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Lill looks to lead way

By Mark Etheridge

Cape Town cyclist Darren Lill finds himself a long way from home this weekend as he races the national road championships in Nelspruit, Mpumalanga.

And he’ll be hoping to bring something worthwhile back home with him on Sunday ÔÇô the successful defence of his national road title, which he won in Port Elizabeth last year.

A member of the All Africa Games team in Maputo, Mozambique late last year, 29-year-old Lill is up against it on more than one front this weekend. A strong climber, Lill is worried that the course will not be right up his street.

The road race is the final event of the national four-day showpiece. First up on Thursday is the 40km individual time trial, and the next day sees the team time trial, an event that’s been off the national championship schedule for two decades.

The road race incorporates three laps of a 53.5-kilometre circuit and its total elevation (vertical ascent) has been estimated to be over 3000 metres.
Lill told Road to London 2012 on the eve of the four-day national showpiece: “Obviously I’m motivated to defend my title and I’ll fight hard to do so, although I don’t think the course is particularly suited to me. But at least it’s not a dead flat circuit ÔÇô it has a few small climbs. I feel that 160 kilometres is too short for a national championships. It should be 200km plus which would be closer to the international standard.

“Last year the course was a much shorter circuit (I think around 12km) with two short steep hills each lap. It was more a race of attrition, and was a lot of fun for the spectators who could see the race unfolding each lap. This year with just three big laps, it isn’t as spectator friendly. ”

Apart from that, the Team Bonitas rider has the human factor to contend with. “There’ll be tough competition with the likes of Robbie Hunter, Jay Thompson & John Lee Augustyn all coming back from their international based teams to come and race it. But I’m hoping for a hard, positive race from the beginning.”

Since the All Africa Games last year where Reinard Janse van Rensburg won the individual time trial and Nolan Hoffman won the road race for South Africa, Lill hasn’t been doing too much. “I haven’t had any major objectives since the Games and it was also ‘off-season’ in November/December. I’ve done a few flat races so far this year which have ended up in bunch sprints, so not my kind of terrain.”

Team Bonitas will go into the road race with a talented squad of  title-hungry riders and Lill will have Johann Rabie, Hanco Kachelhoffer, Jason Bakke, Ian McLeod, Tyler Day, Herman Fouche, Luthando Kaka and HB Kruger as back-up.

Kruger is the only Under-23 rider in the team, but since Under-23 and Elite categories are grouped together in the road race, he will be committed to helping the team defend the more prestigious Elite title.


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