Underson Ngube and John April (Team Ride Along 2), Julia Jansen van Rensburg and Alexa Rack (Team Nam Power) and Stuart Marais and Kerry-Anne Marshall (Team New Balance #WeGotNow) were crowned 2023 PICKLE JUICE AFRICANX TRAILRUN champions after a fitting climax to the event in the third and final stage of the race at Houw Hoek Hotel this morning (Sunday 19 March).
The 18km final day started and finished at Houw Hoek Hotel, completing a circuit through the Jakkalsrivier Kloof to the Luddite Wine Farm in Bot River. The route included more single-track technical trails than the first two days and a long climb after halfway proved the biggest challenge to athletes.
Ironically, it was athletes domiciled in semi-desert conditions who flourished in one of the wettest regions in South Africa. Oudtshoorn-based Ngube and April won the men’s competition and Namibian pair Rack and Jansen van Rensburg took honours in the women’s contest, remarkably both teams competing as debutants.
Appropriately after two days of rain and mist, the sun came out blazing on ‘Dress-Up Day’ as runners allowed their creative juices to flow. The ‘Best-dressed’ competition was fierce, but the prize went to Guillaume Muller, Bruwer Engelbrecht, Christiaan Strydom and Charl Heunis who all completed the stage wearing ghillie suits.
“We felt like real celebrities passing all the other runners,” said mixed category winner, Stuart Marais (the elite runners started thirty minutes behind the masses). “It gave us a chance to observe all the interesting Dress-Up outfits. It was really special and amazing to see how serious runners are about Dress-Up Day. It’s been an amazing three days.”
Cape Town’s Kyle Bucklow and Oli Morris had taken the overall lead from the Oudtshoorn pair yesterday, after Ngube had struggled with leg muscle cramps on the longer stage, and with less than two minutes separating the top two teams going into the final stage, it was anyone’s race.
But there was no holding Ngube and April as the pair sped into the lead from the gun. “We opened a gap straight away from the start,” explained primary school sport centre manager Ngube. “We wanted to have a significant lead by the time we got to the big climb as we knew that some of the teams were strong climbers.
“Fortunately, I had no cramping problems today. John massaged my legs yesterday and that seemed to work well. We are happy to have won in our debut.”
Team Ride Along 2 crossed the finish line in 1:19:37 – three minutes ahead of yesterday’s Stage Two winners, Lovemo Nyaude and Hakeem Smith (HTRCrew Trail Taxi), who edged out Kyle Bucklow and Oli Morris by less than a minute.
But spare a thought for Team Here to Win lead, Retsipile Khotle. The jovial Lesotho athlete lost his partner through injury during the second leg but continued on his own to finish that stage ahead of the rest. And this morning he blitzed the final leg three minutes quicker than that of the winning team.
Jani Kruger and Nicola de Villiers (team RIOT) boasted more than matching earrings this morning when they finally turned the tables on their Nam Power rivals, Alexa Rack and Julia Jansen van Rensburg, by winning the stage by just over a minute in 1:44:24.
But it was not enough to secure an overall victory, which went to Nam Power in 7:10:18, five minutes clear of the RIOTers.
“It was a tough day for me, I’m not a technical runner at all,” admitted Windhoek opthamologist and Iron Man triathlete, Jansen van Rensburg. “I was hoping the race today would be a little longer so my endurance could kick in, but fortunately my partner did really well – she’s built for this type of running!”
“But we are so happy with the minutes we made up in the first two stages which enabled us to take the win overall. It was an amazing day out – beautiful trail, so well organized, the food was good and the people were great. All in all we had a very good experience and we hope to return next year to defend our title!
For the second day in a row, Kerry-Anne Marshall ignored the pain from a foot injury, hanging in with brother Stuart to completely dominate a strong mixed competition category, winning in 6:32:48.
“Stage Three featured beautiful trails,” says Marshall, who previously won the mixed title in conjunction with AJ Calitz. “There was such a vibe with everyone cheering us on. It was special being with my brother – he pulled me along the whole way. Being able to spend the time together out there is really special and taking the win is the cherry on the top.”
Kirsten Heath and Jarryd Dunn (Team Nearly Dunn) placed second, while Chantel Nienaber and Chris Visser (Team COWrageous) finished third.
Vinoda Urisohn was awarded the 2023 Sanet Wentzel Spirit award, for the way she has embarked on a brave journey to conquer demons of alcohol addiction and turn her life around while encouraging and assisting many others to bring health and fitness to their lives.
RESULTS: PICKLE JUICE AFRICANX TRAILRUN Three-Day Stage Race
Date: Sunday 19 March 2023
Distance: +- 18km
Start Venue: Houw Hoek Hotel
Finish Venue: Houw Hoek Hotel
TOP 5 OPEN CATEGORY:
OPEN MEN’S TEAMS:
1 John April and Underson Ncube (Ride along 2) 01:19:37, 2 Lovemo Nyaude and Hakeem Smith (HTRCrew Trail Taxi) 01:22:41, 3 Kyle Bucklow and Oli Morris (New Balance) 01:23:36, 4 Bernard Rukadza and AJ Calitz (K-Way NewBalance) 01:27:16, 5 Oliver Stapleton-Cotton and Mike Van Der Merwe (The Italian Jog) 01:32:03
OPEN WOMEN’S TEAMS:
1 Nicola De Villiers and Jani Kruger (RIOT) 01:44:24, 2 Alexa Rack and Julia Jansen Van Rensburg (Nam Power) 01:45:45, 3 Leani Potgieter and Isel Barnard (Grimes Sisters) 01:47:59, 4 Nicole Bartsch and Monique Bartsch (The Bartsch’s) 01:52:38, 5 Erika Mohr-Holland and Shaundre Jacobs (Trail Queens) 01:58:55
OPEN MIXED TEAMS:
1 Stuart Marais and Kerry-Ann Marshall (Team New Balance #WeGotNow) 01:33:10, 2 Kristen Heath and Jarryd Dunn (Nearly Dunn) 01:38:19, 3 Chantel Nienaber and Chris Visser (COWrageous) 01:40:13, 4 Melikhaya Msizi and Anna Haw (Harmony CX) 01:45:59, 5 Dean Vizagie and Leandri Jansen Van Rensburg (Big Box 2.0) 01:48:41
TOP 5 OPEN CATEGORY GENERAL CLASSIFICATION (GC): STAGES 1, 2 AND 3 COMBINED
OPEN MEN’S TEAMS:
1 John April and Underson Ncube (Ride along 2) 05:56:36, 2 Kyle Bucklow and Oli Morris (New Balance) 05:59:20, 3 Lovemo Nyaude and Hakeem Smith (HTRCrew Trail Taxi) 05:59:46, 4 Bernard Rukadza and AJ Calitz (K-Way NewBalance) 06:14:46, 5 Oliver Stapleton-Cotton and Mike Van Der Merwe (The Italian Jog) 06:16:23
OPEN WOMEN’S TEAMS:
1 Alexa Rack and Julia Jansen Van Rensburg (Nam Power) 07:10:18, 2 Nicola De Villiers and Jani Kruger (RIOT) 07:15:21, 3 Leani Potgieter and Isel Barnard (Grimes Sisters) 07:22:25, 4 Nicole Bartsch and Monique Bartsch (The Bartsch’s) 07:56:48, 5 Erika Mohr-Holland and Shaundre Jacobs (Trail Queens) 08:21:02
OPEN MIXED TEAMS:
1 Stuart Marais and Kerry-Ann Marshall (Team New Balance #WeGotNow) 06:32:48, 2 Kristen Heath and Jarryd Dunn (Nearly Dunn) 06:59:36, 3 Chantel Nienaber and Chris Visser (COWrageous) 07:05:14, 4 Melikhaya Msizi and Anna Haw (Harmony CX) 07:12:09, 5 Jono Gay and Tennille Gay (Team Mom and Dad) 07:38:40