Croeser claims hard-fought Eston victory

2013-08-05 00:00

AS the UCI MTB & Trials World Championships draw nearer, South African U23 star Rourke Croeser claimed a major morale-boosting victory when he edged out James Reid and Brendon Davids in a dramatic sprint finish to take yesterday’s 60 km Illovo Marathon, the feature race of the hugely popular Illovo Eston MTB Challenge, while Jeannie Dreyer cruised to victory in the women’s race.

The three top men’s competitors rode the entire race with each other, leaving little room for anything else but a sprint finish to decide the winner in which Croeser (Kargo Pro MTB) gained the ascendency and the inside line with just a couple of hundred metres to go, giving him the edge over Reid (Craft/Trek) and Davids (Team Jeep) at the death.

Being in the top three within the last kilometre was something that Croeser had been working towards all race, and felt that he would have enough power to claim the title should it come down to the likely sprint finish.

“I had a really good race and James [Reid] rode really well too,” Croeser said. “I just had to make sure that I was with the other guys at the end of the final climb because I backed my sprint in the final kilometre and I felt confident I could win it if I was there.”

World Champs, the pinnacle of the global MTB calendar, get under way at the end of the month at Cascades MTB Park, and Croeser feels that he is heading in the right direction ahead of the international spectacle.

“I am at about 80% at the moment, but I definitely will be ready,” enthused Croeser. “There is still a long way to go for me, but this result was great for my preparations for the World Champs.”

Reid, the unfortunate first loser in the hard-fought sprint, was happy with his race and enjoyed the fact that there was such a tight finish.

“It was a great race. I knew it was going to be a bunch race and it was going to be us three at the front,” said Reid, who took some consolation out of his King of the Mountain victory.

“We joked along the course that the guys over the age of 25 were going to have to ask for a pensioner’s discount,” he added light-heartedly.

The Craft/Trek rider was very happy with the course as well as with the way in which the event helped him in the build-up to World Champs. “It is a really super course with a lot of flat, fast sections, which in a way makes it feel a bit like a road race.”

The three top riders have established a fierce rivalry and third-placed rider Brendon Davids was confident that they would be at the top of the race before the start.

“I knew it would be the three of us — and maybe Andy [Hill] — and with the Worlds coming up, we are all coming into form, so it was always going to be a tough battle out there.

“It is really promising for the sport that the younger generation is coming through and winning big races,” added the Team Jeep competitor.

Andrew Hill (TIB Insurance) and Neil MacDonald (FedGroup-Itec Connect) rounded out the men’s top five, with Hill finishing two minutes off the pace and MacDonald a further three minutes back.

In the women’s race, Jeannie Dreyer was the top rider on the day. Having taken the lead early on, the USN/Hi-Tec star was always aware of the chasing women, but managed to hold off the chasing pair of Kendall Ryan (Team Jeep) and Bianca Haw (BMC-SA).

“Once I got to the front and got away from Eszter [Erdelyi], I rode with a bit of fear that someone could come past me, but I felt pretty good and was hugely relieved to have crossed the line in first place,” said Dreyer.

The USA’s Ryan (Team Jeep) was in charge of the race for the early stage, but could not stay with Dreyer’s wheel as the eventual winner came charging past her and then had to dig deep to overcome a difficult mental lapse.

“It was a really fast start and I had the lead for the first 10 km, but when Jeannie caught and dropped me I just couldn’t keep up,” the Team Jeep rider said. “I then blew really badly and Eszter went straight past me too before Bianca [Haw] caught me as well.”

The USA World Champs squad hopeful was also full of praise for the race and was very impressed with the course.

“It was an awesome race. Mountain biking here in KZN is just gorgeous and is completely different from what I’m used to back in Southern California, where all you get is beach, then city and then desert!”

Erdelyi (Bergamont-SA), a favourite to claim victory in her age group of the cross-country section of the UCI MTB Masters World Championships, which precede the elite competition at Cascades at the end of August, ultimately came home to claim a hard-fought and energy-sapping fourth position, narrowly holding off a charging Ashleigh Moffatt (BMC-SA), who claimed fifth.

The 40 km aQuellé Half Marathon saw the rapidly developing Julian Jessop (Team Jeep) claim a comfortable victory in the men’s race while Nedene Cahill (Pure Adventure Gear) claimed the women’s title.

Hundreds of local mountain biking fanatics flooded the start line of the 19 km aQuellé/Tala Family Ride, as they took to Tala Game Reserve’s twisting and scenic trails for their dose of adventure and enjoyment, while many of the region’s future stars enjoyed the clear skies and sunshine as they tackled the 10 km Stihl Kids Ride.


Overall: 1.Rourke Croeser 2:12.32

2.James Reid 2:12.32

3.Brendon Davids 2:12.33

4.Andrew Hill 2:14.07

5.Neil MacDonald 2:18.30

Women: 1.Jeannie Dreyer 2:37.09

2.Kendall Ryan 2:43.37

3.Bianca Haw 2:43.39

4.Eszter Erdelyi 2:43.56

5.Ashleigh Moffatt 2:47.14

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