Candice Lill got her first victory in this year’s SA XCO MTB Cup Series when she won the fourth race in Mbombela at the weekend.
“It felt really good to have it all come together and to win after struggling a bit with certain things at the first few cross-country races of the year.”
“Only on the fifth lap did I manage to make a small gap and I rode like crazy to keep it till the end,” said Lill.
She added that it was a tactical race as there were one or two open sections where you could sit behind someone and save energy.
“I knew it would be a close tactical race and had to strategise on where I could be most efficient at making a gap.
“I could tell where I was making small gaps on Mariske when we were riding together and had to capitalise on those when trying to make a move.”
Lill added that there were parts where she was faster as well, and so she tried to be in front of her in those sections so she could ride at her own pace.
“I always love racing at Mankele. I feel it’s a well-balanced course and has a bit of everything. I enjoy the flowing trails where you can go fast if you know how to corner and carry momentum.
“There were a few obstacles, normal cross-country style obstacles such as some jumps, a rock garden, BMX track and some general fun trails.”
The 27-year-old said sadly many of the elite women’s field were absent.
“So it was just Mariske and me [as elites] on the start line, which felt pretty strange. But when the two of us line up there is always a race and I knew we wouldn’t take it easy on each other. It reminded me a bit of when we used to race as juniors back in the day – always good fun.”
Lill said winning these races was mostly important for gaining valuable UCI points as she heads to Europe to compete in the first two world cups.
“It helps with my starting position, which is a big deal in an XC race. Of course it’s a nice confidence booster and it was good to have such a close battle because we challenged each other all the way, which can only improve our level.
“It was also awesome to see quite a few junior ladies lining up to race. It’s exciting for the future of our sport.”