Namibia: FNB Desert Dash Purely Amazing

New Era (Windhoek)

Fifi Rhodes

6 January 2012

Windhoek — Foreigners dominated the First National Bank (FNB) Desert Dash that kick-started on December 16, with overall victories in three of the four categories.

Italian Emiliano Ballardini was the first overall male winner in the solo division – finishing in a time of 13 hours and 52 minutes, in a gruelling race in which 60 of the official 420 participants dropped out.

Kristina Weber from Germany was the winner in the woman’s category after crossing the line in a time of 16 hours and 36 minutes.

Two Germans, Stefan and John Hiene Hintersee, who entered as Team Rennfreunde courageously managed to finish in a time of 14 hours and 20 minutes.

One of the two teams that entered the Tandem Cycle was Coos Diener and teammate Sandra van Zyl from the Western Cape.

They were the only team to complete the trip.

Charles van den Akker was awarded the Nico van der Merwe Trophy for his efforts. Stefan Hiene and John Hinterseer won the division for teams of two, in a time of 14 hours and 20 minutes.

Ballardini, the new champion, said it was his first participation in an all-night desert race, adding that it was an unforgettable experience.

“I did not prepare myself well for the endurance run as it is now winter in Italy and we do not usually exercise this time of the year in Italy, so is was amazing to be part of the desert and running in that hot sand,” he said.

And as for most riders, the last stretch was the worst for Ballardini and there were times he felt he could not continue. “I did not expect to win – we went far too fast. We kicked off and there were four solo riders throughout.”

On arrival in Swakopmund, he also made a navigational error and had to turn on a default to the finish line to find the arrival spot.

The female winner, Kristina Weber, a professional rider from Germany, said the race was a major adjustment for her.

“Usually we drove distances between 60 km and 120 km. This one was a big adjustment. I thought the temperature would be much worse, especially at night but the weather was perfect. The riders were very professional, “said Weber.

The hardest part for her was the last part along the water pipeline where the thick sand limited her speed.

In Swakopmund, she somehow took officials by surprise when she clocked in after 16 hours and 36 minutes.

“I thought there would be more people and the people did not realize I was the first woman to cross the line,” Weber said.

The German was upset that she received no prize money, although she was the first woman crossing the line. Organisers said that in next year’s event they would try to separate the men from the women.

The results for the race read as follows:

Overall men:

1. Emiliano Ballardini – 13h52; 2. Trevor Seinen (Cape Town) – 14h18; 3. Uwe Schmidt (Cape Town) – 14h40.

Overall women: 1. Kristina Weber – 16h36; 2. Christiane Brenzel – 18h11; 3. Bertha Theron – 20h42.

Teams of two: 1. Rennfreunde – 14h20; 2. Hope 2 – 14h23; 3. Thoshiba Racing Machine – 14h42.

Teams of four: 1. Cymot – 13h25; 2. DHL Namibia and Paarl Media Saddle – 15h27; 3. Stichers – 15h33.

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