MTN Hilton Ultra Marathon


Start grid.

Image credit: Linda Wolhuter

After a weekend off after the SA champs it was back on the program over the past weekend with the next round of the MTN Hilton National Marathon series taking place literally right on my doorstep.


It’s crazy to think that as a junior training in and around Pietermaritzburg and fantasizing about taking part in World Cups and travelling the globe was always a dream, and now it has become somewhat of a reality. Whilst I have been privileged to train and race in both Europe and America I would never have thought that I would race a World Championships that would literally come right through my parents farm, only metres away from the wattle forest where my school riding buddies and I crafted single track.


The Hilton marathon would see us ride on sections of the World Champs course allowing us to scout the terrain once again before the final showdown this coming weekend. Whilst we would not be racing through our farm this time we would be racing past our front gate twice.


Early morning traffic.

Image credit: Zoon Cronje


Racing through ASS MAGIC country again.

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Enjoying some of Hilton’s finest trails.

Image Credits: Zoon Cronje

I also had my team mate Hanco join down from Joburg and it would be great to race together once again. The front group of 12 riders remained intact for the first 20 or so kilometres before it split going up the first major climb to Otto’s Bluff. Hanco was in the front split whilst I was in the second. After a tough battle over relentless terrain for 5 hours Hanco finished the day in a solid 10th position and myself in 13th. A slightly better result than SA champs for me, although I felt like it was a one speed day, but some positives to draw and improvements made. There are still area’s to improve on for future reference.


I was fortunate to have my super back up team once again with my sister joining my Mom, Alison and Rob whilst my Dad tackled the 45km race. This in preparation for another event coming up in the near future in which we will be riding together, more on this soon!


With the World Championships only a few days away this is an easier week with just a few short sharp efforts. It will be important to be fresh for another brutal race on a course which I have become somewhat more familiar with. It will also mark the end of my first half of my racing season before I take a break to refresh for a busy second half.



Hanco smashing it.

Image Credit: Zoon CronjeP1050378

The tech zone crew keeping up to date via Tweeta!


All important stretch before the bottle handover.

Image credits: Rob Gee

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Refuled for the final 27km stretch!

Image credits: Rob Gee

Pop’s logging in a couple of miles.

Image credit: Jess Wolhuter

Horses for courses

Horses for courses, this course didn’t feel like mine. The South African Marathon Championships took place over a brutal 95km and 3300m of vertical ascent over the last weekend.  I’ve just realised that this is about the 5th time I’ve described the course as brutal in different manners, tells you something doesn’t it. The race would also be a dress rehearsal of sorts for the upcoming UCI World Marathon Championships later in the month and hence would give us an important look at the terrain we would encounter.


With so much climbing and an especially difficult final 21km loop, it would be important to spend your pennies wisely. With this in mind I started in a more conservative fashion than usual.



With the race passing through my parents farm I took the opportunity to promote ASS MAGIC, if you raced you may have noticed the Warthog’s ASS?


Expert feeding by my Mom 🙂

Image Credit: Alison Wakelin


 Long day.

Image credit: QuickPix


Image Credit: Boogs Photography 


Image credit: Alison Wakelin


Thinking back on the race there is not much more to write about, that would not otherwise bore you, so enjoy a couple more images than usual. Perhaps they will give you an inkling as to what it was like.


In a nutshell there was a lot of climbing, it was steep, there wasn’t much place to recover and the downhills were quite technical, again not allowing much respite. I’m happy with how I managed to ride on the day, equipment was good and I had a fantastic back up team with my Mom, Alison and Rob. In looking at where improvements could be made, pre-race there were elements that could be improved, sometimes things beyond control happen and you just need to roll with the punches and learn from your mistakes.


I did manage to have a good look at the world’s course; the nightmares that may result may not be such a good thing, but ultimately it allows a smarter race to be ridden in 3 weeks.


Last Feed/Tech Zone

Image Credit: Rob Gee

I guess I was taking a bit long so they had to keep themselves entertained in some way?

Image credit: Rob Gee


Image credit: Rob Gee

gav3Image credit: QuickPix

P1050337Image credit: Rob Gee

Darling Brew Mountain Bike Classic

podium darling brew

With the prospect of winning a case of Darling Brew beer I was excited about this new race on the calendar. So early while the owl’s still called to each other I set out for Darling on Saturday morning. Fortunately we got a gap in the weather and we escaped the largely rainy conditions which we have been experiencing over the last few days in the Cape and instead had some heavy mist.


The mist made riding in an unfamiliar area feel even more disorientating and hid the looming hills from our view, perhaps a blessing in disguise.


In other news there was a world first on Saturday morning, I won a KOM (King of the Mountain) hotspot, now in all fairness it wasn’t a ‘real’ mountain but I don’t see any comments section on that results sheet!


The main completion on the day would come from fellow local rider Dom Calitz, we rode away from the rest of the field some 10km into the race and then Dom got away from me a further 15km later. I wasn’t firing on all cylinders early on, in a relatively short race and had my work cut out for me trying to chase Dom down later on.


Unfortunately with some marshal confusion we both went off route at a point, both managed to find it again and remained as we were at the line with Dom taking out the win and us both logging in a couple of extra kilometres. Besides this mishap it was a well organised event with some great single track and one which I will be sure to return to next year.


The race served its purpose and I got in one of my last hard sessions before the upcoming SA marathon championships this coming weekend. The 3000+ metres of vertical ascent that awaits us seems daunting, it will require a smart race, spending pennies in the right places and keeping a couple ready for when it counts most.