Candice Lill and Andri Frischknecht Win SA’s Toughest One-day Marathon

by | Feb 18, 2023 | Bike Events & Racing, Bike, Event News, Sports

Impressive international field push the pace at Imbuko Big Five Mountain Bike Challenge

The 2023 Imbuko Big Five Mountain Bike Challenge – South Africa’s most gruelling one-day mountain bike race – was one for the books.
The men’s race was won by Andri Frischknecht of SCOTT-SRAM, who completed the course in a time of 3:54:22, beating out a strong field of local and international racers. In the women’s category, Candice Lill took home the top prize with a time of 4:46:07, finishing ahead of a talented group of riders, led by Amy Wakefield and Vera Looser.

“The top international riders definitely had something to prove against the local guys,” commented South African Marco Joubert (Imbuko {Type} DEV) after the event. Joubert finished third behind Frischknecht and Filippo Colombo (SCOTT-SRAM). According to Joubert – who was very happy with his podium finish – the racing was fast and furious from early on with the internationals pushing the pace. “There was a bit of a headwind up the first climb but even there they were pushing so hard that I thought they were either going to break records or blow up, so I just stuck to my own pace,” he said.

Marco Joubert During The Imbuku Big Five Mountain Bike Challenge
Marco Joubert was the highest-placed South African.

Joubert was in the mix all day, despite having to chase hard after the second climb, following a mechanical. Frischknecht made his break on climb three and showed his World Cup class to stay away until the finish. The young gun will race the Absa Cape Epic with the legendary Nino Schurter. Judging by the Swiss racer’s form on Saturday, the SCOTT-SRAM pairing are going to be tough to beat come March.

The Imbuko Big Five Mountain Bike Event is a one-day mountain bike race over 77km, featuring some 3000 metres of vertical gain over five major climbs. The race takes its name from the ‘Big Five’ climbs in the Hawequa mountains surrounding Wellington. This year the event attracted a host of top international riders who are in the country to train.

South African Candice Lill dominated the women’s race, leading from start to finish. She was particularly happy with how her fuelling and hydration strategy worked out over the course of the tough event. “I kept telling myself, ‘you’re feeling good now, but you have to keep eating and fuelling, so that you can feel good all the way to the end’,” she said.

Candice Lill Showed All Her Class At The Imbuku Big Five Challenge
Candice Lill lead from start to finish.

“The first climb was really tough,” Lill said, echoing Joubert’s sentiments. “You know — everyone is fresh and wants to go,” she added. The addition of the spectacular switch-backed new Cliffhanger trail proved both a thrill and a challenge. “I actually struggled to make it around some of the corners,” Lill admitted, sighting the wind as a factor. While a bit breezy, conditions out on course were perfect for racing with the southeaster providing some respite from the characteristic February Boland heat. Wakefield used the conditions to her advantage to ride within herself for most of the day, only to make her move on the final (very technical descent) to overtake Looser and ride into second.

“This year’s event was really a great success and we’ve achieved what we wanted to in making this the ultimate one-day event in South Africa,” said owner of Imbuko Wines, Theunis van Zyl. “The idea was to attract pros and amateurs alike to come and challenge themselves and at the same time create a platform for our South African athletes to compete against the world’s best and show what they are capable of on a tough course.”

The Imbuko Big Five Mountain Bike Challenge has become a highlight of the mountain biking calendar, with amateurs and pros alike using it as a big shakedown ahead of the Absa Cape Epic in which starts in a month’s time. For a recap of the live racing action, watch the replay of the women’s racing here and men’s racing here!

Imbuko Big 5 MTB Challenge 2023 Results

Elite Women Results

1st | Candice Lill | 4:46:07

2nd | Amy Wakefield | 4:55:28

3rd | Vera Looser | 4:56.42

4th | Samantha Sanders | 5:26:24

5th | Sarah Hill | 5:30:11

6th | Ila Gray | 5:34:21

7th | Elrika Harmzen | 5:54:18

Elite Men Results

1st | Andri Frischknecht | 3:54:22

2nd | Filippo Colombo | 3:59:37

3rd | Marco Joubert | 3:59:42

4th | Tristan Nortje | 4:03:42

5th | Simon Schneller | 4:08:50

5th | Axel Roudil-Cortinat | 4:08:50

7th | Pieter Du Toit | 4:09:01

8th | Alban Lakata | 4:12:20

9th | Konny Looser | 4:15:48

10th | Teus Ruijter | 4:16:09

Find the full results here

Event Coverage