New champions for new-look Husqvarna Classic

New champions for new-look Husqvarna Classic

The Husqvarna Classic Mid-Illovo MTB Challenge & Trail Run on Sunday (28 April) will have a new look and a new winner in both the men’s and women’s MTB races, writes Tim Whitfield.

With both last year’s champions, Julian Jessop and Christie-Leigh Hearder, committed to other events, there are sure to be two new winners with last year’s runner-up, Tyronne White, looking like the early favourite to keep his unbeaten run going for 2019 in the men’s race.

The Ballito-based coach, who will be taking part in the 60km Husqvarna Classic wearing the colours of his new DriveTrain Academy team for the first time, has become the rider to beat in KwaZulu-Natal this year. White has picked up wins at the Kamberg Classic, Berg 100 and Wartburg and the Drakensberg Descent team event with Andrew Johnson — who joins him in the new team.

“The Husqvarna Classic has always been a tough event, but I have always enjoyed it,” said White. “Julian (Jessop) and I had a good dice last year and he beat me in the final sprint, so hopefully I can go one better and pick up the win on Sunday.

“I believe the course has changed a bit, although from what I have heard and read the 60km is not too different. I believe by moving the new start venue to Gwahumbe Game Lodge and Spa, one of the early climbs has been changed, which is probably going to mean a bigger front group for the first part of the race, which will make things interesting.

“The Husqvarna Classic has always been a brilliant event that I have always tried to do if possible. I missed it a few times because it clashed with the joBerg2c but I was not going to miss it this year.

“The route is always good with some really nice single track and some proper climbs, so the better mountain bikers do well. The organisers have always been very good at talking to the riders and listening to what they have to say, and then making changes that make the race better.”

White’s biggest challenge is probably going to come from Stuart Marais who has been concentrating on preparing for the Olympic-style cross-country racing as he aims for selection to the team to go to Tokyo in 2020.

With White concentrating on marathon-style events, the two have not raced head-to-head this year which adds another level of intrigue to what should be a tight fight for the win.

Another rider who could challenge is Andrew Johnson, White’s teammate in the new team. The Ballito training partners have both moved to the new team which is sponsored by White’s new training academy.

This year’s Husqvarna Classic Mid-Illovo MTB Challenge & Trail Run on April 28 will be based at the Gwahumbe Game Lodge and Spa which will provide a spectator-friendly venue for supporters and a relaxed setting for riders and runners to recover after their events.

There are various options for riders and trail runners with the blue riband event the 60km Husqvarna Classic MTB X-treme which is aimed at the province’s experienced mountain bikers. The popular 40km Safire MTB Classic has a few changes to the route which has made the course easier as well as shorter than last year.

The 18km Gwahumbe Family Experience and 10km Fun Ride target the younger riders and those who are not confident enough to tackle a full 40km classic.

The trail runners will now start at the Gwahumbe Game Lodge on top of the plateau and finish at a beautiful waterfall in the valley. This makes for predominantly downhill routes for both the 16km Farmers Agri-Care Trail Run and the 9km Gwahumbe Trail Run. Shuttles will transport runners back up the hill to the start area for prize giving.

“We are so excited to be hosting the 11th Husqvarna Classic Mid-Illovo MTB Challenge & Trail Run at the new venues,” said race organiser Shanon MacKenzie this week. “We have already had such good feedback on the new routes from riders as well as runners and only positive comments from athletes who have tested the new routes.

“I am convinced we made the correct decision to move the start / finish venue and am excited to see how much people enjoy the new setting.”

One of the riders who was part of the pre-ride on the 40km route, Andrew McKinnon, was full of praise for the route, saying there was 700m of climbing which is about average for a 40km classic but the course had “awesome trails with well-manicured single track with some beautiful berms.”

His 12-year-old daughter, Jodi, who also rode the 40km route, was impressed by the “flowy single track” and said she did not find the route hard at all.

There are 800 Uzwelo shopper bags and 600 Quick Dry, Microfibre towels for the first entrants.

Each year, the Mid-Illovo community benefits from hosting the Husqvarna Classic Mid-Illovo MTB Challenge and Trail Run with proceeds from the event going towards community upliftment.

Every entrant also has the opportunity to give back and help a child in this Midlands community by purchasing an Uzwelo School Bag, with a built-in raincoat poncho, for R150.

Enter online at www.roag.co.za or contact ROAG on info@roag.co.za or 086 100 ROAG/7624.

Entry Fees (early entry prices close April 24)

60km Husqvarna Classic MTB X-treme R220
40km Safire MTB Classic R190
18km Gwahumbe Family Experience R160
10km Fun Ride R80
(free for under 12s)
16km Farmers Agri-Care Trail Run R140
9km Gwahumbe Trail Run R100


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