Race Updates

Marais and Keep take the titles at Husqvarna ClassicBy Tim Whitfield

Mid-Illovo – Stuart Marais is making a habit of winning mountain bike races this year with the latest victory coming in the Husqvarna Classic Mid-Illovo MTB Challenge and Trail Run on Sunday 30 April 2017.

In the main 60km race, the Howick mechanical engineer overcame a fall which could have proved costly, but he picked himself up and rode on to a solid three-minute win over defending champion, Mid-Illovo local Derrin Smith, who in turn was two minutes ahead of the in-form David Low.

In the women’s race, young 16-year-old Tiffany Keep once again showed she is a massive talent by winning her first attempt at the longer 60km event. The Thomas More College schoolgirl beat off the challenge of Christie-Leigh Hearder with veteran Natalie Bergstrom claiming third.

Both Marais and Keep were full of praise for the route which has been designed and created by local farmer Bruce Smith with the help of other local farmers in the area.

“The trails were phenomenal,” said Marais. “They have obviously put in so much work on the course and they have made then absolutely stunning. Everyone said I’d enjoy the race – and I did!

“I had a bit of a mishap on one of the bridges. My front wheel slipped out and I fell off as I was crossing it. Apart from that that I had a good ride and I felt really good.
“This season I would like to try and make a bit of a habit of this winning,” he said with a laugh.

Keep said she also “really enjoyed the single track” and it showed as she kept her older and more experienced rivals at bay on the fun-filled, but tough and testing course.

“I’ve participated in the race before but on the shorter distances – today was the first time I’ve done the 60km,” said the South African junior road team member. In the 18km iNsingizi Trail Run Derek Wasserfall was dominant, outpacing Mark Mackenzie and Rhain Hoskins by almost three minutes despite a silly mistake which could have proved costly.

Wasserfall, who also won the Husqvarna Mid-Illovo Trail Run in 2012, said he was impressed by the course, but also had to overcome some issues before claiming the win.
“It was a very nice route – very fast which, as a road runner, is what I like,” said Wasserfall

“Mark Mackenzie who finished second and I ran together for the first part and then I got away on one of the hills. But then I went off the route and had to get back which meant I was about seventh. They told us which markers to follow and then I went and followed some of the mountain bike markers – it was completely my fault.”

In the women’s trail run, Xoli Madida finished up just over two minutes ahead of Robyn Greyling and Wendy Mills.

Jacqui Cochran, the marketing manager from Husqvarna, was delighted with the event:
“It is obvious from the riders and runners reactions that this race just continues to improve every year. It is fantastic to be involved in an event that is celebrating its 10th anniversary, and still continues to get better and better each year, while at the same time somehow manages to puts so much back into the community in the Mid-Illovo area.
“I think having the race here is such a win-win scenario: The riders and runners get to enjoy a fantastic event; we are able to reward a community that is a big supporter of Husqvarna; and with the help of entrants and other corporates we can contribute to uplifting schools and the community – like with 240 Uzwelo school bags which are pledged to children in the area by race goers and corporates such as Illovo.”

For the less serious riders and runners there was also the 45km Safire MTB race and a relatively gentle 18km Gwahumbe Family Ride as well as the 9km iNsingizi Trail Run.


60km MTB  
Men Women
1st: Stuart Marais – 2:30:41 1st: Tiffany Keep – 2:56:04
2nd: Derrin Smith – 2:33:56 2nd: Christie-Leigh Hearder – 2:57:50
3rd: David Low – 2:35:56 3rd: Natalie Bergstrom – 3:01:15
4th: Brennan Anderson – 2:36:2  
5th: Komborero Bere – 2:38:12  


18km Trail Run  
Men Women
1st: Derek Wasserfall – 1:24:33 1st: Xoli Madida – 1:36:47
2nd: Mark Mackenzie – 1:27:12 2nd: Robyn Greyling – 1:39:06
3rd: Rhain Hoskins – 1:27:22 3rd: Wendy Mills – 1:42:16


Press Release, dated March 2017
Husqvarna Classic Mid-Illovo MTB Challenge & Trail Run – Sunday 30 April 2017

Get into gear for one of the best-loved (and well-organised) races on the mountain biking and trail running calendar. The 2017 Husqvarna Classic Mid-Illovo MTB Challenge & Trail Run is happening just less than two weeks before the gruelling Sani2C, making it a non-negotiable for those who are following a ruthless training schedule.

"The best single track of any single day event" – that is how some riders have described this MTB route. If that is not enough, the scenery is magnificent.

Part of the ROAG series, there are various races, each of which run the gauntlet from relatively simple to strenuous.

If a game viewing ride is on your sporting bucket list, don’t miss the 45km Safire MTB Classic that traverses two picturesque Game Reserves, Gwahumbe Game & Spa and iNsingizi.

For the more serious riders, the 60km Husqvarna Classic MTB X-treme is just the challenge you want, but there are options for the whole family, including the 18km Gwahumbe Family Experience and the 10km Fun Ride. It’s a great way to get the kids interested in sports and spending more time outdoors and as each of the tracks has different scenery, you could aim to do a different race every year.

The 18km and the 9km iNsingizi trail runs cover rugged terrain through the game reserve.

The trail run events will start early – at 6.30am – so that competitors have an opportunity to do a Biathlon by competing in both the run / walk and mountain bike races.

Do your bit! Give an Uzwelo school bag to an underprivileged Mid-Illovo child, when you add a R130 donation to your entry.

The first 800 entries will receive a goodie bag. Entries close on 26 April 2017 at midnight, but late entries will be accepted on the day. Registration begins at 05.30 on the day, with the first MTB race (60km) starting at 07h30.

Enter online at www.roag.co.za or contact ROAG on info@roag.co.za or 086 100 ROAG/7624.

Entry Fees
60km Husqvarna Classic MTB X-treme R 190
45km Safire MTB Classic R 160
18km Gwahumbe MTB Family Experience R 140
10km Fun Ride R 70 (free for under 12s)
18km iNsingizi Trail Run R 115
9km iNsingizi Trail Run R 85


Feedback from Runners and Riders –

A great event from the truck trip to the start at  iNsingizi ; undulating and fast, technical and beautiful single track through the trees as well as running with of herds of Wildebeest and Zebras!  I loved every minute. – Wendy Mills, Ladies Winner of 18km Gwahumbe MTB Race.


I just love this race and one I would not want to miss. Knowing the race organizers and the community involvement in the event, I know I will get more than I.2359- paid for! Being able to ride a bike through game reserves is something special and game spotting while riding is a real treat. Navigating the awesome trails through Gwahumbe Game Reserve and iNsingizi make this ride an absolute novelty.

Nine years of development of the Husqvarna Mid Illovo MTB race and I don’t think much more can be done to improve the route. The variety of tracks and scenery within the race keeps it interesting and exciting to ride. When you hear ‘whoop whoop’ from riders around you as you snake your way along the trails then you know the race organizers have passion for their race and the desire to please the riders. It is most definitely one of the most exciting MTB races in KZN. There is obvious synergy between the title sponsor, Husqvarna and this Mid-Illovo race as we saw the incredible amount of work that had gone into cutting and building new sections of incredible single track.

With the four route distance options on offer, there is a distance for every family member to experience our beautiful outdoors. The addition of the 60km Classic this year is a definite draw card for the racing snakes and for many riders wanting to challenge themselves on a slightly longer course (to the 40km) on  a route that is challenging but still very rideable.

For me, 60 kilometers is the perfect distance to race and enjoy on a mountain bike before the body starts hurting too much and the mind starts wandering. There is nothing better than having earned a bacon and egg roll or hot chips after a race and that is what the Mid Illovo farmers wives are master chefs at. So no reason to pack in a peanut butter sarmie for after the race next year, there is plenty scrummy food to feed your well earned appetite! – Jeannie Dreyer, Ladies Winner of 60km Husqvarna Classic X-treme.


Press Release, dated 28 April 201698963.

2016 Husqvarna Classic Mid-Illovo MTB Challenge reports increased entries

The 2016 Husqvarna Classic Mid-Illovo MTB Challenge & Trail Run was a resounding success with an increase in entries over 2015, the introduction of the exciting 60km Husqvarna Classic MTB X-treme and plenty of healthy family fun on a sunny KZN winter’s day.

Race organisers, sponsors Husqvarna, Gwahumbe Game & Spa and iNsingizi Game and Spa, again delivered an event that drew plenty of praise for its fast track, challenging terrain, spectacular vistas, well-manned water tables and excellent markings and marshalling.

Sunday’s events included the 60km Husqvarna Classic MTB X-treme, the 40km Husqvarna Classic, the 18km Gwahumbe Game & Spa Fun Ride, 5km and 10km Kids Rides and the iNsingizi 18km Trail Run and 9km trail runs.

The 60km MTB women’s champion, Jeannie Dreyer, summed it up: "Being able to do game spotting while riding is a real treat.  Nine years of development of the Husqvarna Mid-Illovo MTB race and I don’t think much more can be done to improve the route. The variety of tracks and scenery within the race keeps it interesting and exciting to ride.

"It is most definitely one of the most exciting races in KZN. There is obvious synergy between the title sponsor, Husqvarna and organisers as we saw the incredible amount of work that had gone into cutting and building new sections of incredible single track," she said.

Race organiser, Shanon MacKenzie, noted that it was not only the die-hard mountain bikers who enjoyed the event. ""The beauty of the Husqvarna Classic Mid-Illovo MTB Challenge & Trail Run is that it is not exclusively for professional sportsmen and women. It has something for everyone, especially for those who love the outdoors and the beautiful scenery of KwaZulu-Natal. This year, we had even more families participating and lots of people stopped to take selfies en route."

This 2016 Husqvarna Classic Mid-Illovo MTB Challenge & Trail Run took place two weeks before Sani2C, giving mountain bikers a perfect pre-Sani training opportunity.

The Husqvarna Classic Mid-Illovo MTB Challenge has more than earned its place as part of the prestigious Quattro ROAG Series which was created to develop the sport in KwaZulu-Natal. ROAG received a thumbs up from participants for ensuring that registration was a smooth and easy process for riders.

Caitlin Canton, ROAG events manager, said that adding the 60km attracted serious riders eager to get points for the prestigious ROAG Series.

"On a busy sporting weekend with the Tour D’Urban on the same day, the entries were excellent.  This popular race is well organised and the atmosphere made for a great race," she said.

MTB stalwart, Brett Austen-Smith, who participated in his first official race in 10 years, also commented that the event was very professionally run. "The level of organisation and attention to detail is superb. This is an exceptionally professionally run event.  It is also a community driven event – with farmers from the district taking great pride in the race! They are continually improving it and strive for perfection and creating excitement for the riders," he said.

"The weather made for a great event. Including the 60km allowed the serious riders to have a good challenging ride. The farmers in the community all pull together to create the race.  By giving time, labour and equipment to create the tracks, they enable us to achieve standards that would ordinarily take a great deal of money and would make a race of this standard unaffordable," added Craig MacKenzie.

First man home in the inaugural 60km Husqvarna Classic MTB X-treme which drew 200 entries, was Derrin Smith in a time of 2:28:44. He was followed by Matthew Wilkinson (02:28:45) and Leeroy Emslie (02:33:10).

Smith, who farms in Mid-Illovo was thrilled at his first ever win. "I have never won this race before but I have finished third twice in the previous years. For the first time, the race incorporated the 60km which has added a whole new dimension. In KZN, we are limited to only a few races over 40km whereas, in other parts of the country, they have longer marathon type races," he explained.

Smith said the race was good preparation for the Sani2C.

Wilkinson, who lives in Scottsville, Pietermaritzburg, commented after finishing his race: "I had a great race with some intense racing and super-fast flowing single track. It was fun from the start to the finish."

First place amongst the ladies went to Jeannie Dreyer in 02:50:09, followed by Chriestie-Liegh Hearder in 03:06:13 and Natalie Bergstrom in 03:09:41.

Matthew Volek crossed the finish line first in the 40km Husqvarna Classic in a time of 02:11:59. Second place went to Zibise Cyprian Sikhakhane (2:14:42) and third to Gerhard Gous (02:14:44).

Courtney Smith was the first lady to cross the finish line in a time of 02:37:22. Second place went to Sandy Boshoff (02:45:47) and third to Cindi Kirby (02:49:04).

The 18km Gwahumbe Game & Spa Fun Ride went to Campbell van Rooyen in 00:46:34. He was followed by Matthew Millward (00:46:41) in second and sprog, Jonathan Watts, in third (00:49:22). The first female rider, Sabine Thies, finished in a time of 00:48:41. The second placed female finisher was Sarah Ryan (00:55:47) and the third female finisher was Bridget Theunissen (00:57:35).

The 18km and 9km iNsingizi trail routes proved even more popular this year. 18km winner, Owen Bengo, finished his race in 01:18:34.

A deserving winner, Bengo works as a painter and gardener in Pietermaritzburg and finished the race in second place last year. He started trail running in 2011 and came fifth in his first race. Next year, he hopes to complete a MTB event before putting on his running shoes.

Second was Mduduzi Ncgobo (01:25:54) and third was Roy Newlands in 01:28:59. The ladies winner was Wendy Mills from Pietermaritzburg (01:38:36), followed by Jennifer Coppinger (01:41:59) and Sue Pilkington (01:45:47).

The 9km race was won by Michael Baker who came home in 00:39:00, followed by David Wilson (00:39:07) in second and Robbie Hyslop (00:40:51 third). First prize in the ladies race went to Steph Pons (00:46:04), second to Jessica Wigley (00:47:19) and third to Melissa Rohde (00:50:46).

Raceday Sports Performance Drink provided the riders and runners with the important hydration en route.

The Husqvarna Classic Mid-Illovo MTB Challenge & Trail Run is a community event and all proceeds are used for the upliftment of the Mid-Illovo community.


Press Release, dated 17 February 2016

Elevation information

Many of you have requested to know the elevation of the Husqvarna Classic Mid-Illovo MTB Challenge & Trail Run, so please see below:

60km Husqvarna Classic MTB X-Treme – please note that this route is tough!

Maximum Elevation: 1 200 metres


40km Husqvarna Classic MTB

Minimum Elevation: 663 metres

Maximum Elevation: 926 metres