Cape Town trail athlete, Rory Scheffer, shrugged of a trail of germs, bouncing back to health to win the Giant’s Cup Uncut 62km race in the Drakensberg earlier today, holding off the strong challenge of one of Lesotho’s top mountain athletes.
One of four high-quality trail races on the weekend, the 62km event follows the popular five-day Giant’s Cup hiking trail, the entire race on single track mountain trails and providing runners with panoramic vistas of South Africa’s largest mountain region.
Scheffer crossed the finish line at the Bushman’s Nek Resort in 6 hr 13 min 33 sec, less than three minutes ahead of Lesotho athlete, Mosoeunyana Morapalla, who pushed him all the way to the finish. Zimbabwean Nomore Mandivengerei completed the podium in 6:52:26.
Scheffer’s time was a full 25 minutes faster than Iain Peterkin’s race record from last year, which had eclipsed Christiaan Greyling’s previous mark by three minutes.
One of the country’s leading trail exponents Scheffer, who grew up in the KZN midlands before relocating to the Western Cape, rates his record-breaking victory as one of his best-ever and on a par with his record win against top athletes in the Whale of Trail 52km in 2017.
“Phew – it was exhausting. I found the last 20km very tough, where I suffered a lot. The pressure was always on,” admitted Scheffer. “I’m really pleased with the win, considering the last weeks of on-off illness.”
One of the favourites for the SA Championships over 40km at Hout Bay last month, Scheffer was forced to withdraw after 15km, still suffering from flu symptoms. “I recovered after Hout Bay, then went down with another cold soon after, which set me back again. Then on Tuesday, just 4 days before the race, I went down with food poisoning. Fortunately, I recovered and had an easy 7km jog yesterday and it went well today!”
Scheffer found himself in a ding-dong battle with Mosoeunyana, after Mandivengerei had fallen behind earlier on. Scheffer opened a gap after 20km, but Mosoeunyana came back strongly to take the lead at the half way mark. Scheffer hit back to re-take the lead at the final checkpoint at Swiman Hut to clinch victory.
With the outcomes of the 100 miler, the 100km and the 30km races still outstanding, the possibility existed of an unprecedented women’s sweep, with Cape Town athlete, Naomi Brand running in joint first position with Finnish athlete, Lauri Tuomaala, in the 100 miler, Gauteng athlete Nicolette Griffioen challenging for the lead in the 100km and another Cape Town athlete, Toni McCann, a strong contender for overall honours in the 30km, but up against Prodigal Khumalo.
Results: Giant’s Cup Uncut 62km Drakensberg
Men: 1 Rory Scheffer (RSA) 6:13:33; 2 Mosoeunyana Marapalla (Les) 6:16:06; 3 Nomore Mandivengerei (Zimb) 6:52:26