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