Eston – First and third place respectively for James Reid and Alan Hatherly after a four-rider end sprint at Sunday’s 60km Illovo Eston Marathon, the feature race of the 2016 Illovo Eston MTB Challenge, served as the perfect final race preparation ahead of the pair’s departure for the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, while Cherie Redecker claimed the women’s title.
In edging out the trio of Brendon Davids, Hatherly (Kargo Pro Cycling Team) and former Olympian, Philip Buys (SCOTT LCB Factory Racing), Team Spur’s Reid successfully defended his Illovo Eston crown and added the final piece to his all-important Olympic preparation puzzle.
“It was a super dice out there!” said Reid. “The other three guys are three of the fastest in the country at the moment so it really was the perfect build up to Rio.”
“Eston is a race with a very high average speed, similar to the course we’re going to be riding in Rio, so both Alan (Hatherly) and I used this race for some speed work.
“We’ve both had a pretty tough week of training, so for us to come here and have a clash with two other classy riders in Brendon and Philip was really great,” he added.
With pedigree aplenty and the quartet having spent close on the full 60km together, Reid played his cards perfectly and surged onto the Beaumont Eston Farmers’ Club field first.
“With Philip and Brendon coming out to race today, Alan and I were always going to have our work cut out for us.
“Philip was also in close contention for Olympic selection and Brendon is super strong and he’s really hungry after quite a difficult season.
“Once things settled down, it was just the four of us and no one was able to make a meaningful break at any stage.
“It was also great to see the class of the guys when I had a piece of wire stuck in my wheel and all three of them waited for me,” explained Reid.
While a desperate lunge for the line saw Davids narrowly pip Hatherly to the post, the latter was still thrilled with his effort on the day and the role it played in his Rio build up campaign.
“Eston is always has quite a cross country style course with lots of technical single track and quite a few punchy, hard climbs and then the last 15km are quite flat,” said Hatherly.
“With the course over in Rio also quiet flat and fast, Eston was the perfect race to finish off our preparation at.”
Hatherly also confirmed that road cycling star Louis Meintjes’ seventh placed effort in the Men’s Road Race on Saturday in Rio would serve as added motivation come his and Reid’s cross country mountain bike equivalent in a few weeks’ time.
“It’s definitely motivating to see one of your fellow South African riders doing so well; now it’s for us to try follow in his footsteps and get to that sort of level as well.”
Davids, currently riding unsupported, was also pleased with his second place effort having returned recently from a frustrating two months of racing in Europe.
“As important as it was for the Olympic guys to come here to test their form and boost their confidence before Rio, it was also great for guys like Philip and I to come out and re-prove to ourselves that we have what it takes to compete at that level as well,” said Davids.
“For me to be involved in a sprint with three Olympians is really good for my confidence, especially after the couple of mechanicals I had during my recent stint in Europe.”
Buys, who was part of Team South Africa’s 2012 London Olympic contingent, crossed the line in fourth having claimed the King of the Mountain hotspot prize early on in the race while Stuart Marais rounded out the top five.
With the four cross country aces having dominated the men’s race, it was more of the same in the women’s clash as fellow XCO star, Redecker controlled proceedings from start to finish to claim a comfortable victory.
Despite lining up alongside a richly talented women’s field, the Redecker charged out the blocks, a tactic that paid off handsomely for the Novus OMX Pro MTB Team rider as she headed to victory unrivalled, a positive ahead of her final few assignments of the year.
“I looked to just go full gas from the beginning, see if I could take Queen of the Mountain hotspot and then try find a rhythm after that,” explained Redecker.
“At the 30km mark – the usual endpoint of my cross country races – I was worried that I may have gone a little too hard early on however I decided to see how long I could keep things going for and once I started catching some of the A-batch men, each rider in front of me became little carrot for me to keep working towards.
“I felt like today showed that my form is there which, having been sick for SA Cross Country Champs, gives me a bit of confidence for my last four or so big events for the year, which include the Swiss Cup and the Euro Bike.”
Behind Redecker a battle royale unfolded as Kargo Pro Cycling Team’s Frankie du Toit, Pure Adventure Wear’s Tiffany Keep, Merchants’ Jeannie Dreyer and Kargo Pro Cycling Team’s Hayley Smith went head-to-head.
Despite having only jetted in from Ireland via Dubai late on Saturday evening, young Keep regularly tested her rivals with surges that in the second half of the contest, fragmented the women’s chase group.
In the end it was Du Toit who charged home to claim second place ahead of the spirited Keep though, who in turn narrowly edged out the experienced Dreyer with Smith finishing fifth.
The 40km aQuellé Half Marathon saw Reinhard Zellhuber and Gill Burie clinch the men’s and women’s race spoils respectively while the junior age group racing in the 18km STIHL Tala Family Ride was frenetic throughout.
The 10km Omnia Kids Ride rounded out the day’s action packed programme with scores of excited young stars of tomorrow enjoying their time in the saddle alongside their peers and parents.
More information can be found at www.illovoestonmtb.co.za.
SUMMARY OF RESULTS
2016 ILLOVO ESTON MTB CHALLENGE
60KM ILLOVO ESTON MARATHON
2.Frankie du Toit
40KM AQUELLE HALF MARATHON