Monday, August 31, 2009

Blockhouse MTN Marathon #5

Blockhouse MTN Marathon #5

The fifth race in the MTN series took place in Meyerton in the south of Johannesburg. It comprised of some of the Walkerville route of old, but consists of mostly just very dry and dusty, rocky jeep and singletrack. It flows nicely however and makes for a very fast course. The last time I raced here was five years ago in the first South African Marathon Championships.
The route was completely flat, in the 110km race, we only had 800m of climbing. So the front group was fairly big, at least until about 25km. I thought at this stage, heading into the rough climb, that I would test the legs and competition, and threw my cards on the table. No one followed my hard tempo which I kept up till after the King of the Mountain hotspot. I now had a nice gap of about a minute, and decided to gamble on the fact that being a single rider through this type of course, might just be faster than riding in a group, especially with riders looking at each other to do the chasing.
My gap grew steadily and at the 80km feed zone, I had extended it to around 4minutes.
Without being able to get time gaps, I continued on with my hard but steady tempo. My only mishap on the second loop was a minor crash around one of the loose corners, and I jumped back up, wiped the dust off and carried on.
I crossed the line in just over 3hrs45min, with an average speed of 30.5km/hr, not bad for a mountain bike race in which I had an 80km time trial. Ben Melt came in second place, ever consistent with good form at the moment. Third place went to Andrew Mclean, I think probably his best result in a national marathon to date.
Now I look forward to my first break since last season, will be off the bike for 8days, and hope to come back fresh for the last 6weeks of racing.
Provisional results:
1st Kevin Evans (MTN/Energade)
2nd Ben-Melt Swanepoel (Specialized)
3rd Andrew Mclean (Cyclelab)

Monday, August 24, 2009

8th, Marathon World Championships

World Marathon Championships, Graz, Austria
The seventh World Marathon Championships took place yesterday in the Austrian city of Graz. Luckily for me I have a good friend, Silvio, who lives 2hrs away and who was once again happy to accommodate me and help me out for the event. We had travelled to Graz the previous weekend to check the course with the Austrian team, and this would prove vital for having a good race.
The course was extremely physical, made up of lots of rocky and wet rooty singletrack sections, rough gravel roads and a little bit of tar. But for the most part, you were either going up or down. The total distance was 104km, with 3820m of vertical climbing.
I once again had a bad seeding, but with a 3km tar road to start with before the first climb, I rode aggressively to make sure I was near the front when we went up the first climb. I had a really good climb here, going over the top with Roel Paulison in 4th position. I had to tell myself to slow down but the feeling was amazing and I quickly realised I was going to have good legs today.
Then we went into the first of many technical sections, and with the two days of heavy rain, it was extremely difficult. I was also over cautious here as it was the same place I crashed in training. Soon the front group had swelled to around 15 riders, and I managed to come through the technical bits just hanging on the back.
The next big climb saw the race split up, well at least for me. I rode my own tempo and had good company, Bart Brentjens, Alban Lakata, Mirko Celestino and Urs Huber. I was content to stay at this tempo, knowing how hard the final 40km would be. Unfortunately I lost this group through another technical section as I rode into a tree, coming to a forced stop. But it didn´t take me long and I was back with them, around 13th position.
The race went by fairly quickly, and before I knew it, we were at the base of the last climb and the final forty kilometers. This was where I had saved my energy for and knew it would be important to move up as many places as possible before the last 10km descent, which was the most technical. I caught De Bertolis and Paez near the top and was close to my top ten goal. Silvio was standing at this crucial point, giving me valuable time splits and positions, and this was all the motivation I needed to really push hard.
By the top I was in ninth place but had some good technical riders behind me. My confidence was high by now, and the technical sections seemed easier with more speed. Of course the full suspension here was incredible and helped so much. Three kilometres to the finish I passed Dietch who had a flat wheel and was chasing Dario Cioni, who finished in 7th place, only 12seconds in front of me.
So 8th place in the end, a solid top ten result on what they said was the hardest marathon worlds course to date. Now I have more valuable expeirence and will set my goals for a top five next year!
Thanks to all who have given me support to achieve this, you know who you are!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Worlds recce, Austria

So Saturday early morning Silvio and I drove to Graz to join the Austrian National team to pre-ride the course for worlds. We spent two days there and on Saturday rode the first three quaters, then Sunday we rode some more of day1 and the rest of day2.
The verdict, hectic. It starts with a tar climb, 29% where your rear wheel even slips on the tarmac. Then you head into the forests for a never ending maze of singletrack trails, littered with slippery roots and wet rocks. I´m not sure which is more slippery, the roots or rocks? Although I did crash on the roots, the technical sections are all fairly short, 1-2km but come thick and fast. The longest climb will be near the end of the course, and will take around 50minutes to ride. The full suspension is the only choice for this course. The descents I have more control, but will not risk the chance of going too fast and crashing, but the rough climbs are where the big difference comes in.
After this climb, the final descent is about 10km, really tough, extremely technical. There is also two portage sections where you need to litterally climb with the bike for about 5-7minutes each. The forest sections are incredibly humid, around 90% humidity, so much so that the rocks ´sweat` and thats what makes them so slippery, I almost think it will be better if it rains!
The winner of this race will be well worthy of the title of World Champion, thats for sure. It has been good to see these sections, make some tire changes and prepare mentally for the physical challenge that awaits us.
Silvio has organized two people to feed us as there are 7 feed zones on the route, and so we should be well looked after. Only the minor matter of accreditation is left!
We will travel back to Graz on Saturday, race is Sunday, 10:30 start.
Till then, thanks and ciao.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

SA Pics..

Disappointed afterwards..
Focused during race..

Saturday, August 8, 2009

SA Champs, Harrysmith

Dirty Harry MTN Marathon #4

The forth leg of the MTN Marathon series took place in Harrysmith and also doubled up as the South African Marathon Championships, a title I’ve held for three consecutive years. Unfortunately this year lady luck would desert me and I suppose I can’t really complain after having so much good luck in the past.
The weather on the morning was clear and crisp, great racing conditions and one could sense the pressure in the air on the start line. As expected it didn’t take long for Burry Stander to turn on the gas and reduce the front bunch early on down to four riders. The SA champion would come out of this small select group. Near to the King of the mountain, Burry surged and on the rough jeep track I was not able to follow his rhythm any longer and watched him slowly ride away. Add to this I had Max Knox sitting on my wheel adamant not to work with me although the title was riding away from us. Soon after the technical descent, Ben-Melt Swanepoel joined us and was eager to help me with setting the pace for the chase. Although I must admit I was battling to stay on his wheel as the track got even rougher. In fact at that stage I was the only rider left on a hardtail, and finding the going very tough.
Just when things were looking like they wouldn’t get worse, I had a front wheel puncture. I had to stop twice to repair it and still managed to ride back to Melt after getting a spare wheel in the tech zone. By this stage it was only the two of us chasing and would look likely that we would be racing for second place. Nonetheless I set about on a hard tempo, never wanting to give up, when my rear wheel flatted. I had cut the tire and needed to put my spare tube in to fix it. I managed to fix it before anyone had caught me, and got stuck into the race again, only for the wheel to go flat half a kilometer further on. So I was now reduced to walking, as Francois Thereon rode past me. I was sure I would get a dnf for this race although being in the middle of nowhere had to continue walking. Matthys then caught me and being a good team mate gave me his wheel. By doing so I managed to salvage a 4th place, which will actually go a long way in defending my overall MTN Series title. Matthys fixed the wheel and held on for 5th place, really good ride for him over the distance.
That’s mountain biking and the wheel turns. I will carry on with my preparation for the World Champs in two weeks time and after that is the Blockhouse MTN Marathon, so lots to look forward to, till then, ciao.
Provisional results:
1st Burry Stander (Specialized)
2nd Ben-Melt Swanepoel (Specialized)
3rd Francois Theron (Garmin)
4th Kevin Evans (MTN/Energade)
5th Matthys Beukes (MTN/Energade)

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Illovo Eston MTB Race

After only 3days at home, it was off to Eston in Kwazulu-Natal for the Illovo Eston MTB Challenge. This would be my fourth year at the event, and with great organization it’s always a pleasure to come back to. However this year they never organized the weather, and it poured through from registration right until we left the race. This would turn the dust into really hectic conditions, super slippery sticky mud, and make a usually fast race extremely hard and slow. The race was 10km shorter this year, but the times would be significantly slower due to the terrain.

Most of the teams were represented at the start, and with the “king of the mountain” after 5km, fireworks early on would be inevitable. I decided to go hard for the King, testing the legs but also as the race has previously worked out, force the split from there. I won the king with a fair gap, and then gambled on going on my own. I set about at a fair pace initially, looking back at about 4guys who were chasing me. I did see Dave was comfortably there so thought if I do get hauled back, at least he will be a little fresher than the rest. I continued on and after a couple drags had opened a good gap. I could also see the group had split and with guys riding on their own, would be harder to chase. Although in such adverse conditions, it’s usually better on your own, going at your own tempo. That was exactly what I was doing, keeping my efforts steady and trying as best I could to stay smooth and avoid crashing or mechanicals.

The rest was fairly straight forward, I managed to open the gap up to a good couple minutes and take my second Eston win ahead of DCM’s Stewart and third place Garmin’s Philip Buys. Dave unfortunately suffered multiple rear wheel punctures, but was at least on the mend from the flu he had at Transalps. All in all we are looking fairly good and on track for the National Marathon Champs next weekend in what looks likely to be a cold and wet Harrysmith. Till then, cheers.

Provisional Results:
1st Kevin Evans (MTN/Energade)
2nd Brandon Stewart (DCM Chrome)
3rd Philip Buys (Garmin)
4th Max Knox (DCM Chrome)
5th Ben Melt Swanepoel (Specialized)

SA Team Selection

South Africa announced the Marathon Team for the World Champs later this month in Austria. Congrats to DG for his first MTB selection. The rest of the team will be myself and Max Knox. Worlds is on the 23August in Graz.