Sunday Tribune Hill2Hill, 105km
After a five-year break from doing the inaugural Hill2Hill race, Dave and I were back to have a crack at trying to win this super tough race. In 2006 I finished 2nd, and last year, Dave managed 2nd. Seems we would have to come back next year and have another dig though!
The race starts up at Worlds View in Pietermaritzburg, and it’s always a sprint start to try and get into the technical singletrack in the lead as it winds its way down and through the city center. The wind was blowing hard for the early 6am start, but the heat was going to play a big role later in the day.
Same as the first year I raced here, the group comes back together after the technical start, and the climbs start coming thick and fast from around 30km onwards. The temperature also started to rise rapidly, and with a strong tailwind, the body had to adapt from the colder weather we’ve had down in the Cape recently.
The main group after the climbs consisted of Marc Bass, Mannie Heymans, Phil Buys (all Garmin/Adidas), Brandon Stewart (Itec Connect), Burry Stander (Specialized) and Dave George and myself (Team Nedbank 360life).
I guess with around 30km left to race, we had a steep climb before a long piece of rocky singletrack. Just before the climb I had a slow puncture on the front wheel, which I stopped to inflate. I then rode hard to get back to the leaders, which was now down to only Brandon, Burry and Dave. I just got onto the lead trio when Burry put the hammer down through this technical section. I have to say though that our new Spark 29ers were really impressive, not only through this section, but for the whole day, however we simply couldn’t match the speed of our top cross country rider, and soon it was three of us chasing Burry.
I had to stop again to pump my wheel, and that managed to get me to the final tech zone where I was able to change it. I had to ride my own tempo from there on, and in the last 10km Mannie and Phillip caught me. Mannie was having a really good ride, as he pulled us the last 5km into a strong headwind, and on a day where I didn’t have the best legs, I had to settle for 5th as Mannie outsprinted me to take 4th.
Meanwhile at the front, Burry had stayed away to win his 4th Hill2Hill challenge, Dave taking 2nd and Brandon 3rd.
It was a super tough day, and I quickly remembered how hard this event was. The organizers do a fantastic job of piecing together some great trails on land that must be very hard to get access into. And being a point to point race, it definitely requires more effort and there is no lack of that from their side. I’m sure Team Nedbank 360life will be on the start line next year again! Thanks to all involved.
1st Burry Stander (Specialized)
2nd Davie George (Team Nedbank 360life)
3rd Brandon Stewart (Itec Connect)
4th Mannie Heymans (Garmin/Adidas)
5th Kevin Evans (Team Nedbank 360Life)
Next race, the MTN Ultra Marathon 50Miler in Hilton. It will be an important race in the hunt for the series. Dave and I will be staying the next week up there in preparation for the race.
Till then, cheers.