Shezi back at the front of the Euro Steel Run The Rivers

Shezi back at the front of the Euro Steel Run The Rivers

It was business as usual for the quietly spoken Underberg resident Philip Shezi as he let his legs do the talking and took a big step towards claiming a fifth title at the Euro Steel Run The Rivers Trail Run on Saturday – but he still has plenty of work to do on the final stage on Sunday with a tightly packed top five.

In the women’s race, Janneke Leask seemed to be enjoying herself in the muddy conditions as she opened up an almost two minute lead over Tarryn Lopez on the 22km first stage, with Leah Sloman set to start Sunday’s 24km second stage in third place, with a deficit of just over two minutes more.

Despite his pre-race claims of not being able to train as hard as previous years, Shezi proved himself the man to beat once again and edged back to the start/finish at the Swartberg Road Bridge in a time of 1:52:44. But the winner in 2022, 2020, 2019 and 2018 still faces a tough task to wrap up his fifth win.

Gary Hill was never far off the pace on Saturday and finished up just 22 seconds behind, with David Lamont another 40 seconds back, followed by Guy Allen just 12 seconds further off the leader and then a gap of only 11 more seconds to Murray Waldeck.

With just 85 seconds covering the top five after the opening stage, the out-and-back 24km loop on Sunday could be the scene of a fierce tactical battle for the 2023 title. Shezi just needs to match his rivals on Sunday to claim win number five, but things could get a bit complicated with five potential winners if one or two of them opt to attack early and force the champion to make some tough decisions on who to follow.

“I think I can win tomorrow,” said Shezi after recovering from his efforts. “I found the run quite easy today, so I am am sure I can win tomorrow.”

Leask has a bit more of a cushion in the women’s race, but Lopez was the winner in 2019 and knows what it takes to win this event. However, Leask seemed to be having fun on the opening stage and looked to have plenty in reserve after claiming the lead on Day One.

“It was beautiful out there today. It is such a beautiful area and the trails were magnificent,” said Leask after crossing the line. Adding with a big smile that she had no trouble with the muddy conditions because “… it can never be too muddy.”

In the shorter Euro Steel Run The Rivers Lite, winner Gareth Marquiss was full of praise for the event after he romped home to 2:44 victory over Ezra Robertson in the opening 15km stage.

“It was great, it was a well-marked course … an awesome course,” said a clearly impressed Marquiss, before adding that the single track sections were also “awesome.”

The women’s race in the shorter event was a relatively easy cruise for Paula Walker as she built a big six-minute victory over schoolgirl Kayleigh Lindeque on the 15km opening day.

“It was hot and a bit slippery out there, but I loved every single minute of it,” said Walker. She was a last-minute entrant and after crossing the line said she still had to make a decision whether to run the second day, but with a big lead after Day One she should not have too much trouble claiming the win on the relatively short 8km stage.

Euro Steel Run The Rivers Trail Run
Leading Results – Men

1 Phillip Shezi 1:52:44
2 Gary Hill 1:53:06
3 David Lamont 1:53:46
4 Guy Allen Allen 1:53:58
5 Murray Waldeck 1:54:09
6 Chris Carter 1:55:58
7 Ross Minter-Brown 1:56:46
8 Craig Bond 1:58:52
9 Denzil Hillermann 1:59:16
10 Douglas MacHill 1:59:32

1 Janneke Leask 1:56:32
2 Tarryn Lopez 1:58:15
3 Leah Sloman 2:00:43
4 Sarah Stroberg 2:03:21
5 Amy Mathew 2:05:17
6 Lindy Acutt 2:05:18
7 Linda Shrives 2:05:44
8 Cary-Ann Smith 2:07:05
9 Angelique Muller 2:13:06
10 Barbara Bowley Lavett 2:13:17

Euro Steel Run The Rivers Lite

1 Gareth Marquiss 1:11:03
2 Ezra Robertson 1:13:47
3 Richard Slabbert 1:24:49
4 Tristan Sebire 1:27:04
5 Thelumuaq Shabalala 1:27:45

1 Paula Walker 1:21:37
2 Kayleigh Lindeque 1:27:05
3 Roxanne Vale 1:28:44
4 Sonya Rougier-Lagane 1:33:43
5 Leah Edwards 1:33:59

©2023 Sani Spoors