JOHANNESBURG, GAUTENG – This past weekend, 25th and 26th November 2017, Riversands Farm in Gauteng, played host to the season finale, Warrior Race 8, of the popular obstacle course racing (OCR) series, Toyota Warrior, powered by Reebok.
The series is well known for attracting thousands of OCR enthusiasts to challenge their physical and mental limits on world-class obstacles.
Jeep Team’s Top OCR athlete, Thomas van Tonder, took centre stage alongside now top-ranked, Claude Eksteen, for the hotly-contested 2017 Black Ops Elite men’s title and series title. The two athletes raced neck-and-neck throughout the series, with the title decider coming down to the wire in the final race.
Van Tonder, hoping for a consecutive series win, gave it his all in the all or nothing race – a shorter, faster and flatter 15km race than the norm for the season finale. The lead changed numerous times throughout with Van Tonder proving stronger on the obstacles while Eksteen performed better on the run.
The toughest obstacle in the race and final of the 30 obstacles, Breaking Point, proved to be the title decider. Van Tonder and Eksteen matched each other right to the final bell. Van Tonder dropped off the obstacle just behind Eksteen, and crossed the line claiming a well-fought silver medal in a time of 01:26:05. Third place went to the ever-improving, Trevor Lagerway.
Fellow Jeep Team athletes, Jay Jay Deysel and Joshua Masudi, finished 4th and 50th respectively in the Black Ops Elite Race. Deysel had the race of his life in the series final as he has steadily improved and kept form, something he has struggled with in the past. With Van Tonder and Deysel in the Top 4 in the country, kudos goes to Jeep Team SA owner, Max Cluer.
Jeep Team SA also competed in and claimed a bronze medal in the Reebok Team Sprint Race, an short, intense 400m 10-obstacle race for teams of 3 – two men and one woman. For Warrior 8, the Sprint Race was incorporated into the Black Ops Elite course, providing a greater challenge for the competing teams.
Said van Tonder, “One of the most epic races we have ever had. It was an all or nothing race and after the start gun, it was all-out war. I must have switched places with Claude about 5 times, but today he beat me at my own game. I raced hard to the final metre, finishing a very close second. I left it all out on the course, and am happy to take second place behind such a strong athlete. Well done to everyone on a massive year of racing. I’m looking forward to a good off-season and a strong build-up to next year.”
In the women’s race, Trish Eksteen, who had already secured the title earlier this year, once again came out on top, finishing in 01:39:05, with Sabrina Daolio taking silver in 01:46:25 and Hanneke Dannhauser taking bronze with a time of 01:47:52.
American’s Benjamin Gifford and Jay Flores became the first international athletes to complete the Black Ops Elite route, finishing with their DQ band fully intact.
Both athletes have been successful in the world of OCR – Flores recently came off a Master of the Rig win at OCR World Championships, and Gifford boasts 23 OCR podiums, the NBC Spartan: Ultimate Team Challenge title, and a spot in the Tough Mudder X final.
Despite their wealth of experience, they were completely blown away by their South African OCR experience: “I came to South Africa in search of the biggest OCR challenge of my athletic journey. The Warrior Race lived up to its name!” said Flores, rating WARRIOR as “the most challenging obstacle course on the planet.”
Said Gifford “South Africa is renowned for having some of the most challenging obstacles in the world, and it’s a privilege to say that I’ve tested and conquered some of them. But I’m also amazed at the depth of the elite field I saw today.”
Results – Black Ops Elite
|1. Claude Eksteen||01:25:28 (2017 Toyota Warrior Series Winner)|
|2. Thomas van Tonder||01:26:05|
|3. Trevor Lagerway||01:33:03|
|1. Trish Eksteen||01:39:05 (2017 Toyota Warrior Series Winner)|
|2. Sabrina Daolio||01:46:25|
|3. Hanneke Dannhauser||01:47:52|