Nothing can stop Hill’s new look at Euro Steel Drak Descent
Andrew Hill was not going to let anything get in that way of winning his first race in his new team colours when he cruised to a comfortable lead after Stage 1 of the Eurosteel Drak Descent MTB race in Underberg on Saturday.
Despite being handed “unlucky 13” as his race number, and taking a wrong turne midway through the 42km course, Hill was still able to celebrate riding in his new Darkhorse Wheels/TIB colours for the first time with a stage win.
The defending champion was chased home by the two riders in the winning team, Andrew Johnson and Tyronne White from Ballito Bicycle Co, who finished together just under a minute behind the Durban resident.
Hill was very happy with his first outing of the year.
“It was a really good day and it was nice to take a stage win for our new team Dark Horse Wheels / TIB. From the start we went down a muddy descent and then as we went into a forest and rode up some concrete strips I just accelerated, and managed to get a nice little gap from there,” he said after the finish.
“I had a wrong turn but maybe that was a bit of the unlucky 13 number on my bike! I thought about turning it upside down before the start, but decided to risk the bad luck.”
Hill also showed his skills as a bush tracker when he returned to the course after missing the route marker and thought he had lost the lead.
“I got a bit worried when I saw tyre tracks on the course – I thought after I had got back to the right route that somebody may now be ahead of me, but I then looked at the tyre tracks in the mud and realised none of the top guys ride that brand of tyre, so I realised it must have been one of the guys riding the shorter course.”
Bianca Haw was the first women across the line, although she was riding with her boyfriend Anderw Houston as a mixed team. Their time of two hours six minutes put them 19 minutes ahead of the first solo women, Michele Du Toit, who was in turn just 15 seconds ahead of Rouxda Grobler.
In the GWK Run the Rivers trail running event there was lots of local celebration, with both the men’s and women’s winners having strong connections to the Underberg area.
Local Underberg athlete Phillip Shezi managed to make the decisive break in the 25km event with less than five kilometres to go. The 2018 winner ran with Steven Erasmus until they could almost see the finish and then Shezi surged away to open up a gap of close to a minute.
Speaking through an interpreter, the Zulu-speaker said he was confident he could hold on to his lead for Sunday’s second stage, but that the opening stage “was not an easy run” with Erasmus pushing him until the end.
Although not a full-time resident in Underberg, the women’s winner, Tarryn Lopez – who is engaged to Erasmus, the second male finisher – also has strong connections to the area.
“My fiancé and I have just bought a house here and we spend a lot of weekends running on the trails around here,” said the women’s leader.
Lopez opened up a lead from early on and steadily increased her advantage over Anja Heenop to end up winning the opening stage by just over six minutes.
“The run was beautiful,” added Lopez after the finish. “The conditions were perfect – cool but not too cold. For the first race of the year it was really good and it is so beautiful out here.”
Both the trail running event and the mountain biking race, as well as a canoeing event, all finish with their second stage on Sunday.
SUMMARY OF RESULTS – Eurosteel Drak Descent MTB/GWK Run the River trail run
1 Andrew Hill 1.53.36
2 Andrew Johnson (1st Team) 1.54.18
3 Tyronne White (1st Team) 1.54.19
4 Komborero Bere 1.54.21
5 Jedson Tooms 1.58.31
1 Bianca Haw 2.06.48 (1st mixed with Andrew Houston)
2 Michele Du Toit 2.25.49
3 Rouxda Grobler 2.26.04
4 Donna Winter 2.33.40
5 Debrah Thomas 2.34.29
Eurosteel Challenge MTB
1 Justin Swanepoel 1.18.11
2 Charles Hughes 1.18.33
3 Tayne Rudling 1.24.32
1 Jennifer Van Rensburg 1.33.17
2 Bronwen Bainbridge 1.40.25
3 Shannon Clarke 1.42.53
GWK Run the Rivers
1 Phillip Shezi 2.04.23
2 Steven Erasmus 2.05.21
3 Delphinus Sauer 2.13.12
4 Matthew Edmonds 2.13.44
5 Sihle Ngcobo 2.14.41
1 Tarryn Lopez 2.24.35
2 Anja Heenop 2.30.56
3 Sarah Kirk 2.32.46
4 Dawn Nunes 2.33.51
5 Lee Cackett 2.34.28
GWK Run the Rivers Lite
1 Antony Stott 55.00
2 Tsepo Jama 57.46
3 Khetukhuthula Vundla 58.42
1 Paige Mackenzie 59.50
2 Meggan Mackenzie 1.04.18
3 Philippa Braithwaite 1.05.34