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Nico Bell claiming victory at MTN Rooiberg

Photo: Zoon Cronje

These prophetic words were spoken by Max Knox (EAI Solutions/Specialized) earlier this season. One cannot help but wonder if Knox realized how true his words would turn out to be.

With only two races left in the MTN Ultra-series, Knox and Bell are likely to be involved in a titanic battle in their quest for overall victory. At the moment the two riders are separated by merely a couple of points on the overall standings.

Knox has been in awesome form so far. He won at Barberton, Clarens and Wellington and finished 3rd at Sabie. Bell won at Rooiberg, was 2nd at Sabie, 4th at Wellington and 6th at Tulbagh.

The MTN Ultra-series has become one of the most competitive events on the local endurance calendar.

But ‘It ain’t over till the fat lady sings’. The cynical sports writer who coined this popular cliché certainly knew what he was talking about.

The question is whether or not Knox will be able to make the famous ‘fat lady’ sing for him when he competes in the MTN Hilton Dirt Fest ultra-marathon on 28 July.

He needs only one more victory to clinch an overall victory in the MTN series. But, on the other hand, if Bell should win or finish a few positions ahead of Knox at Hilton, it will go right down to the wire at the MTN Ride Crater Cruise, because it will be a case of ‘the winner takes all’.

Last year Knox clinched the series by outsprinting Kevin Evans (FedGroup-Itec) at Hilton.

However, the fact that Knox is competing in the TransAlp tour at the moment could count against him.

He won the second stage together with his teammate, Switzerland’s Christoph Sauser. The tour finishes on Saturday (20 July), which means that Knox will only be back sometime next week.

The eight days of hard racing, as well as the long hours of travelling, could take its toll on Knox.

Bell will have none of that and he will certainly be the more rested rider.

Variety is the name of the game when it comes to the MTN Hilton Dirt Fest

The various races offer spectacular views of the Albert Falls Dam and the Umgeni Valley.

Hilton College serves as the start as well as finish venue. It offers huge trees and lawns where spectators can relax while waiting for the cyclists to race through the finish.

The route comprises of 55% forests, 15% sugar cane, 20% farmland, 5% thorn veld, with less than1% of public roads. As always there will be an abundance of single track.

The MTN Hilton ultra-race over 100km is the longest individual mountain-bike race in KwaZulu-Natal.

The really tough course, consisting of flowing single track, rugged hills, plantations, farmland and bushveld, will test the elite riders to the utmost.

One of the highlights will be the unique technical descent into the Umgeni Valley. This is a new addition to the route.

The MTN Marathon (75km) is not quite as steep as the ultra route, but it will still be a good challenge for fit riders. It is considered to be one of the most scenic rides in the country.

The Nissan National Half-Marathon course of 40km has a bit of everything. Parts of it resemble the pro-course, but there are easy sections as well.