Round 2 South African National in Mankele, Mpumalanga

Flipper just beamed me some sweet photos and repo on round 2 of the South African Nationals at Mankele, check it out.

Andrew Neethling first race run down the hill had him in second place when Cape Town’s Johann Potgieter set the fastest time by just under a second. In Afrikaans Trek means pull and Needles did just that to his finger and put his first run jitters behind him for the second run, taking the top spot by 4 seconds.

The ever stylish Jonty Neethling didn’t have a great weekend in Mankele, Mpumalanga, by his own admission. We did try and cheer him up by taking him to the world’s oldest cave – Sudwala – just after the race – and it kinda worked .. until we realised we were about an hour behind schedule to make it back to the airport, we were almost out of petrol, the closest petrol station was out of the combustible stuff and the next closest one was 40km away.

The local marshals were better equipped for the 32c than this seasoned photographer … my big floppy hat has gone walkabout sometime between November and now. Thats what happens when you take time off … the ladies cheered every rider past, shouting their numbers and wooping every time the wheels left the ground .. it was classic.

What can be said about 5 men standing in front of a yellow sheet …
Elite podium. Left to Right: 4th Jonty Neethling (Morewood), 3rd Gary Barnard (Morewood), 1st Andrew Neethling (Trek), 2nd Johann Potgieter (Cannondale), 5th Hayden Brown (Mongoose)

Leaving on a jet plane .. and hopefully the bikes come too. Flying with bikes is always interesting, and on regional flights in South Africa most people dont bother putting the bikes in boxes or bags. Its much easier to wheel them around the airport and wheel them out at the other side. Maybe when the World Cup comes to town in April the airlines will be a bit stricter when 200 plus riders try this trick though.

Words and photo:Gary Perkin


Andrew Neethling (Trek) clearly thrives on pressure, a fact he confirmed on Sunday when he secured a thrilling victory at the second round of the MTN National Cup downhill mountain bike event at Mankele in the Mpumalanga province of South Africa.

Riders each get two runs at South African downhill races, and their fastest of the two determines their final position. That was the format used on the technical 1.8km course through some rugged, lush bushveld terrain, which included rock gardens, bridges, jumps, berms and tight switchbacks.

Neethling, winner of Round 1 in Stellenbosch last month and strong favourite to win Round 2 on Sunday, clocked a time of 2min09.27sec for his first run, a performance which most felt was good enough to take the early lead and put his rivals under pressure for the second round of competition. But fellow Capetonian, Johann Potgieter (Cannondale), eclipsed Neethling with a time of 2:08.56, setting the scene for an exciting finale.

“I usually use the first run as a ‘feeler’ run but felt that time was pretty good on such a tight, short course which leaves no room for error,” explained Neethling afterwards.

The 2007 national champion, widely regarded as one of the classiest downhillers in the world, then showed his ability to perform under pressure when he set the course on fire with his second run, clocking a snappy 2:04.54 which Potgieter and the others were unable able to better.

“Johann really forced me to wake up for the second run. I’m pretty much expected to win when I race in South Africa and I try my very best to live up to those expectations. It feels really good to get a second win so early in the year. It gives me a confident start to the season and it is great exposure for my new team, Trek.”

Neethling finished 11th overall in the 2008 UCI Nissan World Cup and began a new contract with the Trek international racing team last month. He’s one of a crop of talented downhillers from Cape Town, four of whom secured the top four places overall on Sunday.

Potgieter’s first run gave him second place with Gary Barnard (Fox Morewood) third, Jonty Neethling (Fox Morewood) fourth and 2008 national junior champion, Hayden Brown (Mongoose), rounding out the top five.

Rika Olivier, winner of Round 1, sustained an injury in a practice session crash and had to sit out Sunday’s action giving Vicky Phillips (Fox) a path of less resistance to capture the victory with a solid first run time of 3:10.75.

MTN National Cup in association with MiWay
Downhill – Round 2
Mankele, Mpumalanga
Leading results
1 Andrew Neethling ¬– Trek 2min04.54sec
2 Johann Potgieter – Cannondale 2:08.56
3 Gary Barnard – Fox Morewood 2:10.18
4 Jonty Neethling – Fox Morewood 2:11.64
5 Hayden Brown – Mongoose 2:11.65

Round 2 South African National downhill mountain bike race series in Mankele, Mpumalanga, with Andrew “needles” Neethling on the Trek


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