuzu 3 Towers is held over 3 days and each day our route would pass by a radio tower. Of course these towers are situated at the highest geographic points necessitating a substantial amount of climbing, i.e. suffering. From each day’s heady heights we descended back down to the Mankele valley floor through technical bush tunnels and natural singletrack.
The recipe was the same for each day – get up at 5am, have breakfast, start racing at 7am, taste blood at 7.05am and continue until reaching Mankele where you collapse into a heap until the evening’s delicious dinner and humorous race briefing.
Willie and I held our own finishing the weekend in 6th spot just 15 seconds off the ‘MTB podium’ (MTB racing always recognises top 5, not only top 3). It was a real pleasure riding with Willie as he gave 110% every day and you can’t ask for more from a partner.
The race for the top positions was very exciting with 3 teams dicing it out every day. Philip Buys and Matthys Beukes (Scott Factory Racing) proved to be the most consistent winning the final stage and the whole event along with it. Rourke Croeser and Brendon Davids (Kargo MTB) took the Queen stage on their way to finishing 2nd overall with James Reid and Konny Looser (Trek/Wheeler) winning stage 1 and finishing 3rd overall.
1. Matthys Beukes & Philip Buys (Scott Factory Racing)
2. Rourke Croeser & Brendon Davids (Kargo MTB)
3. James Reid & Konny Looser (Trek/Wheeler)
4. Gawie Combrinck & Johann Rabie (EAI)
5. Guylin van den Berg & Bradley Stroberg (IXU)
6. Melt Swanepoel & Willie Smit (EAI/Vini Fantini)
As always the Isuzu 3 Towers DELIVERED and in my opinion it was one of the best editions to date. The Mankele team have the organization dialled, the trails are awesome, the weather was great and the competition drove everyone to give their best making for record stage winning times.
If the Race edition was too much for you, there was also the possibility to do the Challenge event (50km a day as opposed to the race’s 70km) and even a ‘Light’ edition which had about 25km on tap every day. No matter how you look at it, there was no excuse not to be part of this great event.
Thanks Mankele crew for an awesome ride!
Until next time, happy trails!