Eston – As the popular Illovo Eston MTB Challenge draws near, mountain biking stars the nation over will be eyeing the prestigious title, including Hillcrest-based star Andrew Hill who is prioritising the event that takes place on Sunday, 6 August.
The Eston Country Club will play host to a number of different events on race Sunday with the Illovo 60km Marathon being the feature event and the country’s finest will be eyeing a shot at claiming the title at one of the most prestigious one day events nationwide.
Team TIB’s Hill has never won the Eston MTB Challenge and having taken a bit of a break from racing is heading into a busy phase of competition and will be eyeing a strong performance come 4 August.
“I always see Eston as the first race of the second part of my year,” Hill said from his holiday home on the Wild Coast.
“I have the Imana Wild Ride coming up and then I am back for Eston. It is kind of the beginning of spring racing for me and it is a race that I love being a part of.
“It has been around for ages and there is so much prestige attached to winning the Eston title that it attracts the best in South Africa and as a professional you always want to test yourself against the best.
“To get into the top five at Eston is always an achievement which just shows you the calibre of rider that takes part.”
Hill was in fine form in the first part of the year with a strong display from him and partner Julian Jessop at the KAP sani2c where they finished fifth overall after three gruelling stages of racing.
Building towards the end of the year is the aim for Hill and Eston is always an important part of his second half of the year’s racing.
“I am down the Wild Coast just building on my endurance work at the moment and I hope that Eston will be a good way to get back into the one day classics when I am back from the Wild Coast.
“I would say that Eston is definitely more of a classic marathon race with one big climb that might stretch the field a bit and then some really good track on the Nzingizi Trails where the break normally comes.
“A fast finish too is always on the cards which makes for an exciting end to the race at the Eston Club,” Hill continued.
It can be difficult for event organisers and trail builders to continually reinvent themselves year after year to keep the route exciting and fresh for all, however Hill feels that the event always delivers from all aspects.
“The guys put in so much effort into the trails and you can see it when you are out there which means a lot to us.
“They keep on upping their game every year and that is why this event continues to remain on the of the best one day races around.
“Eston always attracts the top KZN riders as well as some of the best in the country which again just proves that it is a top event,” Hill added.
The 2017 Illovo Eston MTB Challenge provides runners and riders with a wide selection of events to take part in. From a mountain biking side there is the Illovo 60km Marathon, the 40km aQuellé Half Marathon, the STIHL Tala Family Ride and the Omnia Kids Ride.
From a trail running perspective the events offers an 18km and 9km run.
More information can be found at www.illovoestonmtb.co.za