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Oudtshoorn – After a temporary hiatus forced by the COVID pandemic, the Rhodes Dryland Traverse returned to the trails of the Klein Karoo near Oudtshoorn this past weekend for the 10th edition of one of South Africa’s favourite multi-day adventure trail events. The four-day event is based at the remote De Hoek Mountain Resort, just up the road from the world famous Cango Caves, and runs through the Swartberg Mountains, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and surrounding areas.

Having warmed up his running muscles in the Thursday evening 7.3km prologue, former winner Robert ‘Robbie’ Rorich seemingly flew up the Swartberg Pass in Stage 1 (25.7km) to set the tone for the racing to come. He also won Stage 2 (28.3km), then ran the final 10km stage barefoot and still took second place on the day as he wrapped up the overall win in the individual men’s race.

Rorich finished with an overall time of 5:27:15 after four days of racing, with John April second (5:40:59) and Ben Kooyman third (6:53:31). After the race, Rorich said, “It was fantastic to be back at the Dryland Traverse, and to win it again. I always have such a great time at this race, so I’ll definitely be back again, and I also want to take on some of the great mountain biking events that the Dryland team put on.”

Amongst the women, Nadia Jooste took line honours in the prologue and two out of the three main stages, only narrowly losing to Sarah-Jane Perry by half a second on Stage 2. Jooste only began racing seriously this year, after having three children, but had already shown her star potential by finishing third in the Otter African Trail Marathon at the beginning of October. Just four weeks later, she finished the Rhodes Dryland Traverse with an overall winning time of 6:49:37.

Perry, who had never run anything longer than 10km before, showed remarkable running strength to finish second overall on 7:01:50, with multiple Comrades Marathon gold medallist Yolande Maclean rounding off the podium in third (7:07:33). Fourth overall in the women’s solo race went to Amri Williamson, who literally sacrificed her race to help a fellow runner. In a remarkable display of sportsmanship, she caught a struggling Perry around the 12km mark of Stage 2 and stayed with her for the next 16km, saying she was determined to see the newcomer to trail running finish on the podium, and literally pulled Perry up some of the steeper hills while constantly coaching and motivating her!

Dominant Teams at Dryland

Right from the start of the prologue, the men’s team competition was all about one team, Francois Maquassa of Oudtshoorn (who was third in the men’s solo race in 2019) and Lloyd Bosman of George. The local favourites, running as team Nedbank SWD Men, literally ran away with the category, finishing with an overall time of 5:36:26, comfortably ahead of second-placed JC Visser and Mauritz Janse van Rensburg (Team Soul Running, 6:59:39) and third team over the line, The Drivers (Ashley Driver and Brett van Coller, 7:02:36).

The top women’s team consisted of former SA World Champs international Chantel Nienaber and emerging young trail starlet Chloe Bishop, who only joined forces as Team #TrueStory a few days before the event after Bishop contacted Nienaber via Facebook and asked if she could run the event with one of her all-time running heroes. They dominated proceedings to win the category in 7:50:36, finishing ahead of the Boere Bokkies (Jeanne Botha and Rochelle Green, 8:17:27) and Team 32Gi Girls (Rebecca Jordaan and Theresa Buchner, 8:26:07).

The Mixed Team category was won by Anel van Wyk and Eddie Mouton of Nedbank SWD Mixed, who finished on 7:23:16, ahead of Bert and Melanie Verlinde of Team Black Mountain CrossFit (7:40:50) and Robyn Tayelor and Tyrone van Rooyen of Team Smile Knysna (7:51:07).

Adding a bit of fun to the event, the Mafuta category for male runners weighing in at 90 to 99kg was won by Marsel Roos in 7:09:55, while the Makula Mafuta category for runners over 100kg was won by Stefa Burger in 8:47:29. Mafuta means Fat Man in isiXhosa, while Makula Mafuta means Very Fat Man, and male runners are invited to weigh in at registration to qualify for these categories, with coveted hippopotamus trophies up for grabs, but to be fair to the bigger runners, it’s all muscle!

Great to be Back!

With the 10th birthday of the Dryland Traverse having been put on hold in 2020 due to the COVID pandemic, Dryland Event Management’s Bernard Le Roux says it was fantastic to be able to once again present the race in 2021.

“This event has always been special to us in so many ways, and this year was no different. We are really grateful that we were able to celebrate the 10th edition with the support of our sponsors, all the familiar faces coming back each year, as well as all the first-timers. Thank you for contributing to another unforgettable weekend, the friendships, camaraderie and great spirit shown on the trails and at the race village!”

The 2022 Rhodes Dryland Traverse will be taking place from Thursday the 3rd, to Sunday the 6th of November. Entries will open on Black Friday (26 November 2021) with a limited number of early-bird spots available. For more info, visit www.drylandtraverse.co.za or contact Suné Linde of Dryland Event Management on Tel. 044 279 1013 or sune@dryland.co.za.

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