Quality field for Illovo Eston MTB

2009-08-01 00:00

DEFENDING champion Mannie Heymans will not be at the 2009 Illovo Eston MTB Challenge, to be held at the Eston Farmers’ Club in KZN on August 2. He is out with a badly broken collarbone, leaving the rest of the high-quality field to battle for top honours this year.

With Melt Swanepoel not entered, the podium will definitely have a new look.

Entries received so far promise that racing at this year’s event will be of the highest standard. With nearly 3 000 entries received at time of going to press, the who’s who of mountain biking will be converging on the KZN midlands town of Eston. According to Brett Austen Smith, organiser of the event: “This is one of the highest quality fields yet assembled for a mountain bike event in KZN. The big prize money offered by sponsors has ensured that all the pro teams are sending their full squads.”

Kevin Evans, fresh from altitude training in the Trans Alps, is sure to start as hot favourite. But with the marathon distance reduced to 60 km this year, younger riders like Max Knox and local favourite James Reid could well cause an upset.

Brandon Stewart, leader of the powerful DCM Chrome team, will be hoping his excellent cross-country speed and skill will give him the edge.

The battle for the Queen of Eston will also keep spectators riveted. The organisers of the Illovo Eston event are renowned for bringing innovative ideas to their event each year. In keeping with giving both genders equal prize money, the leading women will be starting in their own dedicated start batch. This will ensure that competitors will be able to mark each other right from the start without one of the women getting away with a group of male riders. Queen of the Mountains, which at Eston comes barely five kilometres from the start, should prove a mighty battle.

2008 Olympian Yolande Speedy, previous winner of the event, will definitely start as favourite. Speedy consistently battles with the top male riders and will be hard to beat. However, over this short distance, a small miscalculation or mechanical will open the door for the rest of the field all hungry for the R10 000 first prize. Look out for Robyn Adendorff, Samantha Oosthuysen and Yolande de Villiers, all capable of competing with Speedy on the day.

The Aquelle Classic, over the more traditional distance of 40 km, has drawn the cream of South Africa’s future international stars. Travis Walker, Brendon Davids and Luke Roberts will amaze you with their speed and technical ability. The girls, who will also have their own start and equal prize money, will be well represented by the highly talented Hayley Smith from KZN’s south coast and the extremely successful Candice Neethling.

In addition to the best South African racing talent, a number of well-known sports and business celebrities will be attending this year’s event. John Allan, head of the e’Lan South African Rugby Legends, has encouraged his squad to support this worthwhile event with former provincial and International rugby stars like Craig Jamieson, Jeremy Thomson and Wayne Fyvie all lining up on the day.

If, to use a Tour de France term, “full gas” racing is not your cup of tea, then the more sedate and festive 18-km Fun Ride through Tala Game Reserve and the Ola Milky Lane 10-km events may be more appealing. If you own a bicycle that can be ridden on an unpaved farm road, then Eston is definitely the place for you to be on Sunday. The 18-km route is a totally non-technical ride through the exciting vistas of bush and wildlife in the game reserve.

By making an entry into any of the distances, you qualify for ice-cold Aquelle and Windhoek refreshments, ice creams, goodies, medals and prizes. Late Entries will be accepted at registration on Saturday 1st August from 2 pm, and Sunday, July  2, from 6 am. Remember, only pre entries qualify for the high-quality moisture management shirt — a signature of this event.

If you need any more info on the Illovo Eston MTB Challenge, go to www.illovosugar.co.za and click on the race logo for more information.

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