Local mountain biker bags fourth in Marathon World Cup Series

2014-02-27 00:00

HILLCREST professional mountain biker Andrew Hill finished fourth in a strong international field in Sabie (Mpumalanga) at the weekend, in a tough, muddy 113 km race.

This was the South African leg of the UCI Marathon World Cup and in its 16th year, the Sabie Classic provided testing but ideal grounds for riders from 16 countries to prove their worth.

Heavy overnight rain saturated the ground, adding another tricky element to the day’s race. On the startline, many riders predicted it would be a race of attrition, a race against the conditions rather than against fellow riders.

“Looking at the conditions, I thought they would favour the European riders a little more as they were coming from their winter mud to race here. For the bigger picture, it was the same conditions for all of us,” said Hill.

The course was two loops, the second smaller than the first, and it was here that Hill made his move, breaking from a group of six riders in his attempt to secure a podium finish, awarded to the first four across the line.

“I found a great rhythm on the testing climb and edged ahead of the group. This gap widened to more than a minute at the top of the hill,” he said. From there, it was a matter of holding his position.

“The finish could not come quick enough,” he said. “It was mind games as I kept thinking this was the biggest result of my career and I did not want to mess up with a puncture or mechanical problem. Seeing the finish line was a relief, knowing I had a podium finish.”

It wasn’t easy going for Hill though and he had to call on his seconding team when his saddle came loose just after the halfway mark. “Conditions were extreme and I was fortunate not to have any major mechanical setbacks, a fate which befell many of the top contenders,” he said. “My saddle came loose around the 60 km mark but fortunately I had my seconding team close at hand, with the right tools, to keep me on the move.”

Kevin Evans, who finished third, gave an indication of how tough it was out on the route. “These conditions were not gracious to many of the South African riders who were forced off the road and out of the race with punctures and mechanical issues,” he said. “I could carry on about how muddy and dangerous the course was but people would have to have been there first hand to see it for themselves. Words cannot do it justice.”

Hill now heads to the Cape for an ultra-marathon in Tulbagh before tackling the Cape Epic.

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