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The Hilton MTB Dirt Fest

28 January 2015

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Stander storms to victory ahead of classy field at MTN Hilton MTB Dirt Fest

In 2011 The Hilton 50 Miler split into two days of racing, changed its name to the Hilton Dirt Fest and moved the race to a new venue at Hilton College. Judging by the rider report backs this was a great move.

There is no prize for guessing correctly who the winner was of the MTN Hilton Dirt Fest's ultra-marathon on Saturday (24 September). As was expected, Burry Stander (Specialized) was the first rider across the line, proving for the umpteenth time that nothing can beat international racing experience.

When Stander missed an early break that consisted of David George (360Life), Max Knox (Ghost) and Brandon Stewart (Itec), he did not panic.

He just waited for the first technical downhill section to make his move and quickly caught up with the race leaders. A few riders followed Stander.

During the next 60 kilometers, the race developed into a classic cat and mouse game.  Riders weaved their way through and over a variety of rocks and loose sand sections, as well as some of nature's other obstacles.

According to Stander the racing was not really very hard at that stage.

"What I found interesting was that, in spite of the fact that the organizers had lengthened the distances for the ultra-marathons, our race tactics have not really changed.

"Actually this is to be expected.  It is not possible to race flat out over 100 kilometers and still be competitive at the end when the serious racing starts. So we basically rode together nicely, occasionally using each other's slipstream.

"I decided to up the pace with about 20 kilometers to go."

George and Niyonshuti were the only riders who were brave enough to try to keep up with Stander.

But once Stander really gets going, he is like a slow poison that slowly but surely kills off his rivals. George was the first to throw in the proverbial towel.

Niyonshuti impressed everybody with his tenacity, just refusing to give up. Stander only managed to rid himself of the Rwandan rider over the last ten kilometers.

Stander's winning time was 4 hours 18 minutes and 34 seconds. Niyonshuti was second in 4:20:31, Knox third in 4:22:35, George fourth in 4;24:01 and Darren Lill (Bonitas) fifth in 4:24:51.

Stander said afterwards that he thoroughly enjoyed the race.

"Compliments to the organizers. It was a tough but very enjoyable ride. Certainly one of the best Marathon courses I've ever ridden"

Max Know tells how it all went down…

"Round #7 of the National Ultra Marathon series saw a very strong elite field gather at Hilton College to shoot it out for the honour of being crowned the champion of the dirt festival. I had high hopes going into the event as last year's winner by over 8 minutes and being awarded the series leader jersey on the day. I had decided to ride my Ghost 26" mountain bike as I felt it would really suit the course which was considered very hilly and tough, a real mountain bike route."

"All the big players of mountain biking were present and one couldn't help but feel like we were on the start grid of an international event. Mountain biker riders in Africa have really lifted their game thanks to companies like Advendurance and series sponsors like MTN and Nissan for getting involved and hosting world class events on our front door steps."

"The race started out at a pretty steady pace and soon a lead group formed that would have the honours of fighting for the top step of the podium box on the day. The new route really was a great success in my eyes, I took time to enjoy being out there in the forests of Hilton, so many fond memories from my early days of racing are from those areas and it was very special being there doing what I love to do."

The MTN women's marathon was a humdinger in which Yolandé Speedy (MTN-Qhubeka) just managed to outsprint Ischen Stopforth (Bizhub) at the end. Only ten seconds separated the two riders. Yolandi du Toit (Bizhub) finished third.

According to Stopforth, the Hilton Dirt Fest route was one of the best she has ever ridden. "Hats off to the organizers."

On Sunday 25th September the event catered for large numbers of riders who were to do the Nissan half-marathon(43km) or the more sedate aQuelle 20km. The Nissan series is set up as a platform for up and coming talent to race over shorter distances but still on quality courses. Race organiser Alan Martin, along with course marker Nic Floros had ensured that some of the best single track and scenic features were incorporated but that the demanding climbs required by the elites were removed. As a result the smiles on the faces of race finishers on Sunday told the story of a great mornings riding in sublime weather in the Midlands. Roll on next year!

Leading results, men:

1 Burry Stander (Specialized USN) 04hr 18min 34sec
2 Adrien Niyonshuti (MTN Qhubeka) 04:20:21
3 Max Knox (DoItNow Ghost) 04:22:35
4 David George (Nedbank 360Life) 04:24:01
5 Darren Lill (Team Bonitas) 04:24:51
6 Kevin Evans (Nedbank 360Life) 04:26:34
7 Ben Melt Swanepoel (Specialized) 04:27:58
8 Jacques Janse van Rensburg (MTN Qhubeka) 04:32:11
9 Brandon Stewart (ITEC Connect) 04:34:38
10 Philip Buys (Garmin adidas) 04:34:55

For full results and more info visit www.advendurance.com

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