The north coast of KwaZulu-Natal will be the next battleground for South Africa’s top marathon mountain bike racers when they tackle Round 5 of the Ashburton Investments National Marathon Series at Holla Trails, Ballito on Saturday.

Nico Bell, the current leader of the series, will be on the start line, alongside his Team NAD teammate, Gawie Combrinck, currently lying second in the country’s most prestigious mountain bike racing series.

The Mpumalanga pair will face a formidable opposition though. Max Knox (Lowveld Tractors/Dirk Louwrens Cycles),  the 2015 Series champion, current South African champion and winner of the last two rounds at Clarens and Van Gaalen, is on the start list and will be out to secure a rare series hat-trick in order to rack up more points in his quest to defend the series crown.

Add to that the USN Purefit pair of Waylon Woolcock, currently third in the Series, and Darren Lill, who is still returning to form following a bout of illness; the SCOTT LCB Factory Racing pair of Philip Buys and Gert Heyns; Team Telkom’s HB Kruger, PSG’s Lourens Luus and Red-E Cannondale’s Matt Beers and you have a high quality field.

Bell’s form is good. He finished second overall at last week’s Jock Cycle Tour three-day road stage race and convincingly won the Nissan Trailseeker Hazeldean marathon the previous weekend.

“I’ve done all the Ashburton Investments Series races so far this year, finishing in the top five in each one. That’s helped me score enough points to lead the series and I’m aiming to maintain that consistency. My form feels good and I’m hoping for a good result in Ballito on Saturday,” said a motivated Bell.

Last year’s women’s winner, Swiss marathon champion, Ariane Kleinhans (Team Spur) won’t be in the country this weekend, while South African champion, Robyn de Groot (Ascendis Health), last year’s runner-up, is still recovering from an injury. Also absent this weekend is Amy Beth McDougall, the current series leader, as she is competing abroad.

That opens the women’s race up somewhat, with Candice Neethling (Team Dormakaba), Samantha Sanders (Valencia) and Theresa Ralph (Galileo Risk), the favourites to battle for the title.

Neethling won the last Ashburton Investments Series event at Van Gaalen and will be looking for similar success in her former home province, while Sanders is currently in good form, confirmed by her second place at the Knynsa Oyster Festival Marathon and dominant win at the Nissan Trailseeker Hazeldean Marathon.

As usual, there are four different distance events, catering for all levels of mountain biker – the 102km Ultra-marathon, the 78km marathon, the 42km half marathon and the 18km fun race.

Entries are still open and can be done online at

Ashburton Investments Series

Round 5, Sugar Rush, Ballito:

Saturday 23 July 2016:

06h00-09h30: Registration and late entries

07h45: Riders briefing, leader jerseys handover

08h00: Start Ultra-marathon Pro/Elite & Amateur

08h05: Start Marathon Ladies A Batch

08h10: Start Marathon A Batch

08h15: Start Half-marathon A Batch

08h20: Start Half-marathon Ladies A Batch

08h25: Start Half-marathon all

08h45: Start Fun Race A Batch + 5min intervals other batches

09h30: Start Fun Ride all

13h00: Prize Giving

For more information, visit



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