2023 SA XCO Champs Build Up – Showdown At Thaba Trails

by | Apr 14, 2023 | Bike, Bike Course Previews, Bike Events & Racing, Bike Racing News, Sports

It is going down at Thaba Trails. The 2023 South African XC Championship will take place at 1600m above sea level just South of Johannesburg. The Thaba Trails network is highly regarded for its technical features and punchy climbs, the perfect terrain to test the best of South Africa’s XC crop! XCO is absolutely hardcore and we will see that this weekend without a doubt.

Below you can find some details on the course and comments from the top contenders for the national titles!

The 2023 SA XCO Champs course

Saturday is the XCO race day for Juniors, u23, and elite racers while on Sunday the Nippers, Sprogs and age categories older than Elite will line up for the XCO. Sunday will also host a Short Track race for the Elite men and women!

Sa Xco Champs Thaba Trails 2023
Rocks abound and lines are tight at Thaba trails! (c) Cycling SA

Thaba’s track is definitely on the technical side! The rocky terrain is harsh on the bikes so managing mechanical risks will be a big part of the weekend’s racing. There isn’t much room for overtaking a lot of the time so the first couple hundred meters will be crucial to get right!

Lap distance of 4.3km with 190m of climbing per lap.

Have a look at the course map and a course preview below for more detail!

Sa Xco Champs Course 2023
2023 Sa Xco Champs Build Up - Showdown At Thaba Trails

Who won in 2022? 

Elite Men – Phil Buys

Elite Women – Candice Lill

U23 Men – Tristan Nortje

U23 Women – Rimari Sutton (now Elite)

Junior Boys – Justin Swanepoel

Junior Girls – Tyler Jacobs (now U23)

What do the top contenders have to say ahead of the 2023 Champs race?

Sa Xco Champs Thaba Trails 2023
South Africa’s best will be racing with laser focus to win the national title in their category! (c) Cycling SA

Phil Buys – 2022 SA XCO Champion

WA: Another SA Champs at altitude and on terrain you’re familiar with, Phil. What is your take on the Thaba XCO track and what will be crucial in one’s approach to take a win there this weekend?

Phil: The new Thaba track is tough and rocky, but I enjoy it. The Balwin properties venue is really great and quite an upgrade, a cool place for the wife and kids to join! To win this one will be a huge challenge with Alan racing. If you can beat him you might as well be world champ, haha!

Candice Lill – 2022 SA XCO Champion

WA: Sadly still no Mariske to race with or against, Candice. What are you most keen on coming into SA Champs this weekend and who of the newer elite women are you seeing a lot of promise in for their future in XCO?

Candice: Yes, it’s very unfortunate that Mariske won’t be able to line up this weekend. I have very fond memories of battling it out for this title with her over the years. Hope to see her back in action soon. 

I’m busy preparing for an XCO Europe season, so this fits perfectly in the last few weeks before the first World Cup. It’s always very special to race with the SA Champion jersey in Europe, so I am obviously aiming to grab it, as well as some valuable points. 

I’m excited to race at Thaba again, hopefully on a challenging new course. I’ve heard there is plenty of climbing and the terrain at Thaba is always rough and rocky. 

I am not totally sure who has entered this year in the elite women’s field. I guess we will see, but my plan is to execute my race plan as best as possible. I did manage to convince Amy Wakefield to join this year, so it will be awesome to have her there! And I suspect my strongest competition will come from her. We all know how tough she is!

Luke Moir – Highest ranked U23 in 2023

WA: It has been a busy start to the season for you with a lot of racing in Europe, Luke! Are you confident to take the win in the u23 category at SA Champs and what will it mean to have the SA jersey through the 2023 season?

Luke Moir: Yeah the season has been super busy already and it’s already had a few ups and downs. I believe if I race to my full capability I can get the win on Saturday but it will be far from easy. It will mean the world if I get to wear the SA stripes at the U23 world cups. I’ve had the jersey before but never got the chance to wear it on the world stage. I’m looking forward to the battle. 

Sa Xco Champs Thaba Trails 2023
Luke Moir has had a busy start to his 2023 season! (c) Cycling SA

Rimari Sutton – 2022 SA XCO Champ (U23)

WA: After winning the u23 title you are now in the big Elite pond Rimari! How has the step up been for you and what are your ambitions for the SA Champs race this weekend?

Rimari: I am very excited for this weekend’s XCO Champs. It’s my first XCO of the year and it’s my first year as a baby elite. The team at Thaba really went all out, removing fences, building pavements, getting the track race ready, it’s so amazing to see it all coming together in such a short period of time. Thank you all who worked behind the scenes, you inspire me. Good luck, have fun and stay safe everyone.

Tyler Jacobs – 2022 Junior SA XCO Champ

WA: A step up into the u23 Category for you this year Tyler! How is it going thus far and what are your ambitions for the SA Champs race? Who do you think will now take the Junior title in 2023?

Tyler: It’s been going pretty well. This weekend I would obviously love to be U23 champ but we’ll see how it goes and I’m just going to give it all I’ve got. There’s a few strong junior girls but I’ve got my money on Lilian for this year.

Justin Swanepoel – 2022 Junior SA XCO Champ

WA: Justin, the junior men category remains highly competitive and it’s great to see. Where is your head at going into the SA Champs race this weekend? What is it going to take for you to keep the title?

Justin: At the moment I’m just focusing on being myself at course practice, getting comfortable with line choices etc, the course is looking awesome, steep punchy climbs mixed with longer climbs and some nice tight single track, really going to test the riders on the day, definitely going to be an interesting one. Feeling super excited to get out there, giving it my best and going to have a great time!

Lillian Baber – Highest ranked junior women in 2023

WA: Lil, you’re the highest ranked rider in the junior category going into SA Champs. We expect you to be very happy in the technical terrain of Thaba trails, are you expecting a close race for the title between yourself Riley, and the other girls?

Lilian: Yeah the track suits me a lot especially with the technical, feeling very confident and comfortable on it. I am expecting a hard race; you can never know what is going to happen, and in the end the title is anyone’s for the taking on the day.

Sa Xco Champs Thaba Trails 2023
Lilian Baber is a shining young talent, racing in the Junior Women’s category! (c) Cycling SA

A lot of talk about a tough and technical track. It will certainly be on-the-limit racing from the talented pool of South African riders! Make sure you’re following @wildairbike on the day as we have pro cyclist Sarah Hill on the ground covering the action for us.

Find the start lists below as well as the racing schedule.

2023 SA XCO Champs start lists (unofficial)

Sa Xco Champs Start List 2023
Sa Xco Champs Start List 2023
Sa Xco Champs Start List 2023
Sa Xco Champs Start List 2023
Sa Xco Champs Start List 2023
Sa Xco Champs Start List 2023

2023 SA XCO Champs schedule

Sa Xco Champs Schedule List 2023

Event Coverage