GAUTENG, MIDRAND – This past weekend, 27 and 28 January, Riversands Country Farm in Johannesburg played host to the 2018 season opener of the hugely popular obstacle course racing (OCR) series, the Toyota WARRIOR Series, powered by Reebok. Attracting a huge crowd of approximately 3000 athletes and a few thousand more spectators, the TOYOTA WARRIOR OCR series kicked off with a bang for the Jeep Team OCR Warriors. The TOYOTA WARRIOR OCR series is designed for adventure seekers from all walks of life. With three categories on offer, Rookie, Commando, and Black Ops, this nationwide series has an event for every person, irrelevant of fitness level, wishing to challenge and build themselves up, with thousands of others doing the same, across world-class obstacles. The main event of the weekend was Black Ops Elite. A tough elite athlete course incorporating 35 obstacles over roughly 15 kilometres of trail. These athletes are either climbing, traversing, carrying or gripping from start to finish. It is intense, lung-busting and only the super-fit and OCR-skilled make it to the end.
Thomas van Tonder (Jeep Team SA), ranked 2nd in OCR South Africa and three-time Top 10 World Champs finisher, claimed his first victory in this season opener in what was, initially, a close-fought race between South Africa’s top 3 OCR athletes, Bradley Claase, Thomas van Tonder, and 2017 series champion and #1 ranked in SA, Claude Eksteen. The toughest obstacle in the race, Breaking Point, proved to be exactly this as it defeated Eksteen, who eventually finished 34th overall, as van Tonder calmly pulled off a superb strategic win ahead of Claase in second and Jason Friedman in third. Fellow Jeep Team athlete, Jay Jay Deysel, continuing his impressive growth trajectory, finished 6th overall – just 9 minutes behind van Tonder. In the women’s race, 2017 series winner, Trish Eksteen (Team AOT), showed her racing prowess, taking the win ahead of Carla van Huyssteen (Nevarest Team) in second and Nedene Cahill (AOT) in third.
What makes their achievements impressive is that the top 3 women all finished in the top 10 overall. In addition to the honours and the R10 000 prize purse, van Tonder and Eksteen each got to drive a WARRIOR-branded Toyota RAV4 until the next event in Bloemfontein on the 17th of February, the first ever Warrior event to be held in the Free State. Says van Tonder, “Today, level-headed strategy beat bullish endeavour, which would have been my normal race mode. I took a good breather before starting on Breaking Point as Claude powered through, and this was my saving grace. I ran my own race and it paid off. I am absolutely blessed to take home the win in the first Toyota WARRIOR Race of 2018. I had to dig deep today, mentally, as it was a very tough race.” Van Tonder and Deysel, teamed up with Carla van Huyssteen in the new format Reebok Team Sprint Race and claimed a bronze medal. This short, intense 400m 10-obstacle race is for teams of 3 – two men and one woman. The Thirsty Capies won the Sprint race with Fit Strong BeSnapped in second, and Jeep Nevarest in third.
Results – Toyota Warrior #1Black Ops Elite
1. Thomas van Tonder - 01:23:10
2. Bradley Claase - 01:24:45
3. Jason Friedman - 01:29:51
6. Jay Jay Deysel - 01:32:26
1. Trish Eksteen - 01:31:01
2. Carla van Huyssteen - 01:34:01
3. Nedene Cahill - 01:34:55
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