Pietermaritzburg – Following a win at the MTN National MTB Series driven by Nissan that took place in Hilton this weekend Darren Lill has been quick to temper expectations ahead of the 2014 UCI MTB Marathon World Championships that are to be held at the Cascades MTB Park this coming weekend.
“I would say the win over the weekend has been good for morale,” the Cannondale Blend/Powered by RED-E star chuckled. “The Worlds is going to be a lot harder than this weekend due to the depth of the field and all of us local riders know each other well because the sport isn’t that big.”
The unknown threat of the overseas competitors is something that Lill is very aware of and although a number of the top European riders use South Africa as a base for large parts of the year there is a large flock of riders that will hit the African shore that Lill and company would never have seen before.
“It is difficult to know what to expect from the race because when you race the Epic you get to know the international riders and you can learn their strengths and weaknesses but in an event like the Worlds there are going to be a large number of riders that we would never have seen before coming out for the race,” Lill explained.
Having come from a road riding background Lill understands what it is like to work in a group and hopes that the South African team can do the same but he explains that mountain biking is very different to riding on a road.
“I think we will pick two or three guys and try to work together but the problem with mountain biking is that there are so many variables.
“There are so many things that can go wrong in a mountain bike race like a technical, puncture or even a crash so it is difficult to help out others but we will see what happens,” he said.
The Cape Town based rider came second at this year’s 2014 Sappi Karkloof Classic as well as the recent SA Marathon Championships and with the weekend’s race in Hilton he has some idea of the conditions as well as the course that the riders will be tackling when they line up to start on Sunday.
“The course is fair but it also challenging. It is not super hectic but it is definitely not easy!” a diplomatic Lill added. “You have to keep your wits about you because big events like the Worlds you don’t want to push it too hard because of the added pressure because that leads to mistakes which will cost you.”
Of the 95km route that the men will ride Lill has singled out the first 5-10km as some of the most important. He is unsure about his position at the start and believes that getting into a good position early will be crucial.
“The start is going to be vital if I start at the back because there is a lot of single track and technical stuff in the first 10km which means it is going to bottle-neck for the back guys and then getting into a good position is going to be difficult.
“I could hold back during the first part to conserve energy and try and ride back time later in the race but I am still undecided because I don’t know where I am starting!” he mentioned.
Lill understands the pressure on the South African riders and hopes that he can just focus and enjoy the moment. He also believes that having an event like this in South Africa can only boost an already growing sport.
“My mind set going into the race is that I just need to do my best on homesoil and don’t let the pressure get to me, just relax and try my hardest.
“Having another World Champs in South Africa is fantastic for MTB, a sport that has already grown exponentially it really helps in promoting the sport and making it appealing for sponsors,” an upbeat Lill commented.
The UCI MTB Marathon World Championships takes place at the Cascades MTB Park in Pietermaritzburg on 29 June 2014. More information can be found at www.mtbworldchamps.co.za
Source: Gameplan Media