This year’s Chardonnay version of the event introduced its first women-only starting batch – and offered the highest prize purse for women per stage in the world.
“It was a very special event to win,” Lill told In the Bunch. “It was a real celebration of women in mountain-biking and I feel we all put on a good show.
“To win was the cherry on top,” she added.
Lill and Morath won the first two stages, but came fourth in the final one.
Less than two minutes separated the first four teams by the end of the stage. Despite having to deal with a puncture during the last stage, Lill and Morath had accumulated a wide enough gap to claim the overall spoils.
Lill lauded the team dynamics with Morath over the three days.
“We had such a good understanding of where the other one was at [throughout the race],” she said.
“We always looked out for each other and we were both able to put the hammer down at all the important moments.
“To find someone who understands teamwork like that was wonderful.”
The Summit Finance pair laid down the initial marker on the first climb heading out of the Lourensford Wine Estate during the opening stage.
“We decided to ride as hard as we could there and we managed to get a good gap,” Lill said.
“We extended our lead until the finish line.”
On the second stage they waited around with the bunch during the opening kilometres before they managed to “sneak away” on the first short, steep climb, Lill recalled.
“We then just enjoyed the incredible trails for the rest of the day.”
Heading into the final stage the pair had already created a 16-minute buffer, which Lill said they needed.
“Going down the Houwhoek Pass I got a puncture and the valve core came out when I tried to fix it.
“Luckily the tech zone wasn’t too far away so I got a new wheel.
“From there we just gave chase and managed to catch the second- and third-placed teams. It was enough to secure our win.”
“The real race was for second and third,” Lill said. “That came down to a sprint every day and that is the kind of racing people like to see and it promotes our sport.
“I’m proud of all the women for racing so aggressively and I hope to see even more competition in the years to come.”
She also praised the routes. “The three days of riding were very different and [each was] enjoyable in its own way.
“The highlight for most people was the second day – a 66km route with 80 per cent single track.
“The portage up Gantouw was a different kind of challenge, but I felt comfortable on most of the terrain.”
The Port Shepstone-born rider said she was now done with racing for 2018 as she prepared for the races leading up to the Cape Epic in March next year.
“It’s important to take a break mentally and physically before all the hard work of building up for next season.”