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Top national cyclist secures his spot for Illovo Eston MTB Challenge
Eston – National MTB star Brandon Stewart (FedGroup - Itec Connect) has confirmed his entry for the Illovo 60km Marathon, part of the Illovo Eston MTB Challenge on Sunday 5 August, and will start as a strong favourite to take the prestigious title in the absence of his two great rivals Burry Stander and Phillip Buys who will be away representing South Africa at the Olympic Games in London.
With the event renowned for attracting huge numbers and the course’s fast paced nature the Hilton resident is relishing the opportunity to tackle yet another of what is considered to be one of South Africa’s most prestigious one day events on the calendar.
“I’ve done at least ten Eston’s before. It’s a race I really enjoy, a local race, there’s always great numbers at the event and the people organizing everything are fantastic,” said Stewart.
“It’s always nice to be able to focus a bit on Eston and it’s a really important race for me. There’s good prize money, good television coverage and it’s an important part of my preparations for the SA Marathon Champs which are coming up at the end of the month.”
“With it being 60km I think it has attracted more people recently and it really has become a really big event. For some 40km is starting to get a bit short but 75km is probably a step to far so 60km is the perfect fit and really draws a lot of entries!”
“The course also has a great balance of everything. There are some pretty tough climbs in the beginning, some fast flat sections and then some great single track,” added the FedGroup - Itec Connect athlete.
Despite being known to enjoy a quick start and to take to the front early, it is unlikely Stewart will be the only one looking to get out the gates as quickly as possible and put the hammer down early on.
“With there being a King of Mountain prize just four or so kilometres into the race it’s always a hard start. The pace is tough and it’s all about trying to manage yourself and the pace as best you can. If you go out hard early on then you’re either going to be out on your own or at the front of the bunch but you’re still going to have to keep pushing the whole way regardless,” said Stewart.
As the whole world’s mountain biking community fixes its attention on London and the 2012 Olympic Games, local enthusiasts will be heard around the country as they get behind local hero Burry Stander (Specialized Racing) and his fellow Team South Africa representative Phillip Buys (Contego 28E).
For Stewart however the absence of these two national icons at this year’s Eston leaves a slight bitter sweet taste in the mouth as the door is now flung wide open for him to take the crown however the opportunity to put yourself up against the likes of Stander and Buys is always and inviting one.
“I’ve been at home the last little while. I went up to Jo’burg for a couple of races two weeks ago but since then I’ve been trying to get as much training in and do as little travelling as possible,” said Stewart.
“Last year my main competition was definitely Burry and Phillip and obviously with them being at the Olympics they won’t be able to take part in this year’s race which is a little sad in a way but it’s never about whose racing or whose not racing, it’s all about getting out there and giving it your all.”
“Some of the local guys like Andrew Hill, Travis Walker, maybe even Luke Roberts I’m sure will be there and they’re all talented riders and if they have a good day then they will definitely be right up there and will do very well.”
“Everyone is obviously looking to do as well as they can so I definitely don’t think I’ll have things all my own way,” he added.
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