Pics by Zoon Cronje
MTN Ultra Marathon #7, Hilton College, 105km, 3000m
The MTN Ultra Marathon series moved to Hilton for the seventh leg, and the race would be hugely important in deciding the overall winner for the 2011 series. At the start of the race, the series could go possibly four or five ways, but after a very tough race, by my calculations, it looks set to be a two-man race for the overall title in two weeks time at the final.
This was the first time I was taking part in this event, and the Hilton/KZN courses are always incredible. Loads of fun flowing singletrack, hard climbs, and a real sting in the tail was the order of the day for this particular race. Local legend Brandon Stewart (Itec Connect) was the early instigator and set a really hard and fast tempo. The race quickly split into pieces, and there was a fairly select group of all the top contenders out in front. Unfortunately for him, he broke his seat clamp, so had to do some repairs costing him a possible great result.
The rest of us continued with various riders setting the tempo, and I guess everyone was waiting for the first ‘major’ climb of the day up to the 70km mark. This climb would be decisive in the overall outcome of the race. The climb was not actually that bad, however the speed the guys raced up it was incredible. Over the top, three riders had a small gap, Burry Stander (Specialized), Adrien Nyionshuti (MTN/Qhubeka) and Dave George (Nedbank 360life). A couple seconds back alone, Darren Lill (Bonitas), followed closely by Max Knox (Ghost/Doitnow), Jacques Janse Van Rensburg (MTN/Qhubeka) and myself. It was this section though, from around the 70km to the 80km feed zone that I really had a horrible encounter with ‘the man with hammer’ and I was paying large dividends for some heroic early efforts. I was soon on my own, but fortunately a handful of gels, USN spike shots and an energy bar, and I was able to pick myself up and pull myself together, although too little too late.
The race then headed down a very technical hiking trail and finished with an eight kilometer climb to the finish. At the front, Burry had opened a gap on Adrien, and was able to ride alone to another win. Adrien took second, whilst Max got the better of Dave toward the end of the climb, taking third and fourth respectively. Darren Lill came in alone in fifth place, whilst I had to settle for sixth position on the day.
All was not lost though, as Dave will become the new overall series leader with one race remaining. But its going to be a close race come the final, so expect some super exciting stuff and the closest finish in the series in the past couple of years!
1st Burry Stander (Specialized) 4hrs18
2nd Adrien Niyonshuti (MTN/Qhubeka) 4hrs20
3rd Max Knox (Ghost/Doitnow) 4hrs22
4th Dave George (Nedbank 360life) 4hrs24
5th Darren Lill (Bonitas) 4hrs24
Next race, Team Nedbank 360life will be heading up to Klerksdorp to take part in a new mountain bike race, and should be good final preparation before we head to Crater Cruise.
Till then, cheers.