Monday, October 12, 2009

Ridemag Crater Cruise

Otherwise known as “The dirty dash for cash”, the Crater Cruise has always been a popular event in which riders from all disciplines come to compete for the biggest payout in mountain biking for the year. This year was no different and along with the usual offroad teams, Neotel, Medscheme and Konica all had riders there to compete for the overall title.
The race began with a 5km neutral zone, and once over the Vaal River, it was race on. The roadies like to go hard on the tar and the first hotspot comes before the tar turns to gravel. The first 30km is fairly straight forward, the corrugations were as bad as ever, and the early sections of jeep track helps to thin the big group out a bit. I was planning on saving all my energy for the end of the race, as I’ve learnt with experience in this race that it boils down to elimination. The road up to the King of the mountain is not actually much of a mountain but the speed up there was fast and the pace hard. I was feeling good and decided to have a small dig here. I rolled over the King in second position and when I saw the bunch splitting and in a single line, I rode a hard tempo all the way up the concrete track to hurt the bunch a little deeper. Strong winds on the day made the race even harder, and I could see guys were on the ropes already, and we hadn’t even got to the hard climb yet! I followed Garmin’s Phillip Buys up the steep rocky climb and once down the other side, the only other riders to have made it through this split were Marc Bass(Garmin), Rodger Beuchat(Neotel), Jacques Janse Van Rensburg(DCM), Phillip and myself. I told the guys to roll together as the same break worked the previous year, the gap too big for any other riders or groups to cross.
The only real confusement happened at the halfway mark, where Jacques had taken on bottles, contrary to the pre-race briefing. However after I spoke to the organizers the day before the race, feeding was permitted at the feed zones, but vehicles were not allowed on the route. I think the fact that he had a assistance from the motorbike and took bottles from it, that was following on the course would eventually lead to his disqualification. This was very disappointing as I don’t think it would have changed the result at the end, however these rules will need to be clarified prior to a pre-race briefing in future.
As the race drew on, it started to take its toll, Marc Bass was the first to be eliminated as I bridged a gap to Rodger who was looking good but would soon pay the price for his efforts earlier on. Once we were back onto the district roads, with about 20km to go, I put in a big tempo effort in the same place I have in the past. Only Jacques was able to get onto my wheel, the other two riders trying not to loose us. Once we started to roll through together, it was over for the other two guys though. As we turned under the tar road, I pushed another hard tempo effort and soon had a gap as I passed the final water point. Only 12km remained between myself and winning the race I’ve tried so hard to win in the past. The final 12km was obviously tough, the rough route combined with strong winds from the side and front, as well as an extra 2km at the end took its toll on everyone, including myself. I was going as hard as I could but was never sure if it would be enough, constantly checking over my shoulder for other riders. Only once I reached the bridge over the road, did I finally ease up and enjoy the victory that was a long time coming! Jacques came in a few minutes down in 2nd place, but his disqualification would mean that Phillip Buys(Garmin) would then get 2nd, Nic White(Medscheme) would get 3rd after just passing Rodger Beuchat(Neotel) who was riding on a flat wheel and fatigued legs would land up 4th. 5th place for the day would belong to two time event winner Ben Melt Swanepoel of Specialized.
What a way to end off my mountainbike season, with only two more road races left, I’ll be looking forward to taking some good time out before preparation starts again for the 2010 season with Team MTN/Energade.

Provisional results:
1st Kevin Evans (MTN/Energade) 3hrs32
2nd Phillip Buys (Garmin) 3hrs38
3rd Nic White (Medscheme)
4th Rodger Beuchat (Neotel)
5th Ben Melt Swanepoel (Specialized)

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