Hill looks to continue good run of form at Eston

Eston – On the back on a recent run of sublime form Hillcrest based mountain biking ace Andrew Hill (TIB Insurance) will hope to continue his winning ways when he tackles the 60km Illovo Marathon, part of the Illovo Eston MTB Challenge, on Sunday 5 August.

Despite focusing primarily on ultra-marathon racing Hill has had a stellar year in 2012 in the shorter format of the sport where he has produced endless podium finishes and, even more impressively, numerous victories against some of the country’s top performers.

“I’m obviously really happy with how things have gone for me this year. I think it’s been a bit of a long time coming with all the work I’ve been putting in and, for me, it’s hasn’t really been about trying to push my hardest all the time but rather about keeping things as consistent as possible and I think my consistency this year has been one of the most pleasing factors,” said Hill.

“I had some really pleasing results recently and my win at the John Dory’s Golovane two weekends ago really helped me keep that momentum going nicely,” he added.

After a solid second place in both the Lizzard Howick MTB Classic and the Sardine MTB Classic Hill stepped it up a gear and made the top step of the podium his home in the Safire Baynesfield MTB Classic and most recently the John Dory’s Golovane which he added to his victory in the aQuellé Tour Durban MTB title he claimed earlier in the year.

The 60km Illovo Marathon however presents a challenge of a slightly different nature for Hill who will not only have to once again overcome stiff competition from his fellow top provincial contenders but he will also have to try edge out some of the more established national riders such as defending champion Brandon Stewart (FedGroup - Itec Connect).

“Obviously Burry (Stander) and Phillip (Buys) won’t be there this time with them being at the Olympics but Eston is always a nice big event which attracts a couple of the top national guys and with Brandon (Stewart) having put his name down already racing will definitely be tough,” said Hill.

“It’s always tough racing against Brandon, he’s a great athlete and one of the best in the country so the rest of us will definitely have our work cut out for us.”

“I’ve been down a little with a bit of a head cold this past week which has obviously affected my training a little but such is life and it’s just one of those spanners in the works that one has to learn to deal with.”

“I’ve got the Ingeli Forrest Classic this weekend and then I’m really looking forward to the Eston race next weekend where I’ll definitely give it my all,” he added.

With the King of the Mountains prize up for grabs just a couple of kilometres from the start line riders traditionally get things underway at a frenetic pace which sets the tone for the rest of the day as the track’s fast paced nature lends itself perfectly to high speed competition.

“The route’s changed a bit over the last couple of years. It used to be a bit longer but the shortening of the course to 60km has just brought more people into the race so there are usually some really good numbers at the event,” said Hill. “It’s a really quick route which makes it quite a tactical race.”

“Usually the group sticks together for the first 15km or so but then there’s a really tough climb and that’s when the big split comes in. You’ve just got to try give it your all to get to the top of that climb with the leaders because once you’re over that hill there aren’t too many climbs to go from there.”

“It’s pretty flat and fast from then on and away you go before it’s all about seeing what you’ve got left in the legs for the final push to the finish,” he added.

The 60km Illovo Marathon, part of the Eston Illovo MTB Challenge, is one which Hill looks forward to every year and fits perfectly into his training regime ahead of the all-important SA Marathon Champs.

“It’s a race I really enjoy and its always a good battle plus it’s the perfect last hard push before two weeks of training ahead of SA Champs which take place on 25 August,” said Hill.

The Illovo Eston MTB Challenge takes place on Sunday 5 August and offers riders the option of taking part in either the 60km Illovo Marathon, 40km aQuellé Half Marathon, 18km Tala Family Ride or 10km Milky Lane Kids Ride. More info can be found at www.illovoestonmtb.co.za and pre-entries can be submitted via www.roag.co.za

Photo credit: Gameplan Media