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Posted on March 7, 2018 at 7:15 AM

The National Cross Country season was off to an interesting start in Eshowe, KwaZulu-Natal this weekend.

The Brother Leader Tread KTM squad took their place at the start line expecting to push the pace and blitz their way across Natal’s lush vegetation – but what they encountered instead was a tough and technical loop that put their enduro skills to the test.

With steep climbs, river beds and rocky terrain, both the riders and their bike setups were taken by complete surprise.

Event organisers had cancelled the time trial and lined riders up according to previous championship points instead. The first of six laps in the main race was also given to riders as a sighting loop to ensure rider safety.

Defending OR1 champion Branch remained calm under the circumstances, and set off into the unfamiliar territory with a sprained wrist. With the 2019 Dakar Rally on cards and a full season ahead, the rider did some damage control and conserved his energy instead of risking further injury.

While he admits that it took him a few laps to get going, Branch managed to stay in contention for the podium and pull off a second place for the day.

Amused by the technical challenge he encountered, he commented: “So this was a learning curve… my first tough ‘enduro’ event! It’s been a hard day out and I’m relieved to be on the podium. Definitely going back home to practise on some rocks – I’m excited! I’ll hopefully get my KTM 450 XC-F back on the top spot at the next one.”

The journey back to the number one plate was off to a promising start for Louwrens Mahoney. The cross country legend stepped up to the technical challenge with a wealth of experience behind his name, and quickly pulled away from the rest of the OR2 field. With Husqvarna’s new addition Taki Bogiages just a few minutes behind him, Mahoney was the first man to reach the finish line and ultimately the top step of the podium.

“It was super challenging! The route was just in your face the whole day, and took a lot of concentration. Hats off to the youngsters, who handled it all super well,” said Mahoney.

Reigning champion Juan van Rooyen never left fans disappointed. As he attempts to stake his claim in the Senior Class for the fifth consecutive time this year, his Zululand victory came as no surprise. Not only did he take the win for the day, but managed to do it with an impressive 10-minute lead.

Returning to the cross country scene was Louw Schmidt and Jarryd Coetzee.

Schmidt has had to take the past few months easy after surgery, and spent less time in the saddle before the season opener than usual. His performance surprised him, however, and with a fifth place in the OR1 class he said: “It was a true test of skills and ability to race out there. After almost three months off, I felt a lot fitter than I thought I would. I brought it home safe today – didn’t want to make any mistakes, there’s a long season ahead!”

Coetzee’s come back is also well underway. The OR3 rider has struggled with a knee injury and was side-lined for the majority of 2017 season. With a renewed determination to ride, Coetzee narrowly fell short of the podium and finished the event in fourth place.

Missing from the team was Kirsten Landman, who would have raced her first cross country event in years. She was unfortunately suffering from tick bite fever, and with a heavy heart had to pull out of the race.



1 Kenny Gilbert (Husqvarna) 03:58:43

2 Ross Branch (KTM) 04:00:30

3 Charan Moore (Yamaha) 04:10:15

5 Louw Schmidt (KTM) 04:24:02


1 Louwrens Mahoney (KTM) 04:03:59

2 Taki Bogiages (Husqvarna) 04:18:53

3 Travis Gehlig (Husqvarna) 04:30:00



1 Bradley Cox (KTM) 03:58:26

2 Calvin Hume (Husqvarna) 04:00:14

3 Stefan Van Deventer (KTM) 04:03:52

4 Jarryd Coetzee (KTM) 04:11:15


1 Juan van Rooyen (KTM) 03:30:49

2 Wade Blaauw 03:39:15

3 Hentie Hanekom (Husqvarna) 03:49:10

Categories: FMN News South Africa

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