HEJA LODGE – There is a reason they call it the Skyride, with some of the most challenging uphill climbs the Gravel & Dirt MTB Marathon Series, which is powered by Hollard, has to offer.
This however did not see any of the riders deterred, as this year’s Skyride/Run which was recently held at Heja Lodge boasted with a record number of entries, all dead set at conquering yet another proudly Namibian MTB race.
With the sun reflecting a golden hue on the picturesque waters in front of Heja lodge, 307 cyclists eagerly awaited the countdown to the start of the race.
Many new riders filled the ranks along with seasoned veterans of the cycling community. The air was buzzing with excitement as Patrick de Goede from Cycletec announced the one minute mark.
Three, two, one, and it was on, as rider after rider rode through the starting line, some facing the 68 km and 34 km distances, while others simply wishing for a morning of fresh air and sunshine rode the 12 km fun ride.
Trail runners were also treated to a 10 km and 5 km route through the beautiful scenery that Heja Lodge had to offer, ranging from sandy riverbeds to challenging rocky climbs.
As the morning sun rose, a lone rider could be seen from across the dam, navigating the winding path with ease. It was last year’s defending champion, Drikus Coetzee, speeding towards the finish line with no other riders in sight.
Drikus crossed the line with a time of 3:10:38 taking first place in the 68 km Elite Men. Xavier Papo crossed the line in second place with a time of 3:16:46 followed by Andre de Klerk in third, who opted to ride in the Elite category instead of Rhino with a time of 3:25:17.
In the Elite Woman, a formidable time of 3:24:33 set by Michelle Vorster saw her take the podium position a full fifty minutes ahead of her nearest rival Michelle Doman in second with a time of 4:18:37.
Setting a time sub 3:30 is a phenomenal achievement for any rider to do on this route considering the difficult level that they face. Also bearing in mind that a 5 hour cut off time for a 68 km race, which normally is traversed easily, pays homage to the challenge this year’s competitors faced, just emphasises the level of professionalism of the MTB athletes our country has to offer.
With partners such as Hollard, Cycletec, NBL, E-Med Rescue 24 and Food Lovers Market, this year’s Skyride have been anything but a success.
Next on the Gravel & Dirt MTB Marathon Series calendar is the MTB Dirt Attack, which is happening on Saturday, 18 August, just outside of Okahandja. Last year was the first time that this route formed part of the Gravel & Dirt schedule, and it was a massive success.