From 3 to 5 May 2018, more than fifty cyclists tackled the most difficult mountain bike race in Namibia: the Standard Bank Klein-Aus Vista MTB Challenge. The beautiful scenery of the Aus Mountains and the surrounding Namib Desert offer many challenges to the riders: winding through granite boulders, climbing up rock faces and steep hills, racing down paths with loose gravel or making way through thick sand.

Thirty-two cyclists, of whom seven were women, participated in the full-marathon event. On day one, the participants had to race against the clock in a twelve kilometre time trial, on day two they had to race across 60km with the steep Costa´s Climb after 42km, and on day three it was another 60km, this time down Costa´s Climb and along a new very sandy route. Altogether, the full-marathon riders raced across 132km in three days. In the half-marathon category, eleven women and eleven men participated. They challenged each other on the second day, across 33km and on day three the same 33km but in the opposite direction. Luckily for those riders, was the fact that they did not have to climb or race down Costa´s Climb.

The steep two kilometre long stretch where riders have to master an altitude of 220 metres and climb of up to 30 degrees is a challenge, even for the best. The steepest part to Costa´s peak was mastered during the race for the first time last year by Seibeb Costa. Unfortunately, Costa died in a tragic motor vehicle accident last year after the second day of racing, on his way to Lüderitz. In honour of the exceptional cyclist, Piet Swiegers, the organiser of the Klein-Aus Vista MTB Challenge, named the climb after Costa.

This year´s challenge was to ride up this extremely steep part of the route and the only rider to manage this and to become the second person to do so, was eighteen year old Schalk van der Merwe. All other riders, including the winners of the different groups and Victrix Ludorum Michelle Voster and Victor Ludorum Xavier Papo, had to get of the bike at one or other stage and push for a few metres.

The next day, the challenge was who could race down the two kilometres and be the “sweepslang” (grass snake) of Costa´s climb. The honour went to Denzel de Koe, who was the fastest downhill and who came second overall in the full-marathon category, with Christo Swartz in third. Michelle Voster was the fastest woman followed by Hanlie Booysen and Ester Lateganin third.

Overall winner of the half-marathon in the men´s category was the junior rider Anton Engling and in the women´s category, Samantha Oosthuyzen. The amazing landscape made up for the hardship during the races and all riders felt that the Klein-Aus Vista MTB Challenge is unique and very tough, but worthwhile to do again. This year’s challenge was the eighth annual event and Piet Swiegers announced that the next will only take place in 2020.

Author: Dirk Heinrich

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