Magalies Berg Challenge 2016

Buffelspoort Valley in the North West Province of South Africa was the setting for another spectacular outdoor sports festival. More than 3000 athletes took part over the weekend activities, ranging from the notorious Magalies Monster MTB Classic race on the Saturday to multiple distance Platinum Trail Running events on the Sunday. I took part in the Marathon 70 km MTB Race and then next day in the 24 km Trail Run. These two races combined forms the Magalies Berg Challenge….no easy task to compete in - especially gunning for both events to finish on the podium. Each of these events on itself holds a fearsome reputation for its demands on the human body and the strong field of athletes taking part.

The Saturday I took part in the Magalies Monster MTB Classic 70 km race which is one of the most respected and known MTB events in South Africa. The race made its name by the infamous Monster Climb mid-way in the marathon race. It varies year from year, the climb itself using different routes up the Norther slopes of the Magalies Mountain Range in Buffelspoort Valley. It is normally a 9 – 11 km climb ascending 450 – 600 m in total. On paper this does not sound too bad. But when you experience the loose rocks, off-camber rock faces and sudden increase in gradient on the climb while racing as hard as your body allows you to do, then all of a sudden the name – The Monster – seems like a worthy title.

This was my fourth attempt at racing the Monster and I can honestly say this was the only time I could race the entire course within my own abilities and not suffer to the end. I experienced no mechanical or physical issues. I basically rode from the 10 km mark in 2nd position till the finish. There were at times a small group of cyclist who managed to catch me in the beginning. But every time we started to climb I would comfortably ride away from them until the elastic band snapped on the Monster Climb and I managed to put daylight between myself and the other top 5 placing chasing me. At the end after 73.2 km of racing I finished a mere 36 seconds behind the winner. I was extremely happy and satisfied with my performance and how well my body coped with the demands of the race.

The next morning, I stood stupidly on the start line of the 24 km Platinum Trail Run. As you can imagine this 24 km trail run is no running joke. The race includes a 6 km climb (The Xterra Climb) and a decent that is so steep running down that you do need to inform your life insurance beforehand that you might not make it through the run and whether you are covered for taking on such an extreme challenge…

I started the race conservatively and only after 10 km of running did I start to run at my best ability. I was really surprised to see how strong my legs felt given that I have raced the monster within a 24-hour period. Running from 9th position starting with the Xterra climb into 5th position made me realize with 10 km to go that I might be able to finish on the podium. Thus with all my energy and intension I started to hunt down 4th and 3rd position respectively. I managed to pass the 3rd athlete with 6 km to go to the finish knowing the top two athletes were far in front and that I would never be able to catch them.    

I finished in 3rd overall position feeling more satisfied than the day before. As I realized that I have never been this well-conditioned concerning my physical shape and ability. It was comforting to see the refection of my training and conditioning carry over into racing results. I struggle to find names of more than 5 athletes in the entire country who can currently mimic what I managed to achieve over this weekend. I managed to comfortably win the Magalies Berg Challenge with the combined time for the two races of 5 hours and 6 min in total.

I have for years trained and prepared myself for the day when I will be in almost complete harmony and sync with my body. To have the utmost confidence and calmness in what I should do on race day and the self believe that I will. It takes a lot of time, success and failures, money and most importantly patience with a sense of bliss to move up on the physical sports performance ladder. The real sad thing for me is that within an instant, one mistake, one mishap or just plain bad luck can have all of this taken away from you as an athlete….

This is where I am now. The week leading up to the weekends racing I unfortunately ruptured my Plantaris Tendon…

What this means in very simple English:

         I need to take a break from running (6 – 12 days),

  • Hope that the pain and discomfort will clear up in this period allowing me to slowly build my running volume and intensity in preparation for 70.3 Durban 19th June 2016.
  • Luckily I do not need this Tendon going forward with my racing career but there will be some complications as now my right leg needs to function without this Tendon.

Safe Training,

Nico Sterk


Last modified on Tuesday, 31 January 2017 21:19
  • Sterk Span Coaching Academy specializes in tailor made training programs, coaching session and advice for triathlon, swimming, learn to swim for adults, cycling, running and related sports such as adventure racing. Our athlete base range from lifestyle orientated individuals to national level athletes who compete at the highest level possible. We also offer services and training sessions for weight loss and lifestyle management.