"I try hard..." Thomas is not a man of many words, however he is looking forward to finally spreading his wings over the mighty Drakensberg in this year's X-Berg Challenge. He is a talented paragliding pilot from Cape Town.
Ben is a paragliding addict with a passion for all forms of the sport, but his first love is hike and fly. When he is not paragliding, Ben spends his time trail running and exploring mountains, kite boarding, mountain biking and adventure racing. Ben returns to the X-Berg Challenge for the 3rd time in 2021 as a paraglider with high hopes for epic flying weather! In Ben's words he is a 'mountain nut'.
Fun. Enthusiastic. I have been trail running for about 3 years and exploring most of the KZN trails. I am a very successful athlete - because I LOVE running no matter where I come and I enjoy and make the most of the journey. I am a determined individual who will take on a challenge with training and passion! Cannot WAIT for this EPIC X - Berg Challenge. Dawn will be participating along with team mate Roxanne Vale - Team Ojekamanzi Warriors.
Paraglider Brandon Orpwood has entered his very first X-Berg in the 2-day mini event. Brandon has competed in the Barberton and Porterville paragliding competitions, enjoys trail running off the beaten track and living life outside.
Trail runner Michelle Theron has some serious races under her belt and has decided to enter the X-Berg Challenge for the first time in the 2-day Mini event. Michelle has completed the four peaks challenges several times, The UTD 62km, Maxxi race (68km), Sky run, Wild coast wild run, Lesotho Wildrun, Namaqualand Quest and Giants Cup run so should feel at home in the mountains!
Jaco describes himself as just a regular outdoors guy enjoying a good challenge. This is his first ever X-Berg Challenge and he will be competing as part of a team. His fellow team members are Jan Maritz and William Odendaal. They are known as 'The Mudflaps'!
Kevin Mitchell is a paraglider from Cape Town. In 2019 he attended the X-Berg Challenge as an observer. He has flown a few PG competitions over the years, but my MTB is purely recreational. Mostly just planning to have fun! Kevin will do the 2-day mini this year combining some paragliding and mountain biking in the mixed discipline and he is looking forward to the adventure.
Andre likes the outdoors. Mountain biking, swimming and running makes part of my outdoor activities. Navigation is always finding your way around. This is his first time to attempt the Dragon and he is very much looking for it.
Jon was the overall winner of the X-Berg Challenge in 2019 by mountain biking the route in record time. He enjoys the outdoors, and going far, fast. He comes from a cycling background and is now returning as a runner looking for a new challenge. He as an untamed lust for adventure and incredible stamina - watch out competitors!
The paragliding addiction is real. I work for myself and therefore I hardly work as the weather is never fair on weekends in the Eastern Cape. Jumping in the deep end on this one and committing to the 4 day adventure. Let the excitement start building, adventures, friends and fun...
Peter is a self-professed burly, handsome guy with countless accolades - too many to describe in his short resume. Peter is going to be trail running the X-Berg Challenge this year. His biggest fear is that he never gets scared and fellow competitors should beware as he has a habit of slipping rocks into backpacks…
This 40 year old Single Father to a teenager. IG: @theageingathelete189
He started running in Feb 2019, ran his first half Marathon in March 2019 and ran 2:17:54, ran the same race March 2020 and ran 1:34:37. Ran my first marathon in January 2020 and 3:27:39.
In Neal's own words "I have overcome many obstacles in my life and have survived a major bike accident at 17 years of age where I broke my back, I have had 3 spinal fusions, and have always shown my daughter that nothing can stop you from succeeding."
Stéphane van Rooyen
Most of his existence revolves around bicycles and he has been riding for most of his life. He raced extensively up to u23 level, both on and off the road, focusing primarily on stage races. His interest in racing diminished but it was replaced with a fascination with hand crafted bicycles, titanium, steel, and riding in beautiful places. This is his first ever X-Berg Challenge.
Johan de Bruijn
Johan describes himself as an avid paraglider pilot, mountainbiker, trail runner and surfskier. He is an intermediate or sport level paraglider pilot and have competed in numerous SA paragliding races winning novice and intermediate classes. Johan has also competed in numerous South African mountain biking and surfski races. He supported Duncan Kotze in the X-Alps paragliding race in 2017. This father of two gorgeous girls loves the outdoors.
Jeremy is a talented sportsman: from sailing, rock climbing and paragliding to flying light aircraft. Jeremy has competed annually in the X-Berg Challenge since 2014 and came 1st in 2019’s paragliding discipline. “I am just a regular chop who enjoys torturing himself in the hope of an epic flight in the Drakensberg...I am still trying to finish the bloody race!"
Mark will be participating in his very first X-Berg Challenge in 2021 as a mountain biker in the mini event. Mark loves being outdoors, especially in the Drakensberg. He is a keen cyclist and has done numerous 3 and 7 day stage MTB races as well as road races in South Africa and elsewhere. Mark has previously competed in duathlons, triathlons, endurance events and orienteering races. He is mostly a mountain biker these days enjoying the ultra events such as Munga Grit which he attended in 2020.
He is an Obstacle course racer having competed in age group categories, done Spartan Ultra 50km 60 obstacle) and trifectas. He has completed in The Hobbit trail and many other trail runs in PE area. Jean-Pierre is new to paragliding though he is pretty confident and has good instruction from Ben Arnold and received good experience and advice from him for the X-Berg Challenge. We are looking forward to seeing this newcomer race in the 2021 event!
I am a farmer in the Hogsback area and I love hiking up the mountains and then flying off them! My training program consists mostly of chasing cattle and sheep around the farm and trying to get up the mountain as fast as possible to squeeze in flights over my lunch hour! I had so much fun in the Drakensberg in the lead-up to the cancelled 2020 event that I decided to commit to the full 4 day version for 2021.
Kirsten has seconded husband Ben for a few years and been part of the X-Berg Challenge organising team. The FOMO has been real but she haven't been convinced that her legs will take her that far. Kirsten said "If I don't try I will never know. Michele talked me into giving this year a try at the last minute!" Go girl! We will be watching your dot on the live track page!
Firoz started mountain biking in 2012 as a way to get fit after smoking for 18 years. At first it was just short rides and short races. Having completed his first Transbaviaans, the enjoyment of long distance endurance mountain biking took hold. "I really have enjoyed the opportunity of seeing stunning parts of the country. I have since completed stage races, Transxariep and 2 Mungas." says Firoz. This will be his first X-Berg Challenge and we are hoping it won't be his last.
Mark is no stranger to the X-Berg Challenge - this will be his 6th time chasing the Dragon! Mark is an experienced paraglider and adventure racer and in addition to being an X-Berg Challenge addict, he has competed in 3 Expedition Africa events. “I am a wannabe professional adventurer whose style is somewhat cramped by 5 kids and my surgery career!”
He has done this race as a trail runner and as a an adventure racing team (all of doing the whole race, just changing disciplines) but he has always wanted to fly it! "Now if it weren't for my general lack of XC competency and my total lack of current fitness I'd surely be a hot favourite!" - Mark, we love you and welcome back!
Robyn (aka Bob) has entered the 4-day mini race for the first time. Despite average fitness and below average navigational skills, Robyn is looking forward to taking part in her first X-Berg Challenge! An outdoor enthusiast, Robyn enjoys trail running, hiking and surfing small waves. She hopes to have the most fun and find the least brambles on this exciting Berg adventure!
Mark is a relatively new paragliding pilot who was coerced into entering the X-berg mini challenge by two Eastern Cape pilots (Dave and Justin) when they were attending an SIV course together at Koppies Dam. The idea made sense at that time... Mark’s aim is to try hike and fly the route IF the weather/wind plays ball for the weekend. If however it is clear that there will be no chance of flying, he will take his chances on foot, so he has entered in the mixed discipline category. Mark has previously completed longer distance runs (Addo 50 miler, Mnweni Marathon) and occasionally heads into the 'berg to trail run hiking routes when the urge strikes. Not much to write home about in terms of paragliding.
"I am a Two on the Enneagram" says Ernie. He started with trail running a little over 2 years ago and have done a couple of races over the two years. 2020 would have been a big year with multiple 40km races, but then not, so 2021 seems to be the start of great things. He recently got into mountain biking as well, mostly because of a lifestyle choice he made, but nevertheless, he is looking forward to a few mountain bike events in the near future as well, kicking it off with the X-Berg Challenge. Ernie's team mate is Jonathon Jones and they have entered in the mixed discipline class as team 'Bietjie Stap, Bietjie Trap'.
Kathryn is an active outdoors lover. She used to do a lot of mountain biking (Enduro and DH) but now a bit more into general adventuring and running, yoga - and bodyboarding and skateboarding occasionally. Big-time into plant-based foods (half the reason she run is so she can pack my bag full of burritos and nutbutters). She said she has terrible knees and probably shouldn't be doing this.
Jonathan describes himself as a full time weekend warrior. He will be competing in his first ever X-Berg Challenge in March 2021 alongside team mate Ernie Weyers of team Bietjie Stap, Bietjie Trap. They will run and cycle to complete the race route in the mixed discipline class.
William haven't done any major competitions in mountain biking, but he has done Dumbe trial run. He is looking forward to his first ever X-Berg Challenge along with The Mudflaps team mates Jacobus Botha and Jan Martiz.
Jan recons he has not competed in anything spectacular. He does however like to keep fit and he enjoys mountain biking a lot! Together with team mates William Odendaal and Jacobus Botha the Mudflaps hope to finish their first ever X-Berg Challenge.
Roxanne is a farm girl at heart, making a difference through teaching (Gr 4) and a runner who is up for an adventure. her happy place and escape from life is on the trails chasing sunrises and sunsets. "I am competitive by nature but learning stride by stride to enjoy the running journey and views. Through the Treverton Post Matric course I found my love and passion for the majestic Drakensberg Mountains and hiking." She took part in a number of sports at school but hockey and running are the sports that she still take part in today. She placed in a few road and trail events over the years. Her highlight since she took on my first half marathon in 2016 was in 2018 when competing in her first road marathon, finishing in 3hrs55. This achievement was followed by a third place in the Sani Stagger Marathon 2018. 2020 was supposed to be her Ultra marathon year but unfortunately Two Oceans and Comrades were cancelled due to the pandemic. She took part in the Drakensberg Northern Trails 20km in December 2020 and placed 2nd. "I definitely love the hilly courses. My aim for 2021 running journey is running beyond the 42.2km mark and just having one big fit-abulous adventure one stride at a time." Roxanne's team mate is Dawn Nunes - Team Ojekamanzi Warriors
Molly de Jager
Martha has cycled the Sani2C. W2W, BERG N BUSH, Swazi Frontier and Isimangaliso to mention a few local events. She has climbed 5 of the 7 summits. This is her first X-Berg Challenge and she will be cycling with team mate Rebecca Sands. Their team name is Twisted Sisters.
"My passion is mountain biking, but I come from a road bike background. Spend my holidays riding in new places - Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Croatia, Peru and France. I like the endurance races and also Freedom Challenge events" says Rebecca. She has done 360-1 (3rd Mixed team 2017), Transbaviaans, Cullinan to Tonteldoos, Karoo Burn, Desert Dash. She is on a journey to do RASA in the next 2 years she hopes. She has completed Race to Rhodes, Race to Cradock and Race to Willowmore. Rebecca's team mate is Martha de Jager - Team Twisted Sisters.