Matt Beers and Candice Lill win 2023 SA XCM Titles at Bike Fest Paarl

Matt Beers and Candice Lill proved themselves to be a class apart at the Bike Fest Paarl on Saturday, 4 March. The Toyota Specialized man won his second South African Marathon title, on the 75 kilometre long course; which started and finished at Rhebokskloof Wine Estate outside Paarl. While Lill, of Seattle Coffee Co King Price Rola, dominated the women’s race on her way to a maiden marathon distance national crown.

The event was held on a humid day, which started bright before rain set in around 11:00. The racing was hot throughout however. With Philip Buys, Marco Joubert and Beers driving the pace in the early phases of the men’s race. In the women’s, Lill was the tempo setter initially before she escaped off the front on her own.

A group of twelve favourites had established itself in the opening 25 kilometres. This elite selection contained Beers, Buys, Joubert, Wessel Botha, Tristan Nortje, Arno du Toit, Keagan Bontekoning, Gert Heyns, Michael Forster, Pieter du Toit and Jan Withaar. Imbuko {type}DEV’s Joubert then started the attacking. “Marco [Joubert] sent it down the descent to the Spice Route and I followed him, this attack caused a little gap and once it was established, I kept driving,” Beers related. “Wessel [Botha] initially bridged across and then came with me when I dropped Marco. About half way through the route I put in a dig, after a few attempts to shake him, and I got away. From there it was head down to the finish.”

“It was a fantastic race,” Beers added. “And it’s great to win the title again!”

Behind Beers, Botha faded through the second half of the course. This allowed Buys to fight his way into second. “I’m happy with what the power looked like and what I felt like,” the PYGA Euro Steel man noted. “But Matt [Beers] was just one up today. It was a well-deserved victory. I’m happy with my ride and the indications are good two-weeks out from the Absa Cape Epic.”

Tristan Nortje completed the podium places, ahead of Botha who finished fourth and the young PYGA Euro Steel rider, Michael Forster. Beers’ wining time was 3 hours, 9 minutes and 29 seconds. Buys finished 2 minutes and 43 seconds back, with Nortje a further 29 seconds in arrears.

In the women’s race Lill led from the gun. Initially Amy Wakefield and Tiffany Keep stuck with the eventual champion, while Hayley Preen was just off the back of the group after 10 kilometres of racing. The South African cross-country champion then increased the pace. The tempo she set was too fierce for the rest to follow and once Lill was on her own there was no catching her.

“I just wanted to show what I was capable of today,” Lill said. “My focus was to just ride like I know I can and then, whatever would happen would happen…” That approach paid off superbly well as she extended her lead throughout the course, once Wakefield and Co. had been distanced.

“It was such a good route!” Lill laughed. “It started raining here towards the end but luckily it was all downhill from there for me already. The rain actually made the trails nice and smooth.”

There was drama behind Lill as Wakefield struggled in the later stages. “I was told Amy [Wakefield] was 90 seconds ahead of me at the tech zone,” Hayley Preen explained. “But I caught her almost immediately and she didn’t look good.”

Preen surged through the final kilometres to finish strong, as Lill’s nearest rival. Wakefield made it back to Rhebokskloof in third, sighting illness as the reason for her travails. Lill’s winning time was 3 hours, 53 minutes and 18 seconds. Preen was 8 minutes and 10 seconds off the victor, with Wakefield at 13 minutes and 3 seconds back. Sarah Hill and Katie Lennard completed the top five standings.

Along with the elite men’s and women’s titles the sub-veteran and veteran men also raced the 75 kilometre course. Tyronne White and Craig Uria were the category victors, with the elder, Uria, actually finishing before the winning sub-veteran man. The women’s age categories, as well as the junior and masters’ men raced the 60 kilometre distance. Illiska Verwey was the only finisher in the sub-veterans women’s category, meaning she misses out on a national champions jersey. Genevieve Weber took the veteran women’s division, Cronje Beukes won the junior men’s, Angeliq Coetzer the junior women’s and Pieter Matthysen was the first of the masters’ men across the line.

The Bike Fest Paarl action continued in the afternoon on Saturday, with the Enduro, Kiddies Push Bike Race and the 5 Kilometre Fun Ride. On Sunday, 5 March, the age category races continue with South African champions being crowned in the youngest and oldest age categories. Visit www.bikefestpaarl.com for the full schedule.

2023 South African Marathon Championships Results:
Elite Men
1. Matt Beers, Toyota Specialized (3:09:29)
2. Philip Buys, PYGA Euro Steel (3:12:12 | + 2:43)
3. Tristan Nortje, Toyota Specialized (3:12:41 | +3:12)
4. Wessel Botha, Imbuko {type}DEV (3:14:35 | +5:06)
5. Michael Forster, PYGA Euro Steel (3:15:58 | +6:29)

Elite Women
1. Candice Lill, Seattle King Price Rola (3:53:18)
2. Hayley Preen, Freewheel Cycology (4:01:28 | +8:10)
3. Amy Wakefield, Efficient Insure Infiniti (4:06:21 | +13:03)
4. Sarah Hill, Team Vivo Vita (4:16:57 | +23:39)
5. Katie Lennard, Pedersen Lennard (4:23:13 | +29:55)

Sub-Veteran Men:
1. Tyronne White (3:36:27)
2. Craig Boyes(3:54:19)
3. Theuns van der Bank (3:58:02)

Veteran Men:
1. Craig Uria (3:34:40)
2. Andrew Hill (3:39:53)
3. David Louw (3:49:24)

Sub-Veteran Women (60km):
1. Illiska Verwey (3:56:34)

Veteran Women (60km):
1. Genevieve Weber (3:18:59)
2. Tess Keers (3:19:00)
3. Michelle George (3:24:34)

Junior Men (60km):
1. Cronje Buekes (2:38:13)
2. Ernie Roets (2:44:01)
3. Alec Coleské (2:44:38)

Junior Women (60km):
1. Angeliq Coetzer (3:29:04)
2. Liliam Baber (3:29:12)
3. Carla Jansen van Vuuren (3:48:37)

Master Men (60km):
1. Pieter Matthysen (2:54:41)
2. Johan Labuschagne (3:01:02)
3. Andreas Studer (3:05:02)

image: The punchy course on the Paarl Trails suited Candice Lill to perfection. The Seattle Coffee Co King Price Rola rider added the South African Marathon title to her cross country crown during the 2023 Bike Fest Paarl. Photo by Oakpics.com

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