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  • Writer's picturedirtyheart

Sarah Hill Victorious at 2023 Hell of the South

On a hot day – with a rising south, south westerly head wind – the 121 kilometre ultra-marathon departed from Chandelier Game Lodge for Pine Creek Resort, in Great Brak River. The mercury touched 40 degrees Celsius at times, but it remained mercifully cooler than the scorching hot 2022 edition. This fact undoubtedly helped the riders and offset the state of the roads.

“The gravel roads are probably in the worst condition I’ve seen them in,” Tristan Nortje, of Toyota Specialized had warned before the race. Erosion, from summer storms, made the fabled Attakwaskloof tougher too. “The kloof was very, very rough,” Nortje added. “There were ditches which were nearly as deep as a bicycle is tall. You had to be very careful.”

In the women’s race an early mechanical for the reigning champion Yolande de Villiers put her out of the running for a fifth title. This opened up the opportunity for Hill and Harmzen-Pretorius. “When we passed Yolande on the first climb, I told Elrika [Harmzen-Pretorius] we need to get out of sight. She never came back and we were able to ride our own pace for the first 50 kilometres then. This I think helped me towards the end.”

Hill and Harmzen-Pretorius passed through the Sonop water point together before the eventual winner distanced her stage race teammate to claim the Queen of the Mountain prize. From the summit Hill never looked back. “It was lonely at times and tough, especially into the headwind, but I’ve worked on my time trialling a lot with my new coach, Barry Austin, in the pre-season. That really helped today!”

“Only after about 80 kilometres did I realise that I could win a Momentum Medical Scheme Attakwas Extreme, presented by Biogen,” Hill smiled. “This is a hugely significant race. Not just locally but internationally too. Winning it is massive for me!”

Hill’s winning time was 6 hours, 33 minutes and 29 seconds. Harmzen-Pretorius was 7 minutes and 49 seconds down on the race winner, with Catherine Colyn in third. Just over 90 seconds separated Janice Venter, in fourth, from Sarita Louw, in fifth, after 7 hours and 20 minutes of racing.

To recap on the Hell of the South follow @attakwas on Twitter, videos and photo galleries from the seventeenth edition will be posted to the @attakwasmtb Instagram and Momentum Medical Scheme Attakwas Extreme, presented by Biogen, Facebook pages. Entries to the 2024 edition open on the 28th of February.

Elite women:

1. Sarah Hill (6:33:29)

2. Elrika Harmzen-Pretorius (6:41:18 | +7:49)

3. Catherine Colyn (7:07:36 | +33:07)

4. Janice Venter (7:20:14 | +46:45)

5. Sarita Louw (7:21:48 | +48:19)

For the full results from the 2023 Momentum Medical Scheme Attakwas Extreme, presented by Biogen, visit

*all images by



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