Muzopambwa And Griffioen Take UTD Title

RW Reporter |

Ultra-Trail Drakensberg 2024 saw the inclusion of a brand new race village and finish line venue at Glencairn Farm just outside Underberg, a shift that brought changes to the five race distances. UTD160 saw fewer kilometres of the Lesotho landscape, with runners coming down the Sani Pass earlier in the day, which resulted in a faster, more competitive racing field with less time at altitude and more time running along iconic scenery including Khanti Ridge and the Giant’s Cup Trail. The new UTD100 course moved to a route similar to the original racing, with a much more runnable first half and a challenging second half.

South African based Zimbabwean runner, Admire Muzopambwa, took the win in the UTD160 Photo: Fahwaaz Cornelius.

UTD160 | Friday 09h00, Lesotho Border Post
On the podium on Sunday morning stood Nicolette Griffioen, Jessica Barrow, and Nikki Caromba; and on the men’s podium Admire Muzopambwa (ZW), Matt Bouch and Tiaan Erwee (CH). Winning times were 21:01:01 for Muzopambwa, 25:51:40 for Griffioen.

In the case of Griffioen it was a race led from the misty start in Lesotho, with the gap to second increasing at nearly every checkpoint. By the time she broke the tape, she had worked her way into the top 5 overall standings. Considering the depth of talent housed in this year’s men’s field, this was an achievement of some substance.

Behind her, the splits indicated something of a procession, with Barrow and Caromba settling into their positions and battling off the isolation of the course to hold on to their podium spots.

The story of the men’s race could not have been more different. From the time the field crossed back into South Africa after the Lesotho loops, the lead trio of Bouch, Basson and Muzopambwa appeared inseparable, as each traded surges and counter-surges, leading to an ever-increasing lead pace. While Tiaan Erwee remained patiently in fourth to capitalise on what some thought to be an inevitable blow-out, anticipation among those tracking built.

Nicolette Griffioen dominated the women’s UTD160. Photo: Grae Holliday.

By the time the first crack showed (Basson leaving the podium places for the first time in more than 100km of running and Bouch surging to a 4-minute lead on the way into the 112km Swiman Aid Station), it was still anyone’s guess as to what the final standings might have been.

What followed was a heroic rally, and a final last 30km surge of finesse and power from Muzopambwa to take the win in a time that was nearly a full hour ahead of the early predicted winning times. Bouch settling in for second place 50 minutes ahead of the predicted winning time which goes to show that the win really could have gone to either man. Erwee completing the podium 7 minutes outside of the predicted winning time led some to think what could have been.

UTD100 | Saturday 06h00, Silverstreams Trading Post
In the early sunlight hours of Saturday morning UTD100 began in crisp autumnal conditions. Clouds hung just low enough to cool the field, and the smooth, flowing climbs of the Giant’s Cup Trail yielded a strong early pace in the men’s and women’s races. First into the crewed Castleburn Aid Station were Nicholaas du Plessis, Kennedy Sekhuthe, and Skye Clark, with eventual top two Oli Morris, and Chris Ngaka following a few short, but possibly important, minutes behind. In the women’s race, the early pace was set by Tarrin van Niekerk, who led level with Melissa Laing into Castleburn, with the former building a gap to her rival out on to the second half of the Giant’s Cup Trail. Salomon athlete Trish Eksteen followed half an hour back in third.

By the time the fields rounded towards the 60km mark and reached the end of the Giant’s Cup to exchange trail for the tar of the Sani Pass climb, the men’s field had jostled into the positions that would ultimately prevail until the end of the race. Morris held a narrow lead over Ngaka, with Clark some minutes further behind, and early leaders du Plessis and Sekhute in fourth and fifth respectively. In the women’s race, van Niekerk held a narrow lead over Laing, with eventual third finisher Carla Whitehead building on her measured start to move into the podium position. Eksteen, by this stage, had settled into fifth, which would become sixth by the day’s end.

From the unrelenting Sani Pass to the finish, the biggest winner (and only change of position) was Melissa Laing, overhauling van Niekerk’s lead and beginning to build a lead of her own before the final turn off from Sani Pass at the Twelve Apostles Aid Station. By no means was the race dead and buried, and into the fading afternoon light it took a focused and calculated descent down towards Sani Valley Road Aid Station for Laing to build the unassailable hour lead she enjoyed at the finish line.

By the time the head-torches came out, the tussles at the front were ironed out under the night sky, and finish-lines crossed, the final standings were as follows: On the men’s side, Oli Morris ran out to win in 12:08, with Ngaka in second in 12:23 and Clark third in 12:42. In the women’s race, Melissa Laing broke the tape in 14:18, with van Niekerk second in 15:48 and Whitehead taking the final podium step in 16:07.

Mvuyisi Ngcogo was first in the GCU65. Photo Grae Holliday.

GCU65 | Saturday 07h00, Silverstreams Trading Post
The GCU65 was let loose at a ferocious early pace, shattering all early expectations and predictions. A mere 3 minutes separated the first seven runners into the customary “halfway” Aid Station at Castleburn, with all clocking in under 2:20, and early top three Remaketse Lekaka, Mvuyisi Gcogco, and Ofenste Mokgale leading Bradley Claase into the key checkpoint. In the women’s race, the early pace was dictated by Maryke van Zyl, who headed Cape Town favourite Kerry-Ann Marshall, and Simone Malan, by a minute and a half into Castleburn.

Van Zyl put on the afterburners immediately after Castleburn, surging on the runnable climbs in the second phase of the race, and leaving Marshall and Malan with no reply. By the next crewed Aid Station at Cobham, van Zyl had built a 7-minute lead over Marshall and would continue to extend the gap right to the finish, eventually clocking in at a time of 6h48 compared to the 7h on the nose achieved by the latter. From Cobham onwards, initial podium sitter Malan fell back, and her spot was taken by the initially-conservative Jada Linstrom. In a show of tactical awareness and disciplined execution, she built from clocking into Castleburn in 6th position to a commanding podium finish, running in 4 minutes ahead of 4th place in a time of 7h35.

In the men’s race, the decisive moves came much later in the day. Heading into Cobham Aid Station, Gcogco was still in second behind early leader Lekaka, and Claase was yet to take a podium spot, third instead being occupied by past-podium finisher Josh Chigome. It was only on the last of the “mountain” leg of the course, past the Stromness timing point, heading towards the 56km Sani Valley Gate Aid Station, that Gcogco took the lead, and Claase moved into the final podium spot. Gcogco surged past the 6-hour barrier to win in 5:59, with Lekaka dropping the single position to second in 6:03 and Chigome dropping to an eventual fifth position in 6:12. Claase rounded out the podium with a strong finish in 6:04.

Lijan Burger won the SDR36, the 36 km course at UTD. Photo Fahwaaz Cornelius.

SDR36 | Saturday 13h00, Castleburn Farm

The afternoon session saw the Sundowner Run head out from Castleburn onto a course modified from the customary 32km route of past years, to a longer 36km route with a more runnable finish that was always going to test the legs in what has typically been a fast and fiercely contested race. The first timing point at Mzimkulwana Hut saw the early pace set by eventual runner-up Bongani Mbanjwa, leading a trailing quartet of Robert Rorich, Mdu Dlamini, Eric Ngubane and Daniel Claasen by 4 minutes.

Heading into the crewed Aid Station at Cobham, the only move was Dlamini falling back to fifth position. Top two contenders Mbanjwa and Rorich emerged onto the gravel road at Sani Valley Gate Aid Station separated by less than a minute, and a comfortable 6 minutes ahead of third placed Ngubane. From there a straight-line speed battle saw Rorich overhaul his rival to break the tape in 3:16, with Mbanjwa suffering a footwear failure to run up, 5 minutes later in 3:21. Ngubane survived a strong push from Claasen to occupy the final step on the podium in 6:24, crossing the line with Claasen in sight on the finish straight.

In the women’s race, Lijan Burger took the pace out at the start and would remain largely untroubled in a dominant run over her competition, the track running convert wrapping up the win in 4:12, the best part of half an hour ahead of competitor Nadine Van Driel, who also held her position from start to finish and crossed the line second in 4h39. Behind the top two, early third-place runner Amanda Fraser was pipped to the line by a strong second half showing from Marne Mostert, who ran out in 4:42.

DRJ25 | Saturday 09h00, Sani Pass Premier Resort
A ten-minute drive from Glencairn, 25km of running separated the start line from the finishing tape for the winners. With a rapid start on the road to lead the runners to the trailhead, the race started furiously.

In the front, Liv2Run’s Tsielo Tsanyane led ahead of teammate Sinovuyo Ngcobo and Puma’s Prodigal Khumalo chased in third. While the gaps may have fluctuated within the race, the positions ultimately stayed the same.

In the women’s race, Paige Mackenzie led into the first checkpoint with Lindy Acutt just a second between the two. 3 minutes behind, Es-Mine Ligthelm was in third. By the first and only Aid Station, Lindy had taken the lead and would continue on to take the finish line tape.




Admire Muzopambwa (ZW): 21:01:01

Matt Bouch (ZA): 21:08:48

Tiaan Erwee (CH): 22:07:58


Nicolette Griffioen (ZA): 25:51:40

Jessica Barrow (ZA): 29:06:36

Nikki Caromba (ZA): 30:06:10



Oli Morris (ZA): 12:08:07

Chris Ngaka (ZA): 12:23:34

Skye Clark (ZA): 12:42:04


Melissa Laing (ZA): 14:18:02

Tarrin van Niekerk (ZA): 15:48:28

Carla Whitehead (ZA): 16:07:35



Mvuyisi Gcogco (ZA): 05:59:16

Remaketse Lekaka (ZA): 06:03:27

Bradley Claase (ZA): 06:04:24


Maryke Van zyl (ZA): 06:48:34

Kerry-Ann Marshall (ZA): 07:00:36

Jada Linstrom (ZA): 07:31:39



Robert Rorich (ZA): 3:16:13

Bongani Mbanjwa (ZA): 3:21:17

Eric Ngubane (ZA): 3:24:51


Lijan Burger (ZA): 4:12:16

Nadine Van Driel (ZA): 4:39:19

Marné Mostert(ZA): 4:42:21



Tsielo Tsanyane (ZA): 2:04:54

Sinovuyo Ngcobo: 2:07:30

Prodigal Khumalo: 2:12:44


Lindy Acutt: 2:48:44

Paige Mackenzie: 2:58:11

Es-Mine Ligthelm: 3:03:20

For full results, visit the Ultra-Trail Drakensberg website

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