After a nail-biting season of racing, the 2018 National Cross Country Champion is about to be crowned in Carletonville.
South Africa’s top racing talent will line up elbow-to-elbow on Saturday for a mass start according to championship standings. The new format will exasperate the already heated atmosphere as Kenny Gilbert prepares to put up one last fight for the coveted OR1 title.
After a crucial victory at the last round in Swaziland, the PEPSON PLASTICS HUSQVARNA RACING star has narrowed the gap separating him from arch rival Ross Branch. This will undoubtedly make for an epic season finale where Saturday’s event will determine who takes the coveted title.
Riders will be up against four technical ‘Loop A’ laps that cover 50km’s each, before moving onto two ‘Loop B’ laps of the same distance. The route has been put together by a multiple national champion himself – Louwrens Mahoney, who gave a glimpse of the excitement that’s in store:
“We’re racing on two different cattle farms, and while the route is fast and flowing, there are no long stretches where riders can reach ‘top end’. The National guys are up against a rough route on a hardpack, rocky landscape. With jeep tracks, technical terrain and tight forest sections in store, riders won’t get a chance to just sit back and turn the throttle,” explained Mahoney.
This will be good news for Gilbert, who is not only renowned for his ability to adapt over constantly varying terrain, but has recently proven to shine on tight forest trails in Swaziland.
“I feel most confident when the route changes up a lot. The flat-out stuff isn’t where I feel strongest, but riding over tight and technical trails comes most naturally to me. I don’t want to think about the enormity of the championship as a whole, but rather focus on Saturday’s race alone to give it the best that I can,” explained Gilbert.
Another rider that is on the brink of claiming a championship title is Taki Bogiages.
The OR2 competitor burst onto the National circuit at the start of the season when he was recruited by Husqvarna to step in for an injured Brett Swanepoel.
Bogiages grabbed the opportunity with both hands and stormed his way to the top of the leaderboard in a highly competitive class. With a slender lead ahead of a determined Gareth Cole, the PEPSON PLASTICS HUSQVARNA RACING athlete is preparing to give the event everything he’s got.
“I have a lot going through my head right now, but I know I have to get out there and race as hard as I possibly can. The team has gone to tremendous effort to ensure I’ve got the best weapon for the job at hand! The stakes are high, but I feel confident in knowing I’ve done everything I can to prepare for whatever challenges I face on Saturday,” said Bogiages.
Rounding out the Husqvarna squad this weekend is Master’s rider Iain Pepper.
Following a hard crash, the rider has been unable to put in the hours on the bike he hoped for due to injury. Despite the setback, Pepper is heading to Carletonville to fight for a final second spot on the National Cross Country podium.
“I’m just going there hoping I still have enough fitness to push through and finish this season strong. The preparation hasn’t been ideal, but I’m still determined to do the best I can and hopefully secure a second position overall this season,” he said.
Missing from action will be Travis Gehlig, who unfortunately has been sidelined after breaking his hand during training.
Published by: Husqvarna Media
Picture Caption: Kenny Gilbert shines on tight and technical trails in Swaziland.
Photography by: www.zcmc.co.za
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