Lill (dormakaba) clocked a time of 3 hours 29 minutes 14 seconds when she outsprinted Samantha Sanders (Valencia) in the 70km race, which offered a test of complete mountain biking ability, including steep climbs and descents, long climbs and descents, technical sections and twisty singletrack.
It is the second year in succession that Lill has won the Van Gaalen round of the prestigious series, confirming how suited the course is to her strengths. Lill comes from a XCO background and is the only South African female to have won a UCI Mountain Bike World Championships medal (Junior category bronze in 2009).
An off-form South African marathon champion, Robyn de Groot (Ascendis Health), winner at Van Gaalen in 2015, finished third after being unable to stay in the title fight for the final 10km, leaving Sanders and Lill to a thrilling duel in the finale. Theresa Ralph (Galileo Risk) and Sarah Hill (LIV) completed the top-five respectively.
“Before the race I checked out the finish. I knew the first person into the last corner should win. So, happy it worked out,” beamed Lill.
“The ladies raced so well today. It was a hot pace from the beginning. The climbing today was tricky climbing, so it was important to be in the front. If somebody puts a foot down then you have to get off and walk. So I positioned myself well and was strong on the climbs,” explained Lill.
“Robyn and Sam just kept coming back to me on some of the flat sections. At the end there was a long section of singletrack and myself and Sam managed to get away and we basically had a battle right to the line,” added Lill.
“I’m so stoked. This race suits me well. I enjoy the really technical riding. I was hoping I could pull off a win. The course was very rocky and dry and the descents are tricky. You really have to keep your wits about you here, especially at the end when you’re getting fatigued. But it’s proper mountain biking. The work done of the trails is impressive. I actually had such fun,” said Lill.
“I’m disappointed I didn’t win that sprint. But shew! It’s such an awesome race route. The terrain is so diverse here, so much singletrack. We had a good old tussle. Robyn, Candice and I were together at the front up until the last climb,” said Sanders.
“On that last climb I put in an effort to try and get away and took a few risks on the descent. Candice and I got a gap on Robyn and stayed away until the finish. I guess I’ll just have to be happy with second. It was very rocky and dry and being smooth and staying upright was most important,” added Sanders.
“Van Gaalen is always a good event. The racing was tough; I suffered. Van Gaalen is known for its rugged trails. It’s really rocky, loose, sharp rocks. You work really, really hard. It’s a route where you can’t hide. I knew coming into the race that I wasn’t in peak form, so it was just damage control and holding onto the series lead,” said De Groot, who scored enough points to maintain her overall Series lead.
Round 6 of the Ashburton Investments National MTB Series 2017 will take place on 2-3 September at Dullstroom in Mpumalanga. The early spring two-day event is expected to attract a large field. For more information, or to enter, visit www.nationalmtbseries.com
Round 5, Van Gaalen
1 Candice Lill (dormakaba) 3:29:14
2 Samantha Sanders (Valencia) 3:29:15
3 Robyn de Groot (Ascendis Health) 3:30:31
4 Theresa Ralph (Galileo Risk) 3:42:41
5 Sarah Hill (LIV) 3:45:34
6 Adrienne Moolman 3:53:40
7 Andrea de Boer 3:56:24
8 Sanet Coetzee 3:59:33
9 Chantal du Chenne 4:05:05
10 Melanie Roux 4:05:46
1 Danielle Strydom 2:00:04
2 Thana Groenewald 2:03:27
3 Frances Janse van Rensburg 2:08:50
For full marathon and half-marathon results, visit www.saseeding.org