113km: 5hr30min, climbing: 2920m
Pictures: Zoon Cronje
TIB media correspondent writes:
The UCI world cup made its appearance once again in the small town of Sabie (Mpumalanga) over the past weekend, bringing an international flavour to the MTN National Mountain biking series. In its 16th year running the humble beginnings of the Sabie Classic provided the tough but ideal battle grounds for this international world cup event and provided the platform for riders from 16 different countries to test themselves high in the Sabie mountains.
The prestigious UCI race status and possibility of accruing much sort after UCI points brought all of the country’s top riders and many of the international teams to the start line of this prominent race in a small Lowveld town.
Heavy over night rain completely saturated the already sodden ground conditions and contributed to another aspect of the racing which lay ahead of the Elite pack assembled on the start line. “A race of attrition” was how many of the riders described as how they saw the race would unfold. “ its going to be a race against the conditions and not necessarily the other riders…”, “ the conditions are the same for everyone but the Europeans will have a bit of an advantage with them coming out of their winter mud” TIB Rider Andrew Hill commented before the UCI call up to the start line.
The racing was dominated by the TEAM Bulls duo of Karl Platt and Urs Huber who set a quick and unmatched pace up the first climb. The two were chased by Evans from Fedgroup, Max Knox (Ghost factory racing), Hill (TIB) and Gert Heyns of ASG MTB Academy. “The first climb at 6km was where the split happened from the main group and we (Hill and Heyns) managed to stay away from that point until the 60km mark where the chasing group of Nico Bell (RECM), Gawie Combrink (EAI cycling) Matthys Beukes (Scott factory) and Neil Macdonald (Fedgroup) caught up after I stopped to fasten my seat post bolts” said Hill.
The smaller second loop of the 113km route was a 45km out and back and generally headed in a similar direction to the first but contained another sizable climb. It was here where Hill and Heyns made their move off the front of the 6 riders in an attempt to round off the top 5 positions of the podium. “It was very similar to the first climb of the day where Gert and I found a great rhythm and made a small break… the gap grew and we had over a minute’s gap by the top of the climb” commented the TIB rider. The two worked well but after another hour of racing Hill found himself chasing 3rd place Evans who was now just over 2 minutes up the road.
“The finish line couldn’t come quick enough” said Hill when asked about the final run into the end. “All I could think in my head …this is the biggest result of career and I don’t need to stuff it up with a mechanical or puncture… it was huge relief to see the finish line and know there wasn’t a chance of me losing my spot on the podium” Continued Hill.
“The conditions were extreme out on the route today and I was very lucky not to have any major mechanicals like so many of the top contenders… apart from my saddle coming loose around the 60km mark… I was very fortunate to have my seconding team there with the tools to fix the problem” Said Hill. The conditions were not so gracious to a many of the South Africans who were forced off the road and out of the race with punctures and mechanicals. “I could carry on about how muddy, and how extremely dangerous the course was in those conditions, but you would have had to be there to see first hand, words cannot do it any justice” Commented 3rd place finisher Kevin Evans of Fedgroup after the race.
When asked what’s next for the KZN local, Hill said “I’m off to the cape for the next ultra marathon at Tulbagh and then I’ll stay down for the Cape Epic the next week… I’ll be riding in one of the Cannondale Blend teams hopefully helping the team get the African Leader Jersey.
UCI ultra marathon Overall Results:
1st Urs Uber (Bulls, Switzerland)
2nd Karl Platt (Bulls, German)
3rd Kevin Evans (Fedgroup, South Africa)
4th Andrew Hill (TIB insurance, South Africa)
5th Gert Hayns (ASG, South Africa)