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Nashua Hluhluwe Rhino Charge (3rd of MiWay Big 5 Series)

28 January 2015

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When the 500 strong field of mountain bikers rolled out of the Hluhluwe Protea Hotel for the 2011 Nashua Rhino Charge last Sunday there was good reason for cheer. After weeks of bitter cold, rain and high winds the weather god looked favourably on this popular mountain bike race and both riders and spectators were blessed with sunshine and blue skies, just the right elements needed to enjoy Hluhluwe's beautiful bushveld, riverine forests and great biking trails.

At the head of the main race it was Sean Merredew who raced to line honours but not without a tremendous challenge from chasing pair  Gylin Van der Berg and Evan Van der Spuy. With one kilometre to go and a final climb up to the finish all three riders were in with a chance but it was the powerful Zululand Cycles rider who got the edge and crossed the line for victory in a sprint finish.  First lady in the main event was Nedine Cahill finishing in a blistering pace ahead of Haley Smith and Christy Glass. The Nashua Hluhluwe Rhino Charge is the third race in the Miway Big 5 Mountain Bike Series and has a reputation for being a fast race, hi-tech tracking devices provided by Alpha Track were attached to the leading riders bikes and provided race officials and spectators with a real time update on the leaders progress throughout the event. Alpha Track recorded a top speed of 51.7 kilometers per hour with winner Merridew clocking an average speed of 25.4 km over 50 kilometres.

In the 25km intermediate event it was a hotly contested affair for the short course specialists. It was a group of 5 leading riders that descended into the beautiful pristine forest and technical section just 2 kilometers from the finish. The 'Bull Run' proved to be the defining feature for a place on the podium. This obstacle allows riders to choose between a dangerous shortcut 'the Bull Run' or a safe but longer 'Chicken Run'. Claiming its first victim one of the leading group provided spectators  and the official photographers with a spectacular crash and allowed Martin Bahlaman and Michael Frankish to seize the advantage and escape to take first and second place respectively, Mariu Mthembu finished third.  The ladies 25km was won by Shirley Ann Brown with Brenda Janssens and Karen Todd taking up the number two and three on the podium respectively. All three female riders taking the 'Bull Run' in their stride and proved  that the fairer sex have got the metal to take on the dangerous stuff.

For the bulk of the field the Nashua Hluhluwe Rhino Charge was a personal challenge, getting dirty and having fun doing it. Lots of laughter and 'bikers banter' could be heard as groups of new found friends and teams pedalled their way through pineapple fields, game farms and golden stands of grassland interspersed with magnificent Fever tree's.  The race village at Protea Hotel Hluhluwe was a splash of colour dominated by the pink Miway banners and a welcome oasis for wary mountain bikers to enjoy the shaded lawns, great food and refreshments and of course to swap a few war stories.

The next event in the Miway Big 5 takes place on the 5th September at the Monzi Country Club where the organisers are hard at work preparing a brand new race route with a variety of exciting features for the year's event. Details are available on the official race website www.big5mtb.co.za and look for updates on facebook and go to www.roag.co.za to enter. Tickets for the Prize giving ball are selling fast and there are a limited number of tickets available, book your tickets at ....... to avoid disappointment.

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