Last weekend, Taal Monument in Paarl, hosted the second round of the 2021 SRAM WC DH Series.
Downhill racing is very much alive and well in the Western Cape due to the continued efforts of a dedicated committee, volunteers and successful partnerships with small businesses. The events are very well organized and the year-on-year growth since 2016/2017 is impressive.
It’s no surprise then that this Round of the 2021 series was a huge success. For this race, the track builders shook things up (again) with some late revisions to the track. A new lower section was cleared, and it included a couple jumps, off cambers and loose turns to keep things fresh for the riders. With mother nature delivering classic autumn temperatures – a slight chill in the early morning which warmed to the mid-’20s, the scene was set for two days of gravity riding and racing. Follow the story in the photos below.
Paarl is a beautiful part of the world with some spectacular sights and trails. This downhill venue dates back to the 90’s.
The track walk on Saturday morning offers riders a chance to inspect features, learn the track and begin to put their race strategy together.
Riders briefing was run by Keith Erlangsen and Chris Nixon who remind riders of the race format, rules and timelines for the weekend.
With a global pandemic still very much alive, all safety protocols are adhered to by the riders and registration teams.
A special mention must be made of the three volunteer shuttle drivers who sacrifice their entire weekend to drive riders to the top of the track. Francois Grobler, Hein Basson and Simon Meredith – you are legends!
This is 13 year old Sammy Hosking from Noordhoek ripping his Turner over the hip. Sammy doesn’t have any rebound on his rear shock – the adjuster screw is ‘gone’ and it’s set on fastest but that didn’t deter the shredder at all and he rode a 2:06.016 for a solid 8th place in Sub-Jun Boys.
As always with these provincial events, the Saturday is an open-day for non-racers who want to join in on the shuttling action and ride alongside the racers as they prepare for Sunday’s sprint against the clock. The shuttle day format exposes more riders to the DH format and is popular.
South African Champ, Theo Erlangsen, was hanging about on Saturday with some ‘cruizey’ runs. The story book of Theo and Pottie finishing within a second of each other would continue this weekend.
Gerhard Hoepfner rolls through “The Avenues” and into the finish area to claim a 5th place in the Sprog Boys category with a time of 2:35.273.
Francois du Toit was rocking a trail bike this weekend and put in an alright time to win the Senior Men category.
This is downhill racing and the bikes do take a hammering. Fortunately, there are many riders and parents around to lend a mechanical hand to those in need.
Dillan Rix showed his talent with a 2:03.124 which slotted him into 11th in Elite Men – on a trail bike!
1st in Nipper Boys was young Sebastian Flynn who rode well all weekend and clearly isn’t afraid of a huck.
Chris Nixon is on the race committee and does a lot of organizing behind the scenes for Western Cape Downhill. The guy doesn’t let that interfere with his riding though and he stormed to victory in his class. His time was a lot faster than many younger riders and put him into 13th overall. What a Champ!
Duran van Eeden is one of the best trail builders in the country and isn’t half bad on a bike either. Duran is the guy who isn’t really too bothered with his race result – he focuses more on having a good time – all weekend. Nevertheless, he clocked a stealthy 1:49.585 which was a solid 7th in Elite Men.
The ever creative five time National Champion Johann Potgieter was hopping gaps and trying awkward lines all weekend.
114 riders entered the event and over 50% of the field is under the age of 16 which is a clear sign of a shift in demographics. The young riders are flocking to these races!
GG Nixon rode steady all weekend for 2nd place in the Elite Women. 3rd place in Elite Women (and only 2.2 seconds back) was her daughter Jessi Nixon. All we need to do is get Ila Stow onto a DH bike and we could have a single family dominate the podium at one of the Rounds…
The long-travel trail bikes can get a little nose heavy and sketchy under braking, but they get back up to speed very quickly and are therefore very competitive against the big travel DH rigs on this track.
SA Champ Heiko Basson was very happy with his first run and put down a 2:06.571 to win the Sprog Boys class. His second run of the day got a little messy but that’s understandable for a young guy who is riding this fast. Heiko is a highly talented 10-year-old.
The track would have been really challenging on a hardtail but just look at that determination!
Pottie cranks it over into a high speed right hander which is about halfway down the track. The dappled light and braking bumps made this section of the track pretty tricky.
Brave man Richard du Plessis sends his Giant trail bike into the last forest section which has roots, ruts and braking bumps equal to that of a World Cup Downhill track.
Jack Schoonraad, 3rd in Sprog Boys, gets ready to hop out of “The Avenue” and into the finish area.
Frankie du Toit holds it wide open through the forest and despite a flat in her second run, snuck in another win in the Elite Women’s race.
Former youth World Champ Ike Klaassen airs out the triple and radios the control tower for permission to land. Ike has some impressive style and is very efficient on the DH bike. Now get back to the EU and onto the podiums oke!
Chris Nixon, a 1:53.687 and a 1:53.994. There’s no lack of racecraft there.
Pottie had to settle for 2nd today and whilst he didn’t put in his best rides, he said he never made any major mistakes all weekend and was happy with the result.
Theo Erlangsen finding time where no one else could, once again Theo takes the win in fine style.
Elite women from left: Jessi Nixon, Frankie du Toit and Gina Nixon.
Overall men from left; Jason du Toit, Adi van der Merve, Theo Erlangsen, Johann Potgieter and Ike Klaassen.
Looking for images of this race? E-mail the official race photographer Chris Taylor
Elite Women 1. Frankie du Toit 2:08:351 2. Gina Nixon 2:10.733 3. Jessi Nixon 2:13:001
Elite Men 1. Theo Erlangsen 1:41.617 2. Johann Potgieter 1:42.540 3. Adi van der Merwe 1:45.362