Cousins mix things up to win Berg and Bush

Darryn Purtell of Southbroom and Hayley Smith of Uvongo after winning the Berg to Bush for the first time.

First cousins Darryn Purtell (26) and Hayley Smith (23) combined to win the mixed section of the 2017 Berg and Bush mountain bike race.

It was raced over three days, with stage distances 99km, 58km and 48km respectively.

The start venue was at Little Switzerland on the border of the Free State and KwaZulu-Natal, and the finish in Winterton, for the three days.

The Bell Equipment riders made short work of it, winning by a comfortable distance in the end.

“The start was delayed due to the weather and the first 30km was regarded as a neutral zone for safety reasons,” said Hayley.

“It was also because the organisers wanted everyone to get a chance to take it easy and enjoy the beauty of that area,” chipped in Darryn.

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They got lost twice, but despite this still managed to get back on track without too much time lost.

They had a lead of about 15 minutes after the first stage, but knew that wasn’t enough as one technical glitch was all that was needed to see that disappear.

Day two started with decent weather, but rain arrived towards the end of the ride. Still, they were able to enjoy what was mostly a fast, fun ride.

Those behind were not so fortunate as they encountered mud produced by the rain.

“Conditions can change so fast in that place and what is a fun day out for some is a really miserable day out for others,” said Hayley.

They had now built up a decent lead and just need to play things safe and not do anything silly on the final day.

With the rain having stopped, the conditions for the final day looked good.

There was a very fast start and then two big climbs to look forward to, which is when team work really helps.

“Darryn knows me well and when I am suffering and he is really good at motivating me. I took a bit of stain going up Spioenkop hill but Darryn rode ahead and went to get water bottles ready for me when I got to the top,” said Hayley.

“Once I recovered a bit at the top we took off for one of my favourite single tracks and made our way back to the finish without any problems.”

The two have been on the podium a few times, but have never won it.

“We were very excited to get the win, it means a lot,” she said.

Darryn felt the race suited their riding style, with numerous tricky technical sections.

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He enjoyed the trails, which were a bit more ‘tacky’ due to pre-race rain.

“You could hard into the corners and have confidence that your tyres would just stick,” he said.

“There are still two more Berg and Bush events happing now till Thursday and then Saturday and Sunday, I think they may be having less fun than we had.”

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