Photo Gill Knox. Kevin Evans
Hill2Hill, Hilton to Hillcrest, 100km, 1950m
Seems the racing weather, mostly rain, cold and wet, is following us around the country, and this would not be my first Hill2Hill in these conditions. Lining up at 6am at Worlds View for my third time, I was hoping to try better my best result here from 2006, but more importantly, I was keen to give the body a hard session and see how the progression has been going. It would also be Dave’s third time here, and both his previous results saw him finish as runner up in the race. Also at our side, was James (junior), back from World cross country champs, and looking surprisingly fresh and sharp. It’s always great to line up with the full squad.
With the hectic rain over the previous two days, the organizers were forced to make a few subtle changes for safety reasons, but the technical pieces were mostly still intact, and ever more challenging in the slippery conditions. Another welcome change, and I think for both races, was that the shorter race was held the day before, meaning no traffic for the pro’s, and also no screaming racing snaking coming up from the rear in their race.
|Dave looking nasty.|
We made quick work of the Worlds View descend, and shot through town fairly fast moving onto the district roads. Phil Buys took out the king of the mountain, and from there a small group of around 6-8riders led the race. I started to really test myself on the next few climbs, riding a really hard but steady tempo, and the body was feeling good. Various riders were getting tailed off the lead group and then getting back on, but it was really only on the climb up to Bartletts that a select group got away. Dave George, Max Knox, Brandon Stewart and myself had a gap and entered the technical rocky singletrack down the other side. There was a flurry of action down here as Brandon and I had pulled a small gap on Max with Dave following him. But again we were all together heading up the next climb. Unfortunately for Dave, who had been sick the week leading into the race, decided to back off here and left the three of us out front with about 25km to go.
I knew the last pull through to the finish would be tough, and I was slowly paying the price for my earlier efforts when Max put in a big move near the top of Sunhill. I was trying my best to get onto his wheel, but could never close the 15second gap as we hit a short portage, normally a rideable climb, but not in all the mud. He gained another 15seconds here, and soon I was distanced and chasing alone.
Brandon then caught me with around 5km remaining, and I was just able to follow him as he set a steady pace heading towards the finishing field at Shongweni. I managed to pass him on the final small drag to the finish to take another second place, a few minutes behind Max.
Junior put in a great effort to outsprint Phil Buys, both of them just catching RE:CM’s Neil Macdonald near the end to round out fourth, fifth and sixth place respectively.
It was another tough day in really horrid conditions, leaving much work for our mechanic Swen to be done to our Scott Sparks. Racing in these conditions really takes its toll on body and equipment!
Next race will be the MTN Ultra Marathon Series #7 event, right here in Hilton, but we will have another hard week of training ahead in preparation of our World Championship goal that’s now ever nearer.
1st Max Knox (Specialized) 4hrs03
2nd Kevin Evans (Team Nedbank 360life) 4hrs06
3rd Brandon Stewart (Fedgroup/ItecConnet) same time