Andrew Hill romped to a sixth title in seven years with his empathic win in the 40km MTB marathon at the STIHL Sharks Trail Adventure at Summerveld Estate on Sunday.

Riding on trails that he regularly trains on, the TIB Insurance ace was able to assert himself early on in the race, climbing away alone in the first quarter of the tough outing through the Shongweni farmlands to win by almost four minutes. His power on the hills and his speed on the single-track and roads through the sugarcane fields were pleasing for him as he has come off a grueling week of long distance training and intense hill climbing in the Valley of a Thousand Hills. “I have just come back from a three day training camp where we did about 6 500 metres of climbing, so I was really feeling it! But, it was encouraging to able to muster up some speed today,” said Hill. “The only year I haven’t managed to win this race was when I was beaten by Alan Hatherley, but I can deal with that!” he added.

Hill heaped praises on course designer Ewan Cochrane, who made a lot of changes to the routes, taking the riders and runners to higher vantage points, and bringing them back on well-thought out contour roads that managed the necessary climbing on the return leg. “Ewan (Cochrane) really put a lot of effort and thought into this year’s track,” said Hill. “That brought in some climbing along the way but it helped with the climb back to the finish at the end. He added in a lot of new sections, smoothed some out and actually added in some sections that I had never ridden before, which is unusual because I train here all the time,” he added. Shelley Higgo took the women’s title from Nadine Nunes and Gisela Stephens.

The well supported 20km MTB ride was won by Nick Burczak, well clear of a scrap for second between Chad Smith and Justin Swanepoel. A last minute decision to enter the 18km trail run panned out well for two Valley of a Thousand Hills athletes who are team mates in Martin Dreyer’s Merchants Change A Life Academy. 26-year-old Mthobiso Mzolo showed his class on the hilly run to take the overall line honours while just behind him Puseletsdo Dladla provided arguably the stand-out result of the day, winning the women’s title and finishing second overall. “I called him last night at five o’clock and we started making plans to get here to do this race. So we were a team before this race even started,” said the bubbly Dladla.

“The route was fantastic and the weather was amazing, so it was a great day for my first time at this race,” she added. Mzolo was delighted with his win, which brings down the curtain on his competitive year. “There was plenty of climbing, and I worked hard on the climbs and then kept the power going on the flatter sections. It was a superb route,” said Mzolo Dladla has been enjoying success as the only woman in the Merchants Change A Life Warrior racing team, taking part in the Commando Elite races. Kevin Shozi took the 9km title with Tracey Allison snaring the women’s equivalent. The festive day wrapped up, from an athletic point of view, with the easy 10km MTB ride before the signature Sharkie Kids race where youngsters, accompanied by their parents get to run or ride their own race with the Cell C Sharks mascot. Members of the Cell C Sharks squad were kept bust all morning handing out cold aQuellés to every finisher and posing for photos with their fans.