Eston – A revamped course and a superb weather forecast will see a massive field descend upon Eston Club in KwaZulu-Natal’s Midlands this Sunday for one of the province’s biggest one-day mountain bike races, the Illovo Eston MTB Challenge.
Over 2500 entries landed on the organisers’ desks at the close of the online entry process and hundreds more are expected to enter on the day, particularly in the 10km STIHL Kids Ride and 18km Tala/aQuellé Family Ride events.
At the front of the field in the 60km Illovo Eston Marathon the men’s race appears to be a five horse race as the likes of defending champ Rourke Croeser and his Kargo Pro MTB teammate Travis Walker square off against Trek South Africa’s Brendon Davids, TIB Insurance’s Andrew Hill and FedGroup ITEC’s Max Knox.
Despite consecutive Illovo Eston victories being an attractive feat, Croeser insists Sunday’s race is all about ensuring a victory for Kargo, regardless of which of the setup’s charges clinch the win.
An error in the dying stages of 2013’s clash cost Davids dearly and he is relishing the chance to right the wrongs of the past this time around.
Kargo Pro MTB’s Stuart Marais, Quattro’s Tyron Bird, Hammar Nutrition’s David Low and Thule South Africa’s Tyronne White may not be likely podium challengers however there is plenty of experience amongst this quartet and, together with junior Alan Hatherly of Heart-Sports ASG, may well make up the second half of the top ten.
The women’s sees USN/Hi-TEC’s Jeannie Dreyer starting as the clear-cut favourite going into this year’s clash.
Dreyer claimed a commanding victory in 2013 and despite turning her attention towards multisport rather than purely MTB since her remarkable eighth place finish in the women’s race of the UCI MTB Marathon World Championships at Cascades at the end of June, it will take a lot of work by the other ladies to prevent her from making it two in a row.
Like it’s 60km compatriot, the 40km aQuellé Half Marathon has enjoyed a route refreshing ahead of the starter’s gun sending the hundreds of mountain biking enthusiasts on their way and the new course is set to give participants a unique perspective of the region.
The popular 40km race will sees riders taken on a journey which includes a significant increase in single track whilst also giving them the novel experience of cycling behind the tumbling walls of water of one of the local waterfalls.
The 18km journey through the pristine Tala Game Reserve and the possibility of crossing paths with some of the local wildlife has scores of the region’s more social riders of all ages, shapes and sizes eagerly awaiting their chance to take to the Eston trails this weekend.
Registration for the event dubbed one of South Africa’s most prestigious one day events takes place from 05h30-09h30 at Eston Club on Sunday 3 August.
The Illovo Eston MTB Challenge’s 60km Illovo Eston Marathon, 40km aQuellé Half Marathon, 18km Tala/aQuellé Family Ride and the 10km STIHL Kids Ride take place at the Eston Club on Sunday 3 August.
More information can be found at www.illovoestonmtb.co.za