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The illovo Eston has become some what of a legendary race in the KZN region attracting well over 3000 participants to the Eston Farmers club on a Sunday morning. The timing is just after the winter doldrums and you find people will come out of the cold to enjoy the sun and clear weather usually experienced. The extra motivation has some rewards as the routes traverse the tala game reserve and the insingisi nature reserve before doubling back to the Eston Farmers club.

The KOM comes in early in the race and knowing the pace would be high between the two XCO riders i sat on the back of the group and kept the pace as Julian and Stuart slowed down to catch their breath.

Game Plan Media writes:
After the King of the Mountain climb the pair was joined by Andrew Hill (TIB Insurance) and they worked together for most of the race, until the leading trio inadvertently took a wrong turn, with about 6 kilometres to go.

"It was at a rough river crossing and I think we all went on last year's route instead of following the markers," said Hill. "When we realised the mistake, we all turned back together. Luckily no-one else had gone through ahead of us."

Hill, the winner of the recent Imana Wild Ride, suffered the most from the unplanned detour, as he punctured and fell off the front bunch.

The puncture arrived at just he wrong time as we were just about to hit the fast flattish section of the race before the finish line. I knew I wouldn't be able to bridge the gap with two of them riding hard to try and dislodge the other. This resulted in me finishing 1 minute off the sprint for 1st.
Overall Results
60km Illovo Eston MTB Marathon
1.Stuart Marais 2:30:46
2.Julian Jessop 2:30:54
3.Andrew Hill 2:32:04

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The Port Edward Sardine Classic is one of the first races I ever attended way back when I first started riding a bike, and has been the stalwart of the mountain biking on the south coast for a number of years. Burry used to race it every year and I remember the proud moment of standing on the podium next to him on one occasion. The race definitely has its special place in my racing palmare's and I was really happy to be able to head down the KZN south Coast for another edition of this great event.

The route always has had some climbing, which is hard to avoid when you start at sea level and head up to the real gem of the track, Clear water trails bike park. The bike park is one of the original bike parks in South Africa and has an amazing network of trails setup for the race. The organizers often open up trails that haven't been used before or ride section of trail in reverse just for the race. This makes the race route fresh and something you cant just go do outside of the event. the normal tracks and old favorites were included but with over 18km of just single track in Clear waters park the race was definitely suited to the XCO riders. I was with a small group of riders who got into an early break from the start. We set a consistent hard threshold pace on all the initial sections of track, I put some hard short attacks in on each corner and the kicker climbs to see who would respond. I kept the pace consistent in between the kicks up till 15min of riding then put in a hard effort to dislodge the two other riders on my wheels. It was a tough effort to maintain the pace by myself but I could get some time splits when the track doubled back on itself and i could see the guys 40sec to 50 sec off my tail. This gap maintained all the way up till the 25km mark but after the beginning of Clear Water Trails I couldn't see them any more.

I managed to claim another win which really bodes well as I head into a block of training down the wild coast in preparation for the Imana Wildride starting later this month from Kie Mouth to Umgazi river 4 days later.

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Mfula Store - After taking the lead right from the start gun, Team TIB's Andrew Hill and Henry Liebenberg were too powerful for the rest of the field and claimed an emphatic dusi2c stage one victory on Saturday.

The 64km first stage took riders from Camps Drift in Pietermaritzburg to Mfula Store in the heart of the Valley of a Thousand Hills and despite an eleventh-hour withdrawal from Julian Jessop, Hill's original race partner, due to sickness, Liebenberg's inclusion was not a burden as the TIB duo were a class apart.

There were a handful of teams hoping to compete with the pre-race favourites but the pace at the front of the field was furnace-like and so the competitive race was for second place with the RMB Change a Life team of Ndumiso Dontso and Mboneni Ngcobo claiming second on the stage.

Hill and his young partner Liebenberg's tactics were simple going into the race and they managed to execute their game plan with aplomb.

"There isn't a lot of time to catch up on day two so we knew that we had to get ahead during the first stage," Hill mentioned from the overnight stop at Mfula Store.

"Henry hasn't done a lot of stage races so we wanted to keep the pressure off ourselves and it was good that we managed to get a solid lead.

"He is quite new to multi-stage events so it is nice for me to be able to share some knowledge and experience with him along the way.

"It's good for him to try and develop his stage racing technique as opposed to the cross country racing technique. He's really good at the technical stuff so there were stretches where he took the lead but I know the route so we both took turns at the front."

The race is always bunched going through Pietermaritzburg and Hill knew that it was important for him and Liebenberg to take advantage of any gap that they could create early.

"It is always a bun fight getting into the first bit of single track first and once we got through the city we were able to open up a bit of a gap and remain in front.

"We knew that if another team was going to come with us then we would have to ride a bit more carefully but we got ahead and managed to build on a slight lead early on.

"Stage two is really fast and we won't want to make any mistakes," Hill highlighted.

Blue Lagoon – An early crash ruled overnight leaders Team TIB out of contention on the final stage of the 2017 dusi2c mountain bike race and opened the door for the RMB Change a Life team of Ndumiso Dontso and Mboneni Ngcobo to held their nerve in a tense three team duel and claim a memorable title on Sunday.

The race was over for Team TIB within the first 10km as Henry Liebenberg hit a rut after he tried to avoid a snake and had a serious fall. Unfortunately for him and four-time champion partner Andrew Hill they could not continue as the abdominal injury to Liebenberg was too severe.

Speaking of the race Team TIB's Andrew Hill was very diplomatic in the assessment of Sunday's events.

"I was on the front and Henry was just behind me when he veered off the track after a snake had turned towards him and he rode into a rut and fell really hard.

"Even if Henry was fine to continue his bike was trashed so we wouldn't have been able to finish the race.

"These things happen in racing.

"I'm happy for Mboneni and Ndumiso, they raced really well and deserved the win today."

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Now in its 3rd year the Marriot Freedom race is one of the KZN gems when it comes to really experiencing the Inanda valley to it's fullest. The event has grown dramatically over the years and morphed into a truly African experience where 90% of the field get to experience riding in areas that they'd not normally go. The dam is a mountain biking mecca from a raw unplugged side and can be really push the limits of many a mountain biker with a lot of climbs heading into the 20 to 30 minute range if you're out to find them. Luckily for the participants of the Freedom race there was only one big climb on day that was about 20 minutes in total. The riders were rewarded after the climb with some amazing views out towards the Umdloti river and back towards Durban and a rocky downhill trail even Nino would have to think twice about his speed.

Day 1 was the biggest day in terms of climbing and my team mate Julian Jessop used the climbs as an opportunity to put a lot of pressure on the other teams. the mixture of short sharp XCO kicker climbs and fast paced tight trails made our jobs a lot easier as we attacked each section as if it was a short course XC race thereby stretching the elastic over and over to the chasers. The plan worked and we had a sizable gap heading into the halfway point of the race at the end of day 1 of 4 minutes

Overall WIN for Team TIB Insurance

Day 2 was set to be perfect conditions for racing and the early 6:30 start meant we would miss a lot of the heat predicted later in the day. The misty heavy cloud at the start was a tell tale sign the day was going to heat up especially with the weatherman predicting lower 30's for the day with a gusting north easterly coming through in the later morning. Julian and I knew we had good lead heading into the 2nd stage but we had to make sure we didn't leave the door open with a chance of a wrong turn or mechanical killing our chances of an overall win. Heading into the first climb we sat comfortably in the group knowing the pace would ramp up as hit the first section of single track. As we approached the crest of the climb Julian kicked hard to tack the lead into the trail as he came around I followed him and put in a BIG 1 min effort reach the trail on his wheel. Our plan worked and we set into a fast pace around the culturally famous Shembe Plateau single track and gained a 40 second lead as we got onto the district and tar road.

Knowing the route was a lot of dirt road we decided to keep the pace high but allow the chasing team to join us on the road but tactically as they got onto the back we would accelerate to make their effort to catch pay over the next couple of kilometers. The rolling nature from there to the finish wouldn't be conducive to any big attacks for us to get away without huge risk on the trails but as approached 40km mark we started to climb out the river valley on a very steep 1 min climb and I ramped the pace up and we got a gap which we kept extending with some good team work to the Umgeni river mouth. From there it was fast paced ride to Suncoast beach and the finish line. Having successfully defended the overall title for the 3rd year it was great have raced with such a great up and coming talent in Julian. This result bodes well as we will be racing at SANI2C next month.  

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