While 2020 was a year most professional bike racers would rather forget, it became the year when Sarah Hill’s international ambitions took a turn for the better. It was confirmed officially this week that the South African mountain bike racer will join the Liv Factory Racing Team for 2021. We chatted to Hill who gave us some insight on what she considers her dream coming true.
By Sean Badenhorst
Sarah Hill has become a well-known name in South African mountain biking. The 27-year-old Johannesburg rider is a regular podium contender, not only at her favoured marathon racing discipline, but also at XCO, road and gravel races. She’s an accomplished allrounder that’s about to get the opportunity to compete with the backing of an international team. We fired off a few questions to Hill to find out more.
What led to Liv signing you to their Factory Racing Team?
I have been applying to this team every year on my birthday since I left Brevard College, where I studied in North Carolina. That’s where the whole Giant/Liv connection originally came about. They were involved with our varsity team and we often bought demo bikes from them. They did demo days and I went and tried out the Liv trail bike at the time and that’s when I really fell in love with the brand. I finished studying in 2016 and have been sending in an application every year since. I knew they would probably say no, but I figured that one year they might say yes. Last year (2020), when I had Covid as well a bout of depression, I decided to send them a last attempt. And they said yes!
Where will you be based?
I’ll have an eternal summer! I’ll be in South Africa for six months at the start and end of the year and in the USA and Europe for six months during the northern hemisphere summer. I’m not really leaving South Africa, but I will be travelling a lot for international races in Europe and the USA. My US base will be Brevard, North Carolina, where I studied and lived for three years.
What disciplines will you be competing in?
Marathon mountain biking, Cross-country mountain biking and Gravel racing.
Can you reveal which major races you’ll be contesting?
Yes, I can. I will race the first two UCI XCO World Cups and then head back to the USA for a high-profile Gravel race called Unbound, which is over 200 miles (360km)! That’s why I’m doing such huge miles now, in case people that follow me on Strava are wondering. Then I’ll focus on Gravel and Marathon races in my build up to the Marathon World Champs and the Gravel World Champs. I may then do the final XCO World Cup round. The Absa Cape Epic is also on my schedule, but we’ll see how it goes. If I do it, I’ll be teaming up with my American teammate, Kaysee Armstrong. So I won’t be able to contest the African Jersey, but that’s fine because we will be racing for overall success.
How are you feeling about all of this?
I am feeling so excited! I always wanted this. I knew that I would head back to the US at some point after my studies. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that I am embracing completely. I just feel incredibly lucky to be one of those athletes to receive an international contract in a Covid-affected time. It’s a huge privilege.
Is this a full-time professional contract and what is the duration?
This is a step up from my status in South Africa. It’s an international contract with an international level salary and an international racing schedule. It’s a one-year contract, but I’m planning to be involved with this team for much longer, both as a racer and a staff member (I’m studying towards becoming a clinical sports psychologist).
For more information on Liv Factory Racing, follow this link. https://www.liv-cycling.com/global/teams-and-riders/liv-factory-racing/243
Here’s the official press release from Liv:
LIV CYCLING GROWS COMMITMENT TO WOMEN IN PROFESSIONAL CYCLING
Liv Cycling, the company dedicated to getting more women on bikes, today announced the expansion of Liv Racing and their 2021 roster, officially welcoming Linda Indergand (SUI), Sarah Hill (RSA), and Dani Johnson (USA) to the team.
This news comes on the heels of the recent announcement of Liv as the exclusive partner of the Liv Racing Women’s WorldTeam (formerly CCC-Liv). With these additions, Liv expands its global support to 25 women riding as part of the Liv Racing program, which is composed of three professional racing teams.
“Liv Racing is an extension of the Liv brand and our overall commitment to women,” said Phoebe Liu, chief branding officer of Giant Group, which includes Liv Cycling, Giant, Momentum and CADEX brands. “In everything we do, we put women first. These women embody our brand purpose of getting more women on bikes while working toward achieving greater parity for women in professional cycling.”
Indergand is a World Cup cross-country and short track rider who has achieved top 10 finishes at World Cup events, finished 8th at the 2016 Rio Olympics, and earned second place in both the 2020 and 2014 National Championships in Switzerland. Hill, a stage race, marathon, cross-country and gravel racer, holds the African leader’s jersey for Cape Epic and has competed at the South African National Championships and UCI Mountain Bike Marathon World Championships. Johnson, who ran track at the University of Colorado Boulder, has competed in dual slalom and pump track events and is ready to translate those skills into her first full enduro season.
Introduced in 2019, Liv Racing has expanded to now comprise three distinct professional teams of women competing across multiple cycling disciplines from 11 countries around the world. Liv Racing is the only all-women’s sanctioned team and official women’s partner of the Enduro World Series (EWS), and a registered team with both USA Cycling (USAC) and the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI).
Liv Factory Racing is the off-road team that consists of Indergand, Hill, and Liv Racing veteran riders Kaysee Armstrong and Isabella Naughton. These women will compete on the world stage at World Cup (Marathon Nationals) and EWS events.
Follow Sarah Hill’s journey via @sarahhillrsa on Instragram.