South African Mountain Bike National Champs – Fort Klapperkop, Pretoria race report from Matt Smith Racing.
Matt Smith is a very well known and respected local DH racer and also an overall good rider of all two wheeled machines. Here is race report of the 2010 SA DH National Championship…
On the Edge
With the Regional and National Points races all wrapped up it was the turn of the one day race to crown the National Champions of South Africa.
For Matt Smith and all the Downhill racers 2010 has been a marathon of endless races all crammed into the first six months of the season and most, including himself were looking forward to the National Champs to end the very tough season on a high before the club season starts.
From the beginning of the year it was reported that the Champs would be at the old downhill venue of Fort Klapperkop in Pretoria. Over the last few seasons the venue has held many National, Regional and club races but before this particular race there was some confusion as to which course would be raced. Always known as a wheel eater of a track the Gauteng riders were hoping for some practice to gain a home town advantage. This was not to be.
The race organizers delivered a brand new track that was completed only the Thursday before the race weekend. This equaled the competition and Matt along with all the Gauteng riders lost any advantage they may have gained from a familiar track.
After walking the track on Friday Matt had this to say.
“I’ve always liked Fort Klapperkop as a race track. It reminds me of the races I did as a Junior when I first started out. I learned how to ride rocks and the harsh powdery dirt that we have in JoBurg and Pretoria on tracks like this. I practiced the National track that ran down the other side of the hill last year and was fast and comfortable on it so was hoping for something challenging like that or even the short flowing regional track we raced earlier this year.
None of this though as they have gone and built a brand new track completely and stretched it out so it can finish at the highway. The top section is a bunch of flat corners with some jumps and berms thrown in for good measure, then a road crossing, a long pedaling straight, a bomb hole, another long straight then a drop into a veldt with blind grass corners leading to the finish. The organizers are hoping for a two minute win time but I think it’ll be a bit shorter than that.
On first inspection it looks like a track that I may not enjoy but should be able to do well on. I’ll been in good shape all year and haven’t really let of the training cos of racing almost every other weekend so my form is good. The only problem I see is that there is no rest on this track so even though it’s short I’ll be pedaling flat almost the whole track.
Through Friday and Saturday practice the track did start to come to life in places but with it being brand new and not run in, it soon deteriorated and started blowing out on the corners and jumps.
There was some debate early in the weekend as to whether the racing would be run on International rules with a qualifier and one race run or as in the National Series and have two runs with the best counting. It turned out to be the later which was a good thing as a course like this could throw up punctures and mechanicals out of nowhere as rocks were being dislodged on every run.
Early Friday morning Matt Smith got a boost for the weekend. He received an email from Cycling South Africa informing him that he had been selected to represent South Africa at the upcoming Masters World Championships to be held in Brazil in September. This decision was based on his consistently high finished and commitment to the National Series.
“It’s so cool to be selected, the last time I made the National team was when I was half a lifetime ago when I was seventeen…a full 16 years ago!! I’m happy about the selection but I’ll try and use the news to build me up for racing this weekend. Nice to know I’m one of the fast guys and can really go for it now”.
“I’ve felt good the whole way through practice and actually enjoyed the old-school feel of the track with the drifting off camber corner that really suit my style. I can’t remember the last time I’ve had my foot clipped out so much and putting the bike sideways. I think that’s the advantage I have on the other guys in that I can use my experience on this terrain. I tried not to over train through practice as I knew it would make me too tired coming into the racing on Sunday.
My first race run felt good but way to loose and I racked up a whole load of mistakes but still had third fastest in the Sub-Veteran category. Kelsey was leading on a 1;46 with Rumbelow on the same second. I had a messy run with a 1;50 and Dirk Lourens had double flatted so was way off the back and none of the other Sub Vets were coming close.
In the second run I felt like I could pull back five seconds, that was my aim anyway. I absolutely pinned the top section as fast and hard as I could and it all held together so I
was fired up. I crossed the road and laid down some horse power in the long straight into the double. I had a sneaky line around the right hand side of the jump that had been working for me so I stuck with that and still felt fast. Only problem was I pedaled so hard into it I though I’d get kicked when I hit the landing so a braked a little bit for control. Then nice and quick through the bomb hole and down the fence and Super-moto sliding off the drop (one of my funnest sections and moves to pull). Dropped into the veldt section and was flying, knew it was a faster run but about four corners in I was out of juice. Tried to stand up and crank but my legs were gone. I carried speed where I could but could feel myself slowing down towards the finish and definitely lost time over the last ten seconds or so of the track.”
Matt improved his first run time by two and a half seconds to come home on a 1;48;52. This would have been good enough for a third place but Lourens had not punctured this time and punted Matt off the podium and down to fourth.
1st Robin Rumbelow 1;44;60
2nd Myles Kelsey 1;44;90
3rd Dirk Lourens 1;48;32
4th Matt Smith 1;48;52
“It’s hard not to be disappointed but I really don’t think I could have gone any faster on this track at the moment. My top section was as fast as any of the top pro-elites but I faded at the bottom and that’s something I need to work on. This result has come at the
end of one of the hardest seasons of my life. I don’t think I’ve ever raced so much and looking back now I was probably burnt out after the last National four weeks ago at Manklele so a top five was quite good considering.
I’ve nailed down number one plates in the Regional points and Champs and taken number four plated in the National Series and Champs so those results are pretty good and a strong base to build on for next season. The plan for next year is to podium every National and aim for a top three number in that and defend the number one plate at Regionals. A big goal for 2011 is to be crowned National Champion so I will fine tune my training towards a win at this event next year. There’s still plenty of racing to come the rest of this year and I’m looking forward to the more chilled out club season and
getting down to Natal for some of the Gravity dices too. I will also get on the Moto-x bikes a bit more and work on my upper body which showed me up a few times on the technical track.
Riding and racing is all about learning so you can get better and at the ripe old age of 33 there’s still a long way to go.”
So far this 2010 season Matt Smith has achieved the following results:
- MTN National Points Series 4th
- Gauteng Regional Points Series 1st
- Gauteng Champs 1st
- MTN National Champs 4th
Matt’s next race will on Sunday the 22nd of August for Round One of the Gauteng Gravity All Stars Club Series (Venue to be announced).
Big Thanks go out to all my Sponsors for giving me the equipment to hold it wide open!
Mongoose Bikes, Match Insurance, Thor MX, Von Zipper, Liqui Moly, Mikes Bikes in Greenside, Frerichs Customs, DC Shoes, Kenda Tyres and tubes, RedBull, Giro Helmets and KTM