PRINCE ALBERT, 13 SEPTEMBER 2008: Richard Kolbe and Abbey Mediema made it through to the second round of Selections for South Africa’s Land Rover G4 Challenge team after the third rotation in the Regional Selections ended here this morning.
This puts them in line with Tatum Prins, Jeannie Bomford, Jan Schutte and Andre Gie for National Selections in October.
The winners of each rotation, the top eight runners-up and four wild card entries, chosen by Land Rover South Africa, will battle it out in Lesotho next month.
Runners-up this weekend were Jeanette Walden, Susan Jane Sloan, Graham ‘Tweet’ Bird and Mike Hewan.
Up until now the location of the Regional Selections and the nature of the tasks in the competition have been kept secret because it was felt that incoming competitors could use this information to mentally prepare themselves – thus gaining a strategic advantage. But, with the fourth and final group currently on their way to the start at Matjiesfontein, Race Director Mark Collins of Magnetic South felt that it was time to praise the host towns.
“We’re particularly keen to tell everyone about Matjiesfontein and Prince Albert as people here have been incredibly helpful. They have welcomed us and have done everything they can to make the Regional Selections as successful as possible. The Swartberg Nature Reserve, the Swartberg Mountains and the local farms where we’ve set up the tasks and our competitor accommodation, Camp Discovery, have provided us with perfect conditions in which to test the athletes.
“The landscape here also closely resembles the places we’ve seen on our scouting expeditions in Mongolia, where the Challenge will take place in June and July next year,” he said.
Bokkie Botha, chairman of the Prince Albert Tourism Association, said that the Land Rover G4 Challenge Regional Selections had given a welcome boost to the local tourism economy – but Mark felt that there was more to the townsfolk’s hospitality than purely commercial motives.
“They’re just great people, very friendly, warm and helpful and they’ve done everything they can to make us feel welcome,” he said.
During Regional Selections, competitors are presented with thirteen tasks that test their mental and physical strength as well as their rope work, mountain biking, kayaking and orienteering skills and their ability to navigate by map, compass and Garmin GPS.
The tasks – and, indeed, the format of the entire selections process – were designed to emulate the Land Rover G4 Challenge as far as possible (except that the Challenge is staged over 4 weeks whereas this first stage was only two nights and three days in length).
“One of my favourites was the ‘USN Feathered Agression’ task, said Land Rover South Africa’s General Manager of Marketing and Sales, Roland Reid. “It was a mixture of mountain biking and orienteering with one additional and unexpected twist: it was held in a huge camp filled with aggressive male ostriches in full mating plumage.
“So every rider had to carry a tall pole and flag with which to frighten them off – sometimes the Ostriches got the better of the riders. Not even charging into a dam could provide safety from one of the Ostriches! He simply followed suit! It was a great task from a spectator perspective.
“There’s no way that anyone could have prepared themselves for that. It made it a totally African experience and put a real edge into the competition – and the competitors’ attitude and enjoyment of the Challenge perfectly demonstrated their suitability as adventure racers.
“We’re very excited about the quality of the athletes we’ve met over the past week or so and I’m looking forward to sending all the other competing nations a picture of our team and one simple message: ‘The South Africans are coming!’”
More information at www.landroverg4challenge.com. A South African supporters group – “Land Rover G4 Selections South Africa” – has been created on Facebook.