Following near freezing temperatures at the start at Camps Drift the sun eventually rose on a pristine day in the Valley of a Thousand Hills for the penultimate day of the 2014 BSi Steel dusi2c.
Defending champion Andrew Hill and partner Adriaan Louw edged out his 2013 teammate Tyron Bird and Tim Stark to take the overnight lead into Sunday’s final day that took riders from Mfula Store to Blue Lagoon.
It was Team TIB’s Hill and Louw that set the early pace and they did not seem to relinquish that speed as they powered their way through the rolling hills and over the uMsundusi and uMngeni Rivers. Their lead never ballooned out of control as Quattro riders Bird and Stark kept them in check and have set up an interesting final day of racing.
For Hill it was important that he and Louw managed to get out in front and try and force as big a lead as possible but he explains that that is not always the easiest thing to do when you are confronted by such a substantial amount of trail but he was satisfied with their performance.
“With racing you don’t know what to expect on the trails and anything can happen,ÔÇØ the defending champion said. ÔÇ£With that said I would have definitely taken our lead if you had given it to me before the race started.”
Consistency is the key for Hill and having come through the first day well he feels that if he and Louw can maintain their performance and avoid making mistakes then they will be in a good position to cross the finish line first at Blue Lagoon.
“In stage racing you try and put as much pressure on the other riders and it is all about being as consistent as possible, not taking stupid risks but making sure that you consolidate your position and then ride with that constancy for the rest of the race,ÔÇØ Hill explained.
Having come from the Western Cape for the event, Hill’s partner Adriaan Louw explains that although this is his debut race in the Valley of a Thousand Hills he has been riding in the area for a while and didn’t find the conditions too foreign but believes that they were some of the best he has ridden.
“I have ridden a little bit in the valley in the lead up to the race and I knew the trails were going to be great but it definitely exceeded my expectation. When you ride so many races with so many climbs and great single-track you think ‘this is awesome’ but this is like the dream of mountain biking and it is the peak of what you think a mountain bike race can achieve.
“There are some really amazing trails that look like foot paths that over time have developed into the perfect trails and it is so much fun to ride here! It is such a great event that I am sure it will grow from strength to strength,ÔÇØ Louw beamed.
It was a frantic start, as you can expect, but the field spread fairly quickly and it was up one of the first substantial climbs that Bird and Stark fell away from the leaders but the former still enjoyed his day on the trails.
“I was hoping we could have stayed with Andrew and Adriaan for a little bit longer but as soon as we hit the tar road heading up to Bishopstowe I found myself in a bit of trouble,ÔÇØ he explained.
ÔÇ£Tim was able to go with them but I was hurting a little bit and that was where we lost them and they obviously decided that they didn’t want to wait around and have some fun with us but it was really awesome.ÔÇØ
Following a second place finish on the first day of the event Bird was fairly relaxed in what his expectations were for the final day of racing.
“We were happy with our ride and we will just have to see what happens tomorrow,ÔÇØ a laid back Bird mentioned.
Having climbed over 600 metres on the first day Stark believes that Sunday is not going to be easy but is looking forward to getting to Inanda Dam in order to exploit the track that runs along the river.
“Tomorrow is going to be a tough day. I don’t think we have as much climbing as we did today so it’s kind of flat from the start.
“There is a lot of flowing single track next to the dam that I am looking forward to and having a bit of memory from last year’s race should help getting us out of trouble if that happens,ÔÇØ he said.
It was a solid day out for the RMB Change a Life/BSi Steel crew with all three of their teams ending in the top 15 with the best placed pair being stalwart John Ntuli and youngster Ndumiso Dontso. Ntuli missed out on the podium in 2013 but is happy to be in the position that he is in at the end of the first day.
“We are really happy because from the beginning myself and Ndumiso we were working hard together and communicating well which I am happy about and finishing third was also great for us,ÔÇØ an elated Ntuli commented.
In what can only be described as a very late entry, former South African women’s marathon champion Yolande Speedy crossed the line in first place in the mixed category with TIB Insurance Brokers partner Eugene Botha.
The race of over 300 teams of two riders winds its way to the Indian Ocean on Sunday for the second day as riders follow the uMngeni River to Blue Lagoon.
Day One results
1. Andrew Hill/Adriaan Louw (Team TIB) 2hr 32min 20sec
2. Tryon Bird/Tim Stark (Quattro) 2:36.38
3. John Ntuli/Ndumiso Dontso (RMB Change a Life/BSi Steel) 2:44.47
4. Grant Usher/Sean Henderson (Team Nutrilite) 2:49.39
5. Bongumusa Zikhali/Sipho Kupiso (RMB Change a Life/BSi Steel) 2:51.08
1. Eugene Botha/Yolande Speedy (TIB Insurance Brokers) 03:12.41
2. Owen Gandar/Tamika Haw (Simply da Best) 03:23.36
3. Gavin Meyer/Jean Meyer (Margs and Jules) 03:33.36