Stuart Marais continued his stellar season by retaining his title at the Illovo Eston MTB Challenge at the weekend, when lady luck deserted his nearest challenger Andrew Hill yet again.
In the main race for men, Marais and Hill quickly put themselves head-and-shoulders above the rest of the elite field and raced to a massive early lead.
In the picture: Stuart Marais, left, powers away with Andrew Hill during the early stages of the Illovo Eston MTB Challenge on Sunday. Picture: Anthony Grote/Gameplan Media
They slugged it out on the tough climbs, and Marais just managed to out-muscle Hill to take the King of the Mountain hot spot.
Hill, however, was sidelined by a technical mishap that left his saddle seat-post shattered. This forced the TIB Insurance ace to cobble together a repair with the materials at hand, and he could only watch as six riders passed him.
That left Marais (Expedient Africa/Moving Parts Tractor Spares) alone at the front, and having to pace himself over the last 30km, all the time looking over his shoulder to see if the chasing bunch was cutting into his lead.
“It was just a case of limiting losses from there to the finish,” said a relieved Marais at the finish.
“There was one section where we climbed out of a valley when I could see Tyronne (White), but otherwise I was on my own,” he said.
In the end, Marais cantered home to win by more than six minutes, with the energetic White winning a sprint at the end to snatch the silver medal from Warren Price.
Left languishing well off the pace, Hill did well to race to fourth and restore some credibility to his day.
“If you don’t try, you don’t get it,” he reflected after the race, having taken the decision not to bail when his seat-post broke. “It is a good lesson in not giving up. Things like this happen in racing and in life.”
The race for the women’s title was shaped by the decision of Tiffany Keep to race the 40km aQuellé Half Marathon, leaving the tenacious Jeannie Dreyer to take the title on a day when she never saw any of the other pretenders to the women’s throne.
Christie-Leigh Hearder took second position, and with it the valuable ROAG series points, with Andrea de Boer securing the last spot on the podium.
Having opted to race the 40km distance, Keep raced into the top five overall in a race dominated by juniors, with Kusaselihle Ngidi hanging on to win a thrilling dice to the line with Sam Moore.
Earlier in the day the big field of trail runners revelled in the cool and clear conditions over the 9km and 18km distances through the Tala Private Collection reserve.
The blue riband 18km Illovo Eston Trail Run race saw a head-to-head duel between old adversaries Mthobisi Mzolo and Zimbabwean born Nomore Mandivengerei, with Merchants Change A Life athlete Mzolo reversing their Sappi Karkloof Classic result by winning the needle sprint to the finish line by the slimmest of margins.
Apiwe Gaga was unchallenged in the women’s 18km race.
SUMMARY OF RESULTS
60km Illovo Eston MTB Marathon
1.Stuart Marais 2:22:01
2.Tyronne White 2:28:24
3.Warren Price 2:28:25
4.Andrew Hill 2:29:47
5.David Low 2:30:29
6.Derrin Smith 2:30:29
7.Bradley Potgieter 2:31:20
8.Julian Jessop 2:31:20
9.Jordan Wisdom 2:33:31
10.Brennan Anderson 2:34:09
60km Illovo Eston MTB Marathon – Women
1.Jeannie Dreyer 2:52:56
2.Christie-Leigh Hearder 2:59:25
3.Andrea de Boer 3:07:24
4.Debrah Thomas 3:13:28
5.Tamika Haw 3:15:54
aQuellé 40km Half Marathon
1.Kusaselihle Ngidi 1:35:35
2.Sam Moore 1:35:36
3.Thomas Cheatle 1:40:23
4.Brent Yelland 1:40:39
5.Tiffany Keep (1st woman) 1:41:08
18km Illovo Eston Trail Run Men
1.Mthobisi Mzolo 1:05:45
2.Nomore Mandivengerei 1:05:46
3.Sibonga Shange 1:09:36
4.Mxolisi Zondi 1:09:36
5.Justin Rose 1:15:44
18km Illovo Eston Trail Run Women
1.Apiwe Gaga 1:22:25
2.Wendy Mills 1:30:03
3.Patricia Dammann 1:33:49
4.Sarah Gray 1:38:17
5.Marlene de Beer 1:42:08
9km Illovo Eston Trail run
1.Hlelani Radebe 35:51
2.Khumbulani Nzimande 35:51
3.Dumisani Shabalala 35:51
4.Raymond Radebe 39:31
5.Bongani Makhatini 40:23
More information can be found at www.illovoestonmtb.co.za