Fresh from her Cape Pioneer Trek victory, South African mountain-biker Sarah Hill feels she is in the right place physically and mentally ahead of her debut UCI Mountain Bike Marathon World Championships in Grachen, Switzerland, on Sunday.
Hill, 26, who won the seven-day mountain bike event alongside Galileo Risk partner Theresa Ralph last weekend, forms part of the elite women’s contingent of the national team.
“Racing with strong ladies at Cape Pioneer puts my mind in the right place before worlds,” said Hill.
“Although it may not be that great physically for me, I am surrounded by the strongest women in this country. We support each other so much and push each other to be faster every race.
“We learn from one another and carry it into each and every stage. This ongoing growth can only positively prepare me for worlds.”
Hill, who won the African jersey alongside Ralph at this year’s Cape Epic, felt she had done all the work she could to be at her strongest at this point.
“Peaking for both Cape Epic and national marathon champs is already quite a lot on the body.
“Throughout my training I’ve been focusing a lot on consistency, nutrition and mental strength – which has definitely put me in a great place to give this the best shot I can.
“The power of self-belief is an extremely important aspect of racing. And right now that’s where I can make my biggest gains.”
She says her strategy for the race, which comprises a 70km route with 3 300m of elevation, is to act like a sponge.
“I’ve never raced a marathon race of this calibre before so I really just want to be in the entire experience.
“Races like this really motivate. I usually get crushed in terms of results, but that’s the best part – I leave knowing what I need to do if I ever want to race at that level. What more could a girl ask for?”
She also has various objectives she wants to achieve during the gruelling race.
“Don’t go out too hard. There’s so much climbing I really don’t want to bonk or cramp. I want to race within myself, find my own rhythm and not be intimidated by all the foreign racers around me.
“I’ll also need to believe in myself and my ability to make it to the finish line and then end strong with a huge smile knowing what I’ve just accomplished.”
An important thing she hoped to learn from her experience at world champs and from competing against other top riders from around the world was what it took to make it at this level.
“There are so many components to being able to consistently show up on the start line.
“Whether it’s training, relationship with your coach, sponsorship support, external work, your team, sports psychologist, personal trainer, family support and more . . . what does it truly take to be the best?”
Hill hoped her time at worlds would add a new level of experience that improved the quality of her racing.
“I know it’s going to grow me positively and I’m really looking forward to reaping the benefits of diving into the deep end. It’s another step in the right direction for me career-wise.
“I’m hoping this will spark some interest in more sponsors in SA to see my worth and help keep the momentum going.
“Personally, it’s a relief to actually be able to go. Slowly but surely my dreams are coming true.”