South African towns don’t come more quaint that Clarens in the Eastern Free State. But with that quaint factor comes dollops of stimulating mountain biking in the Rooiberg mountain range that offers plenty of challenge and even more reward. For 2017, the Clarens round of the Ashburton Investments National MTB Series sees the continuation of the new two-day racing format, which is sure to be a success.

The two-day format also makes the Ashburton Investments National MTB Series events more attractive as a weekend-away trip, with the additional events on the Saturday (20km Fun Race) and Sunday (10km Fun Ride) offering all mountain bikers, no matter what level or age, an opportunity to enjoy mountain biking on well marked and managed routes at some of South Africa’s most beautiful towns.

After three rounds 2016 National Marathon champion, Max Knox (New Holland/This Way Out), leads the men’s series rankings. His second place at Round 1 and two stage wins and the overall win at Round 2 give him 11853 points. Nico Bell (Team NAD Pro) is second on 10857 points with Gert Heyns (Ascendis Health) in third on 10516 points.

All three will be at Clarens, as well as Gawie Combrinck (Team NAD Pro) and the Pyga EuroSteel team of Phil Buys and Matthys Beukes.

“Clarens is one of the best venues and most scenic tracks of the Ashburton Investments  National MTB Series. I’m looking forward to racing the new two-day format there. Obviously, after the Cape Epic, everyone is a little tired. So I think whoever recovers best and has good legs for both days will win. I’m feeling healthy and strong after the Epic, but we’ll see how I feel at race pace! It’s important for me to have two solid stages so that I can build on my overall standings points,” said Knox, who was fourth overall at the Cape Epic.

“We really enjoy the trails there and the altitude makes it challenging! Gawie finished second at Clarens last year and I was fourth. After a disappointing Cape Epic we are looking to do well at Clarens,” said Bell.

“I’m looking forward to the race. We’ve always done well there, but it’s going to be hard so close to Cape Epic,” said Combrinck.

“Matthys and I will both be taking part. It will be our first race after Epic and our focus leading up to Clarens will be to recover from Epic and stay healthy,” said Buys.

Heyns is one of the few top male entrants that didn’t do the Cape Epic. He will obviously be fresher than his rivals and could well have a physical and psychological advantage because of this.

In the women’s category, series leader, Robyn de Groot (Ascendis Health) will start as the favourite.  A series of bad luck incidents put paid to her Cape Epic victory hopes, but a good result at Clarens will go some way to giving the South African champion reason to smile.

“To be honest, I’m still getting used to this new two-day format. It is an exciting format and I always look forward to racing no matter what. ” added De Groot.

Sure to challenge De Groot is Amy Beth McDougall (Valencia), who was a close second to De Groot at Round 1 in Sabie and who has come off the Cape Epic with a runner-up finish in the Mixed category.

“Look, I’m uncertain as to what the Epic has done to me but I’m looking forward to the trails at Clarens. The venue is always one of my favourites,” said McDougall.

Also tackling the Clarens round with Cape-Epic legs are Samantha Sanders (Valenica) and Theresa Ralph (Galileo Risk). Vanessa Bell (Bells Cycling) will have fresh legs, as she didn’t race the Cape Epic and looking forward to a good race.

“I’m looking forward to the event – one of my favourite races of the year. My form is coming along nicely and I hope that the strong ladies field that was at the Epic this year will be there too. Its’ always great to have a stronger ladies field so that you push yourself that much harder.” said Bell.

Candice Lill and Vera Adrian of Team dormakaba, who completed their first Cape Epic, are also on the start list for what should be a hotly contested women’s race.

“I have competed at the Clarens round of the Ashburton Investments National MTB Series since I was a junior and I have such good memories of the town, the rock formations we race through and the rad singletrack. I have no doubt there will be some strong ladies and big names to race against, but I like a challenge,” added Lill.

At 1800 metres above sea level (200 metres higher than Johannesburg), Clarens is considered an altitude-racing venue, which has more impact on the riders that don’t live and train in Johannesburg and Pretoria.

For the competitive participants doing the two-day format Marathon event, Stage 1 is a 70km route with 1073 metres of ascent, while Stage 2 is 57km long with 1075m of elevation. Much of the route on Stage 1 will use the Titanic Trail, while Stage 2 will incorporate large sections of the Porcupine Trail. Both trails are a legacy of previous editions of the Ashburton Investments National MTB Series and are now used to help attract mountain bikers to the town all year round.

For the Half-marathon event competitors, Saturday’s distance is 40km and Sunday’s stage is 35km. There are also Single Day race options for 70km and 40km on Saturday (no points and no prize money for these). Also on Saturday is the 20km Fun Race and on Sunday the 10km Fun Ride.



Venue: Town Square, Main Street, Clarens

Saturday 8 April

06h00-09h15: Registration and late entries

07h30: 70km Marathon (Stage 1) & Single Day

09h00: 40km Half-marathon (Stage 1) & Single Day

09h35: 20km Fun Race

11h00: Preliminary results Day 1 posted

12h00: Fun Race Prize Giving

Sunday 9 April

06H30–09h10: Race office open & 10km Fun Ride registration

07h30: 56km Marathon (Stage 2)

09h00: 35km Half-marathon (Stage 2)

09h20: 10km Fun Ride

11h00: Preliminary results Day 2 posted

12h00: Prize giving (Day 2 and Overall)


Entries are still open and can be done online at



Aerial view of Clarens, which plays host to the 3rd round of the Ashburton Investments National MTB Series.
Photo Credit: ZC Marketing Consulting

Slick rock formation in the surrounding area forms part of the trails at the Ashburton Investments National MTB Series in Clarens.
Photo Credit: ZC Marketing Consulting

The scenic trails of Clarens make the 3rd round of the Ashburton Investments National MTB Series a yearly favourite. 
Photo Credit: ZC Marketing Consulting

Max Knox tight on the heels of the Team NAD riders, Nico Bell and Gawie Combrinck at last year’s Ashburton Investments National MTB in Clarens. All 3 will be pushing for podium positions this weekend. 
Photo Credit: ZC Marketing Consulting


Robyn de Groot leading Candice Lill and Samantha Sanders at the 2016 edition of the Ashburton Investments National MTB Series Clarens. 3 Elite women who will be aiming for podium positions this weekend.
Photo Credit: ZC Marketing Consulting