Yolande Speedy, winner of the first round of the 2012 South African National Cross-country Series last weekend, showed on Saturday that she’s able to win in all conditions when she claimed first place in the Elite & Under-23 women’s race at the first round of the 2012 Momentum Health UCI XCO Series at Giba Gorge, in the KwaZulu-Natal province.
In stark contrast to the hot, dry, dusty and rocky conditions she triumphed in at the Durbanville course near Cape Town last week, Saturday’s racing took place in cool, damp, muddy conditions, while the light drizzle and extreme humidity both created their own challenges for the riders.
Speedy got off to a poor start, but by the first section of singletrack was up to third behind former Junior world championships bronze medallist, Candice Neethling (Team BMC-SA), and Samantha Sanders. By the start of Lap 2 in the six-lap race, she’d taken the lead.
“After the second lap I thought I’d maybe gone out a bit hard and was a bit worried. Candice was right on my wheel and I wasn’t sure I could maintain that pace. But as the race went on I managed to recover,” explained Speedy.
“The course was quite muddy, but with the light rain, it was consistent and bearable. But it did make the race interesting. I’m glad it was close racing. Made it more exciting,” said Speedy, who pulled away from Neethling at the end of the penultimate lap to secure the win.
Neethling was second and visiting Scot, Lee Craigie, claimed third.
The first and second places by Speedy and Neethling give South Africa a total of 50 UCI rankings points as the event held a UCI Category 2 status, which offers 30 points for a win and 20 for second place.
This helps give South Africa a nation’s ranking boost, key in an Olympic year, even though South African women have only a slim chance of securing an Olympic qualifying spot.