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TIB Insurance's Andrew Hill charges to victory during his debut appearance at the Sappi Scottburgh MTB Race, the third leg of the South Coast MTB Series. Anthony Grote/ Gameplan Media

After the event’s first ever staging was washed out in 2008, the subsequent eight editions have remarkably produced a new men’s winner each time, TIB Insurance’s Hill the most recent to join the rare club after he overcame the most richly talented field in the history of the event.

Both the Hillcrest based rider and his three nearest rivals – Swiss Cycles’ Andrew Johnson, ROAG Racing’s Jedson Tooms and Kargo Pro Cycling Team’s Andrew Warr – were however made to work harder than expected after navigational errors by the initial lead quartet erased their early advantage.

“It’s nice to come down to this great South Coast race for the first time and get the win, especially as there was some serious talent that came to race this year,” said Hill.

“I knew the climbs were going to be where I could get a bit of an advantage today so I tried to make the pace quite hard on the ascents early on and thankfully my tactics paid off as I managed to get the King of the Mountains hotspot.

“Myself and a couple of the guys behind me then had a bit of a mix up with markings and by the time we realized and turned around, we rejoined just behind the top five.

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Riders charge under the N2 freeway during the 2016 Sappi Scottburgh MTB Race, the third leg of the South Coast MTB Series. Anthony Grote/ Gameplan Media

“We raced our way back through the field and once I got back in front, I just put my head down and looked to hammer it all the way through to the finish,” he added.

Despite the unplanned disruption, Hill’s Sappi Scottburgh MTB Race debut was one he thoroughly enjoyed and the vastly experienced marathon competitor was highly impressed by the 45km course.

“There was some unbelievably brilliant track out there!” he exclaimed. “Some of the sections of trail, particularly through the Sappi plantations, rival a few of those that we associate with some of the province’s big-name race such as the renowned Sappi Karkloof Marathon.”

“This race is all about exploring the area via some incredible single track, some good climbs and even some technical, off-camber stuff – there’s a bit for everyone at this race.

“This Scottburgh race is a highly underrated event and is definitely one for everyone to come and do!

“Its not too far from Durban or Hillcrest, it’s a great destination for a weekend away where you’ve got both the beach and some really incredible trails.”

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Eventual runner-up, Hendrik Bester is chased by third place finisher, RMB Change a Life MTB Academy's Mboneni Ngcobo during the 2016 Sappi Scottburgh MTB Race, the third leg of the South Coast MTB Series. Anthony Grote/ Gameplan Media

While Hill charged to victory, riders chopped and changed positions behind him with Hendrik Bester ultimately racing home to claim the runner-up award and RMB Change a Life MTB Academy’s Mboneni Ngcobo clinched a memorable third place.

Tooms and Warr claimed fourth and fifth place respectively while routing issues limited Johnson to ninth and Think360/Leigh’s Cycle Centre’s Leeroy Emslie seventh place as iStudent’s Jason Davies (sixth), Chainworx Cycles’ Darryn Purtell (eighth) and Kargo Pro Cycling Team junior, Cayde Muldoon rounded out the top ten.

With the event’s first ever multiple winner, Hayley Smith (Kargo Pro Cycling Team) not taking to this year’s start line as planned, 22 year-old Parker-Dennison was unchallenged in her title defence effort, a result she was well pleased with.

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Scottburgh local, Candice Parker-Dennison charges onto the sand and Scottburgh Main Beach as she claims victory in the women's race of the 2016 Sappi Scottburgh MTB Race, the third leg of the South Coast MTB Series.Anthony Grote/ Gameplan Media

“I’m really stoked,” said the young Scottburgh local. “It’s always cool to ride, let alone defend my title, in my hometown.”

“It’s nice having a little local advantage – knowing when to go hard and when to take it a little easier – and I looked to use that to my favour as best I could.

“I really thought the course was going to be quite hard after the flood a month ago, but the route was so well prepared and the single track was absolutely amazing.

“The organisers did a great job!”

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Umtentweni's Debrah Thomas raced home to second place at the 2016 Sappi Scottburgh MTB Race, the third leg of the South Coast MTB Series. Anthony Grote/ Gameplan Media

It was a South Coast dominated women’s podium as the hometown star was followed across the finish line by Umtentweni rider, Debrah Thomas who in turn narrowly edged out Shelley Beach’s Nataschka Mowat.

In the 28km Dash and Splash race, Chad Stevenson and Marina Thorne claimed the men’s and women’s titles for 2016 while scores of adventurers young and old also enjoyed the 10km Family Fun Ride.

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Participants of the 2016 Sappi Scottburgh MTB Race, the third leg of the South Coast MTB Series, enjoy a welcome cool-off during a brief river crossing. Anthony Grote/ Gameplan Media

More information can be found at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Scottburgh-Mtb-Race/221420711386243.