Most notably, the structure of the series changed this year from largely single-day events to a two-day format. The switch from ultra-marathons to two-day marathons for the elite and under 23 men proved to be a huge success and delivered exciting racing right down to the final event.
Five of the seven rounds in 2017 included the new two-day race format, which ensured that not only the racing was more competitive, but that it was more forgiving in that a rider that suffered a major mechanical problem in one or even two events, could still be in series contention.
It gave South African mountain bikers access to more, to experience a multi-day event at a very reasonable cost and boosted entry numbers among most of the racing categories.
The new two-day format has also encouraged weekends away for families, friends and clubs, significantly boosting economies of small towns during a tough economic period.
From a mountain biking perspective, the Ashburton Investments Series saw the generation of trail legacies. Advendurance, a company run by passionate mountain bikers, has been proactively building sections of new mountain bike trail at most of the Series event locations, helping boost the appeal of mountain bikers revisiting venues outside of the race weekends to enjoy the new riding opportunities.
The 2017 Ashburton Investments National MTB Series visited Grabouw in the Western Cape, Van Gaalen in the North West, Champagne Valley in KwaZulu-Natal, Clarence in the Free State and Dullstroom, Sabie and Kaapsehoop in Mpumalanga.
Matthys Beukes of Pyga Eurosteel and Candice Lill of Team Dormakaba are the 2017 Ashburton Investments men and women’s marathon series champions. Both only secured their titles at the final event in October after a thrilling battle with several rivals.
The half-marathon series continues to provide youth and junior category participants with a fantastic racing platform. Marc Oliver Pritzen and Danielle Strydom are the 2017 male and female series champions respectively.
“Ashburton Investments has been a fantastic sponsor. It’s been more of a partnership because the people that we have worked closely with have been as passionate about the series as we are,” said Fritz Pienaar, Director of Advendurance.
“This three-year period has seen the most changes in the National MTB Series since we launched it back in 2003. The sport of mountain biking has evolved and continues to evolve and it’s great to be able to adapt to those changes and offer mountain bikers throughout South Africa a series of world class, stimulating events at incredible locations,” added Pienaar.
“We are looking for a new title sponsor of the National MTB Series for 2018 and beyond. In corporate terms, the investment is surprisingly low with significant year-round returns. A title sponsor is now a necessity for us to be able to continue to hold the series at the standard the mountain bike market has become accustomed to, so we are hoping we can secure one soon,” added Pienaar.