Beers Debuts At Leadville, Nortje Czechs Into Europe

A busy weekend for Team Toyota Specialized: Leadville and the Czech Republic hosted them, and the legs were firing!

Team Toyota Specialized |

Leadville, Colorado, and the Czech Republic welcomed Team Toyota Specialized with open arms – it was an exciting weekend for both Tristan Nortje and Matt Beers with some solid results.

Photo @roszko

Beers took on the monumental challenge of Leadville 100 and followed it up with SBT GRVL the following day. If that does not sound very challenging, consider that Leadville 100 covers a distance of 160km and starts at more than 3 000m of altitude. In addition, riders climb more than 1 000m during the race, making it one of the world’s most challenging long-distance mtb races. If that does not hurt your legs just thinking about it, there is more. The day after, Beers rode the SBT GRVL race, another 228km race, but this time on a gravel bike. The organisers created a new category for racers competing in both races, and the winner is crowned the Leadboat champion, the ultimate long-distance title.

Riders competed over the two days on two different bikes, making logistics a challenge over and above the feeding and support. Beers rode on the Epic for Leadville 100 and hopped back onto his Crux for the SBT GRVL race.

“Leadville was an interesting race and an eye opener. It was steep and had little air, making it difficult to race. It was clear that everyone wanted to break the record in 2022, which meant a world-class field on the start line. Everyone rode together for the first part until the climb, when things got very real. The lighter riders were able to get off the front, and I stuck to my plan of managing the effort during the day. I found a good group of riders but eventually had to let them go. The altitude got to me, and it was clear that the athletes who live and train at altitude had a major advantage. It was great to come out here and see what the race is about. Seeing all the riders try to navigate the route and the dual feeding zones was a massive spectacle. I will take the experience from my first attempt and make some notes for the next one.”

Since gravel racing has become more popular, it has attracted more road racers and even world tour road teams. So when you line up alongside Nikki Terpstra (Team Total Energies), Payson McElveen, and Freddy Ovett (Legion of Los Angeles), you know you are in good company, but also, it’s going to hurt.

“Next time, I will go out earlier and spend more time at altitude. I realise now that it takes longer to acclimatise and what is needed if you want to be successful at these events. Today was rough from the start, and it never really got better. At times, I felt good, but those moments were short-lived. I was able to make the selections, but each acceleration hurt and eventually, the elastic snapped, and I was chasing the whole day. Due to the size of the field, there was some negative racing, but it was bound to happen over the distance.”

Overall, Beers managed seventh place in Leadville, 12th place in SBT GRVL and finally third place for the Leadboat category.

Meanwhile, Tristan Nortje started his campaign building towards the UCI mtb world champs by racing in the Czech Republic. Joining a fellow South African Phillip Buys on the start line, Tristan competed in the elite category and managed a respectable eighth place while claiming third in the U/23 category.

“It was a tough race. I didn’t know what to expect and was very surprised by the field. After the travel from South Africa, it took a little time to get the legs going but managed to ride into a rhythm.”

Nortje is travelling from Prague to Switzerland, where he will compete in the Swiss cup on Sunday before driving to Les Gets and joining the rest of the South African contingent for the World Champs.

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