The 2019 Rhodes Dryland Traverse drew to a close at the isolated De Hoek Mountain Resort on Sunday. The four-day stage race, which showcases the classic trails of the Klein Karoo, has fast become a South African favourite.
Taking centre stage this year was Nedbank Running Club’s Eric Ngubane, who won the solo male category in a time of 5:47:02. Describing himself as a ‘man of the mountains’, Ngubane particularly enjoyed the stage that took runners through the mighty Swartberg mountain range where he managed to open up a gap on the rest of the field.
With titles like the 2018 winner of the Lesotho Ultra Trail and 2014 champion of the prestigious 100km Ultra Trail Cape Town, Ngubane drew from years of experience to take the Dryland Traverse victory:
“There were some really fast runners here this weekend, but I just kept telling myself that a race like this isn’t won in one day. I stayed calm and stuck to my own pace, and it paid off in the end. This was the most well-organized event I’ve ever been to – everything from the route markings and medical team, to the race village and food. I really enjoyed it,” said Ngubane.
Another stand-out performance over the weekend came from rising trail running talent Siviwe Nkombi, who finished in second place.
It was a first time event for both Ngubane and Nkombi, who over four days were exposed to unique features of the South African landscape like the UNESCO World Heritage site of the Swartberg Mountains, Cango Caves and Raubenheimer Dam.
Each year title sponsor Rhodes Quality looks for new avenues to invest in local trail running talent. One of the runners grabbing the opportunity afforded to him by Rhodes was Oudtshoorn’s Francois Maquassa, who stormed to a stage win and rounded out the men’s elite podium.
“It’s an incredible experience to be welcomed by this trail running community who encourages and enables you to pursue your dreams. It makes me want to reach for more in this sport and gives me a platform to encourage other runners looking up to me,” said Maquassa.
In the women’s solo category it was Danette Smith who was crowned queen of the mountains. After an impressive Prologue win, Smith was taken by surprise in stage one when Amri de Jong managed to take the lead in the final kilometres of the 29km route.
With a strong determination to reclaim the top step of the podium, Smith managed to open up a 15 minute gap on de Jong by the end of the weekend.
In third place was Jani Kruger, who finished the event in a time of 8:44:29.