PwC Great Zuurberg Trek a learning curve for top contenders

Rossouw Bekker

PwC Great Zuurberg Trek a learning curve for top contenders

Former African junior cross-country champion Rossouw Bekker will have a new teammate in Matt Keyser when he tackles the seventh PwC Great Zuurberg Trek mountain bike race at Addo outside Gqeberha this weekend.

The three-day event, which starts and finishes at the Zuurberg Mountain Village on top of the Zuurberg mountains, gets underway with a full field on Friday.

Bekker, the Stellenbosch-based owner of Valley Electrical Titan Racing, finished third overall alongside Mark Fourie in the pre-Covid edition in 2019.

Keyser, from Somerset West, has just joined the team and the pair are looking forward to the race that has become famous for its single-track, challenging climbs and spectacular vistas over the Zuurberg range.

The 2017 African champion had been focused on building his team since 2019 and felt they were going in the right direction.

“The original plan was for the whole team to go to the national marathon championships [in KwaZulu-Natal this weekend], but Matt got a bit sick after sani2c, so that set us back,” said Bekker.

“Also, I have a dual role in the team as rider and manager and am not riding as much as I would have liked, so we decided to take this opportunity to enjoy the GZT.”

This time around, Bekker and Keyser will have to conquer 188km and 4 050m of vertical ascent.

“I really like the riding out there and the event, with its boutique feel and very good racing, is a nice one to do, especially in an area which we don’t often see.”

He felt the GZT was the perfect opportunity for them to develop their partnership as it would be their maiden outing as a team.

“I know Matt well and we have raced against each other a few times but, with him being new to the team, it will take a day or two to sort things out,” explained the 22-year-old.

“We certainly will be aiming to do well because that’s why we race, but our challenge will be to figure out the terrain and gauge our efforts over the three days.

“Chiefly, it will be about communicating with your partner and working to ride as a team.”

Keyser looks to be in good form this season after winning PE-Plett alongside HB Kruger earlier this year, placing fifth at the Imbuko Big Five MTB Challenge and collecting several other podiums along the way.

Gqeberha’s husband-and-wife combination of Wesley and Mandi Augustyn were relishing the chance to experience the GZT for the first time after placing second in the mixed section in the recent Cape Epic.

“We now have a chance to do a race that we have always heard good things about,” said Wesley.

“Previously things just have not worked out for us with the GZT, but this is a great opportunity to experience and support one of our big local events.

“That region has got the most uninterrupted single-track in the Eastern Cape and the environment has so much to offer – the hills, the rugged and rocky terrain, mixed with the spectacular views.”

Heading into the PwC GZT, the Augustyns (The Engineering Hub) find themselves in a similar situation as before the Epic.

“We raced PE-Plett about four weeks before and picked up a tummy bug, which meant we were off the bike for two weeks. We only got back on about a week before.

“I know my wife wants first place at the GZT because she’s a born champion at heart, but I have been ill and have just recovered. So that might be a bit ambitious.”

He explained that they had ridden themselves back to full fitness on the first three days of the Epic.

“On stage four we started gassing it to see what we could do, and then we decided to gas it every day and moved up to second.

“We won four stages in a row and possibly could have taken the top spot, but were still happy with second, given our build-up.”

In the women’s section, defending champion Tracey Campbell and new partner Juanita Mackenzie look like the team to beat.

Riders will face stages of 60km (with 1 450m of ascent), 80km (1 400m) and 48km (1 200m).

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