Burry Stander © Reuters

Stander so near but so far

Mountainbike master Burry Stander let a possible podium place slip to finish fifth in the seven-lap 34.08km in the men's mountain bike event at Hadleigh Farm at the London Olympics on Sunday, and there was a clean sweep for Africa in the men's marathon.

Starting slowly, Stander climbed through to 11th position after bein g in 19th place halfway into the first lap.

He quickly moved up the field to fourth behind Spaniard Ramos Hermida, with a 10 second gap between them and the leading three riders.

As the front riders passed the starting point for the fourth lap, Stander launched his attack to move into third place.

Towards the end of the fourth lap, Stander moved past pre-race favourite Nino Schurter of Switzerland into the lead.

However, he made a mistake at the rock garden where the chasing three riders passed him.

The Port Shepstone-born rider made a final surge at the hill past the starting point to third place but then lost touch with the leaders which left him fighting with Hermida for the fourth place.

"It was two laps to go on that steep climb and the guys just absolutely smashed it and I just couldn't go with them as I was already at my max there," Stander said.

"There is nothing you can do, it is a very fair sport, you give what you got..

"So the top three guys deserved it today."

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The race finished in dramatic style with Czech Republic's Jaroslav Kulhavy pipping Schurter in a sprint finish, with Marco Aurelio Fontana of Italy taking the third place.

Stander crossed the line 30 seconds behind the winner for fifth place with a time of one hour, 29.37 minutes (1:29.37) His performance was an improvement from the 2008 Beijing Games where he finished 15th.

Stander's Olympic teammate Philip Buys, participating at his first Games had a nightmarish start as he crashed setting off on the race.

Buys dusted himself off and by the time he was back on his bike he was in the last position and had to fight his way up the field.

Considering the terrible start, Buys did well to finish 35th place out of 50 riders.

In the men's marathon earlier on Sunday, April Lusapho was the first South African home, crossing the line in two hours, 19 minutes, in 43rd place.

Stephen Mokoka finished closely behind Lusapho, in 49th position, in 2:19:52.

The gold medal was won by Ugandan Stephen Kiprotich in 2:08:01, followed by the two Kenyans, Abel Kirui (2:08:27) and London marathon winner Wilson Kiprang Kiprotich (2:09:37) for silver and bronze, respectively.

Zimbabwean Cuthbert Nyasango ran a personal best of 2:12:08, ending in seventh place and compatriot Wirimai Juwawo finished 15th with a season's best, in 2:14.09.

South Africa's Coolboy Ngamole did not finish the race.


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