Sunday, October 4, 2009

MTN Clarens Marathon, #6

The penultimate leg of the MTN National Ultra Marathon series took place over the weekend in the picturesque town of Clarens. The last time one of the series races was held here was in 2004, and then the race was tough. Now we were back there to race an ultra marathon, over 110km and no one expected it to be easy!
Most of the big teams were there, and being the second last event in the series, riders would still be racing for overall positions. Weather on the morning was cool and overcast, but with heavy afternoon showers the previous two days, the course would have its fair share of slippery sections.
The race started with a 2km neutral zone, and the guys settled into the race as everyone was expecting the course to take its toll later on. Also being up at over 1800m above sea-level, would also make the riding harder. The organizers had set out a true mountain bike marathon, not very far off what you might find in the European Alps! The longer distances went up to about 2000m, where we were racing on slick rock, which appears smooth from far away but is actually really rough and made the going tough on the hard tail. The front group of about 10 riders stayed together until this climb, and it was Garmin’s Phillip Buys, currently wearing the King of the mountain jersey who made good use of his technical skills on a very tricky climb, to get a gap on the group which was splitting into pieces. I was chasing hard, not wanting to give him too much of a gap before the hectic downhill section. Ben-Melt Swanepoel (Specialized) joined me near the top, and from there on we would stay together for the rest of the race.
At the bottom of the descent, Phillip had put 2minutes into Melt and I, with Marc Bass chasing us about another minute behind. Once the technical section was over, Melt and I worked together to start catching Phillip. It took us about 15km to get to him, and he stayed with until about 20km to go. I sensed him taking strain and forced the pace, Melt and I still sharing the work load.
With a uphill finish of about 300m, I gambled on saving my energy for a sprint, and fortunately for me, I had a little more left in the tank to get a gap on Melt in the final 300m, taking my third win in this years series, and securing my 5th consecutive overall marathon series win. This year was special too as MTN have been the title sponsor for the series and was the first year of the new ultra marathon distances. MTN/Energade team mate Adrien Niyonshuti rode really well to take forth place ahead of Francois Theron (Garmin). Buys held onto a well deserved 3rd position.
The next race will be in Hilton, the 50miler, and I have my doubts I’ll be racing there, but for sure I’ll be there to support my team and sponsors.
Provisional results:
1st Kevin Evans (MTN/Energade) 4hrs13:15
2nd Ben-Melt Swanepoel (Specialized) 4hrs13:22
3rd Phillip Buys (Garmin) 4hrs20:22
4th Adrian Niyonshuti (MTN/Energade) 4hrs26:00
5th Francois Theron (Garmin) 4hrs28:23
Pics by Zoon Cronje

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