Helderberg Mountain Challenge 2018
Sunday 19 August 2018 welcomed the 9th edition of the Helderberg Mountain Challenge; a mountain running race that is as tough as they get and well known to punish even the strongest of athletes. On offer were 24km, 15km and 11km routes - but don’t let the seemingly short distances fool you. The 24km has a whopping 2150m of vertical height gain over some of the gnarliest mountain trails imaginable. Elite athletes take 3hrs to complete this route and finishing within the cut-off is a badge of honour. As always, the mountain was the ultimate victor, but there were some exceptional human performances too; from the sharp end to the last runners home.
The 24km HMC got underway at 7am, as an icy wind began snaking through the festive start / finish zone at the base of the beautiful Helderberg Nature Reserve. Clear skies gave way to thick cloud at the top of West Peak and the infamous Helderberg Dome (1137m), adding to the drama, and challenging the event crew stationed high up in the mountains. Participants of the 24km faced 2150m of elevation gain, and a tough course known for its relentless climbs and quad-busting technical downhill elements. There were more than a few bleeding knees and shoulders on the finish line.
From early on, Robert Rorich, David Long and Will Battersby lead the race, with Marna van Deventer, Louis Claasen and Julie Huckle taking charge of the women’s field. Rorich pulled ahead after the second big climb to the Helderberg Dome, and flew in first over the line in 3:12* followed by David Long in 3:25:28, Will Battersby in 3:37:56 and Franz-Erich Streicher in 3:42:26.
Marna van Deventer led the women home in a time of 4:18:16, with Julie Huckle in second, in a time of 4:22:37. Cally Silberbauer closed out the women’s podium in 4:45:56.
The 15km HMC ‘Lite’ race set off at 8:15am. Buzz on the start line was around the stellar women’s field, which included young speedsters Hayley Preen, Cana Peek, Alexandra Quenet and Annamart Loubser. Junior runner and a name to watch in coming years, Stephen Millard, galloped out from word go, with veteran Roger Dickson and Hayley not far behind him. Millard took it home in 1:35:21. Roger managed to squeak in just ahead of Hayley in 1:35:38. Using her impressive speed over technical terrain to her advantage, Preen was third overall and won the women’s race in a new course record time of 1:36:00. Third man across the line was Nicholas Harrison in 1:37:41. Only one week after claiming victory in the Cape Winter Trail Series®, ever-smiling Cana Peek scooped second spot in 1:41:24, with Annamart Loubser rounding out the women’s podium just 20 seconds later.
The 11km crew were predictably swift across this comparatively runnable course. Jaco Loots was first man home in a time of 53:56, followed by Mikhail Fisher in 54:25 and Harman de la Guerre in 54:47. Hanja Badenhorst was first woman home in 1:04:03 followed by Jade Bremner and Lauren Buchan.
Runners from across the three events brought their battered legs and big smiles to the finish line for many hours after the podium runners arrived. Welcomed by live music, heated tents, food trucks, cold Bos Sport and equally chilled Saggy Stone Beer, there vibe was celebratory, well in to the afternoon.
With thanks to title sponsor Bos Sport, presenting sponsor Jaybird and partners Raidlight, Steenberg and Saggy Stone we now cast our collective gaze towards Swellendam, and the notorious Marloth Mountain Challenge – the grand finale in the Bos Sport Mountain Challenge Series, amplified by Jaybird. Rest well, we’ve saved the beast for last.
*Rorich was later disqualified as it was found that he had not carried a Category 1 compulsory kit item during the race. He has accepted this disqualification and was removed from the official results.