Eston – Defending Illovo Eston MTB Challenge 60km marathon champion Stuart Marais will have a fight on his hands when he sets off in an attempt to make it two from two when the prestigious race gets underway this Sunday at the Eston Farmers Club.
Expedient Africa/Moving Parts Tractor Spares’ Marais had a titanic battle with young Julian Jessop for the title in 2017 with the former benefitting off a Jessop mistake a few hundred metres short of the line to take the win.
Owing to the nature of the Eston MTB course, Marais is expecting another tight tussle at the front of the race this weekend.
“Ideally for me I wouldn’t want there to be another end sprint but there is a very strong possibility that that will happen,” Marais said. “Eston is a very strategic race because the climbs are early in the race when everyone is fresh so there are no spots to get away from the rest of the field.
“With that said it is always an exciting race from a riding and spectator perspective and I always enjoy the competition.”
Marais recently took part in the national cross country championships in Bloemfontein but the event didn’t quite go as well as he would have hoped where he finished fourth overall. Despite this he feels that he is in the right place physically and mentally.
“I have been going quite well recently and the form is definitely there so it is going to be another interesting race this weekend.
“Eston is always a tricky race and with a strong field expected again it is exciting to be able to take part.
“With a strong field comes positive racing and that is how you want to race all the time,” he commented.
The Marais/Jessop rivalry heads into another exciting chapter after the pair fought it out earlier in the year for the Sappi Karkloof Classic title. The race was won in the end by Jessop so Marais will hope that he can get one over his younger rival.
The Eston route is known to suite the cross country specialists, however Marais feels that it is can suit riders with varying talents.
“I think that the Eston course is a really solid, well rounded course with some tough climbs early and then a hard slog to the finish.
“It’s always a catch-22 in terms of tactics because if you want to get ahead early you are going to have to be prepared to spend a lot of time on your own.
“It’s going to be important to have a tactically sound race this weekend,” he explained.
More information can be found at www.illovoestonmtb.co.za