It was fierce, fast and full of fun!

The first race in this year’s edition of this popular series was made up of a 10km (400m ascent) and 5.8km (309m ascent) at Kirstenbosch Gardens. Participants enjoyed the amazing experience of running past the fragrance gardens and up onto the fringes of Cecilia Forest along the contour path. After the beautiful mountain trails, there was a playful technical descent followed by a magnificent indigenous forest, all as the sun went down.

In the long course, the A batch was destined to give it a proper smack. Names such as Siviwe Nkombi, Stephen Millard, Rory Scheffer, Lucas Adams, Jono Black, Peter Tsawayo and Daniel Claasen took off at whiplash speed. The finish line crew were ready with seconds to spare as Nkombi stormed through, taking 40 seconds off the previous course record to finish in 38m48sec. Scheffer, too, finished within the previous course record, in 39min24sec, and Tsawayo rounded out the podium in a time of 39min:32sec. Mags Wright was first woman home in 52min20sec.

In the short course, Jaco Loots put it all out there to finish in an impressive 27min31sec. Rob Tweddle followed hard in 27min53sec, and the humble Jethro Dunn continued his dominance of the Junior category, coming in third overall in 28min15sec. First woman home was Vicky Stevens in 35min49sec, with Nadine van Taak just under a minute behind her. 20 seconds later, Minimee runner Erin Kennedy took third spot.

By race 2 in this 4-race series, things always start to get interesting. Individuals committed to achieving particular outcomes rock up with a keen eye for their competitors. Tactical decisions are made according to working the point system, and the finish line becomes an exciting place to watch it all unfold. The usual mix of every level of trail runner came through to play on the beautiful Lebanon Forest mountain bike trails.

The route offers a classic mix of exciting single track, forest paths and fynbos studded trail through orchards and playful switch backs.

The 13.4km long course was once again stacked with speedy potential. Siviwe Nkombi took an early lead. Hot on his heels were Peter Tsawayo and Emmanuel Dlamini.

In the women’s race, globe trotter Meg Mackenzie came through in sixth position overall, and first woman in 59min55sec. Friend, fellow Salomon runner and friendly rival Daneil Feldman was second woman in 1h06min53sec, and talk of the day was master (50+) runner Suzette McIvor, who scooped third in 1h09min36sec.

The finish line was a hive of activity with the winners tape switched swiftly to the short course chute in the midst of the racing action. Rob Tweddle took the 6.3km course in just 25min47sec, with first woman and second overall, Bianca Tarboton 2 seconds behind him. The couple raced the small hill to the finish in an entertaining, all-out effort which could have gone either way.

Meerendal, the host for Race 3, runs predominantly on perfectly manicured mountain bike single track. A playful, undulating course that offers a solid dose of pure fun and gives the roadies a chance to go hard against their trail competition. 

Once again, the A batch in the Long Course flew out of the start chute, with Siviwe taking no chances. Spectators watched as he increased his lead on the first climb, winding his way to the top at unbelievable pace. He confirmed his series win by finishing the just-shy-of 10km course in 33:13. There was simply no beating the guy. Carla Whitehead took top spot in the women’s race.

In the short course, Bianca Tarboton swung things around by taking top spot overall in 23min:09sec, with arch rival (and romantic interest) Rob Tweddle just 4 seconds behind her. Minimee Deon Bochnig once again had a cracker of a race, finishing second male and third overall.

It all came down to one rainy day in Grabouw. Mother Nature has her way of deciding who is boss, and this time she threw both fire and water at the event. Vicious wildfire damage to Oak Valley forced Wildrunner to work swiftly in securing an alternative venue, and Trail’s End stepped in. Eikenhof Dam and surrounding trails offered a relatively flat, runnable route with beautiful views. Damp and drizzly, it could have been mistaken for a winter series race, but the crowd took the changes in their stride and cars streamed in for the last of 4 races.

The routes took runners on an exploration around the Eikenhof Dam along the northern fringes of the magnificent Elgin Valley. These are fast and furious routes with a bit of everything thrown in to keep the blood pumping.

The 25xl was an ideal ‘upgrade’ for those who had either banked the Series (3 out of 4) or wanted to race something longer. More than 100 individuals, many of whom had not attended any of the series race prior, lined up to tackle the xl route. Oriole Bolus of the infamous Muizenberg Trail Dawgs crew slammed first place in a time of 1hr:50min33sec. Kyle Herring took second spot in 1hr:50min:58sec, and the podium was concluded by Chris Visser in a time of 1h:51min05sec. First woman home was Kirsten Gray in a time of 2hr13min48sec, followed by Cally Silberbauer and Mags Wright.

Siviwe Nkombi was unstoppable on the 16km Long Course, taking it in just 58min. In the 7km short course, Bianca Tarboton once again took top spot overall in a time of 29min16sec.

The runners gathered under gazebos and tents, and awaited the results calculations for top spots in the series. The most notable performances have to be Siviwe Nkombi, Deon Bochnig and Bianca Tarboton, although there was no shortage of talent out there this season and there are certainly some new trail stars rising.

Next up? Well it’s off to Gauteng for the Winter Trail Series® in June!

With thanks to Jaybird, BoldGear, North Ridge, Hydro Flask, Steenberg and Petzl. That’s a wrap.