Sunday, January 31, 2010

MTN Barberton Ultra Marathon #2

MTN Ultra Marathon #2, Barberton

Kevin Evans
Barberton is normally the start to the MTN Marathon series, and this year it would be the second race in the series. With that being said, the race nerves were not quite as bad as usual especially considering I’d had a great start at the first race two weeks prior.
Conditions were completely normal for the race, fresh and overcast at the start, but as you progress higher up the mountain, the rain settles in creating hectic mud and slippery terrain. Then with all the rain in the previous weeks, the river crossings were all in deep and more than usual. The organizers had gone to some efforts to try and make certain sections easier on the riders, but in the ultra marathon, once you hitting the second half of the race where the shorter distances have gone through, the course becomes really churned up.

The race starts with a big climb of about 10km, and straight away it was the same three protagonists from last year riding for DCM Chrome that were eager to set a hard pace and split the race up. Only myself and team mate, Adrien Niyonshuti (MTN/Energade), Burry Stander (Specialized/Mr Price) and Renay Goustra (GT) could follow the tempo being set. Once up at the top, conditions were very bad and soon thereafter, Renay punctured and was out the lead group, which by this stage already had a substantial gap on the chasing pack. The next technical section was through the game reserve where it gets very rocky and wet, and you needed to keep your lines tight and try to minimize chances of mechanicals.
Jacques Janse Van Rensburg and Brandon Stewart both had punctures through this section and Adrien lost a little time in the tough conditions, so entering into the feed zone at 75km, it was only Burry, Max and myself left.
The next 45km loop starts with just as big a climb as the first loop, and then back into the reserve for the same final 30km. But as we hit the big climb, it was Max Knox who had two extra gears, and simply powered away from Burry and myself, riding an impressive 5minutes into us over the 6km climb. Neither Burry nor myself could match the tempo and we simply landed up racing together basically for second place, provided Max had no issues. It was hectic through the reserve as we had to weave through all the shorter distance riders, apologies if we ran anyone off the road at that stage!
The final action between Burry and I came in the final kilometer when a fun rider crashed Burry into the pavement! At this stage I immediately sat up and waited for him, it wouldn’t have felt right to attack someone under those circumstances, and to have a fair sprint with him as I’m sure he’d have done the same for me. The sprint was a real crowd pleaser and really got the adrenalin pumping as he just edged me out around the final corner to take second place whilst third was all I could manage on the day.
However it was thrilling to see Rwandan team mate Adrien Niyonshuti come home in 4th place, and new team rider Paul Cordes stepping up to the plate to take 5th overall, a really impressive ride by him. Again Yolande Speedy(MTN/Energade) was in a class of her own to win the ladies, but also finish 2nd overall against the men in the marathon distance!

Next race, Herald Cycle Tour, MTB and Road in Port Elizabeth next weekend, till then, cheers.
Kevin Evans

Provisional results:
1st Max Knox (DCM/Chrome) apprx:4hrs50min
2nd Burry Stander (MrPrice/Specialised)
3rd Kevin Evans (MTN/Energade)
4th Adrien Niyonshuti (MTN/Energade)
5th Paul Cordes (MTN/Energade)

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Fast One

Pick n Pay Hyper to Hyper “The fast one”

Kevin Evans
The Pick n Pay Hyper to Hyper, also known as “The Fast One”, took place in rather wet conditions! In fact more likely torrential rain from start to finish, which saw the race organizers having to neutralize certain sections of the race where the road was completely flooded and big dangerous potholes were hidden from our sight.
As the first big race of the season, many teams are eager to get going, and the conditions made an already nervous bunch, even twitchier as nobody really wanted to crash and risk injuries or bike damage at the very first race. Us especially when you look at the kind of equipment we using, a brand new Eddy Merckx EMX5 complete with Sram Red and the latest handbuilt FFWD wheels!
Needless to say we were always riding up front and out of trouble!

The rest of our MTN/Energade team were busy racing the Tour of Amissa Gabon, and so only four of us were left to fend off a few of the bigger teams on the day. Most noticeable on the day was DCM Chrome, who was very aggressive and definitely showed strength in numbers, whilst Medscheme and ourselves had our work cut out for us having to be active and follow all the moves. House of Paint also had a fairly big team and it was becoming evident that no moves would stick as the teams with numbers always had enough riders to bring the attacks back.
However for most of the fast race, it just became enough of a challenge to stay out of harms way, and get to the end in one piece. All the action really came in the last 2km, when there was a full sprint to enter the final sharp left hand turn before the sprinting up to the finish. It was going into this corner that finally set the end of the race up, and I was personally boxed in, having to negotiate the turn at about 10km/hr, whilst the front 5 or 6 riders were able to maintain a good speed then power out and onwards. Juan Van Heerden (MTN/Energade) was stranded about eighth wheel and had to commit to chasing the front guys. I managed to dig deep and ride around the bunch up to him, where I could shelter him for about 10seconds before my speed started to dwindle, and without enough speed, fresher riders who’d been less active the whole day used their fresh legs and speed to come around him for the line.
It was Jacques Fullard who finally got the victory, making a return to elite level racing.
Juan managed a credible 5th in the end, but it’s a long season with big goals and objectives ahead. We are heading in the right direction and no doubt will be back to full strength soon.
The racing looks to be on this year, and will be a definite level up on previous years, a great thing for road cycling in SA!

Big thanks to all the MTN management and staff for working well past overtime to get our bikes built and race ready, plus equipment, bike set ups, airport transfers and the list goes on and on, from of all the riders… Thank you!
Next week will see the full team at a training camp in Magaliesberg for a press launch, a dealer launch, photographs and team building camp, looking fast forward to it!

Next race, Barberton at the end of the month, till then, cheers.
Kevin Evans

Provisional results:
1st Jacques Fullard (Hotspot Cycles) 2hrs 14min
2nd Tyler Day (EMG)
3rd Dusty Day (House of Paint)
4th Burry Stander (MrPrice/Specialised)
5th Juan Van Heerden (MTN/Energade)

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Eddy Merckx EMX5

Just waiting for the FFWD wheels!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

MTN #1, Attakwas Extreme MTB Challenge

MTN Attakwas Extreme MTB Challenge

The first leg of the MTN Ultra Marathon series took place on the weekend in Oudtshoorn, and the Attakwas, going into its forth year, was no doubt a suitable event for this ultra series!
The race is extreme in every sense of the word, extreme distance, 137km, extremely technical, and extremely hard! I reckon this will be rated as the toughest single day race in the country. Usually the route makes the race hard enough, but being part of the series this year, with the caliber of riders that came to take part, made it even tougher and faster than ever before.
Conditions on the morning were perfect, and a record number of entries saw batches leaving from the Chandelier Game farm, to start the first part of the race in the reserve. As usual there were a couple of guys eager to turn the pace up from the beginning and one had to follow all the moves just incase someone slipped away. But you always had to keep the distance in the back of your mind, and I think I had the biggest advantage over everyone as I had done all previous Attakwas races. I knew the route well and also the conditions of the terrain, so right down to tire choice, I was confident, but not sure where the form was compared to the rest of the guys.
The race consists of three sections for me, the first 45km, rolling through tough jeep track, then the “Attakwas” trail, a 35km hard jeep trail through the Outeniqua mountain range, and finally the last 60km of gravel roads to the finish in GrootBrak. The race only split up into pieces once we hit the start of the Attakwas trail, and it was only Burry Stander (Specialised/Mr Price), David George (Fullimput) and myself, riding a new bike for the first time in four years, a Volcan FS1. As we hit the hardest climb through the trail, Burry and myself opened a gap up on David, and then further extended this as we hit the technical descend down the other side. Things were looking good, and I was sure that Burry and I could work together once on the open roads. Unfortunately for him, he had a puncture only about 500meters from the end of the roughest part of the trail. This however left me out on my own, with a slight headwind, 60km of rolling roads, a chasing bunch behind me and no body to talk to!

I had timed the gaps to David George who was chasing by himself behind me, and he was clearly putting in a big effort to catch me as quickly as he could. I knew what still lay ahead and managed the time gaps with care, not to let myself get caught in the cat and mouse tactics, simply to conserve as much energy as possible for the tough final 15km. Dave was bridging a gap of about 4minutes, and just before the last two hard climbs, had me down to just 40seconds! This was where I used all the last of my saved energy and really powered up the climb to see if he had any thing left. It was as much as I could do, and if it was not enough, too bad. However, it was more than enough, his hard effort to catch me taking its toll, as I managed to ride close on 5minutes into him over the final 10km!
A close fought battle in the end, but a great way for me to start the season in pursuit of title number 6! Many other top riders suffered multiple punctures and mechanicals, but the Karoo terrain is relentless and I’m sure valuable lesson were learned out there! Also special mention to team mates Adrien, 5th after traveling back from Rwanda only 3days ago, and new team rider, Yolande Speedy, for winning the ladies by sheer dominance. (Over 35minutes and incredible 19th overall!)
Next race, Barberton at the end of the month, till then, cheers.
Kevin Evans

Provisional results:
1st Kevin Evans (MTN/Energade) 5hrs43min
2nd David George (Fullimput) 5hrs48min
3rd Max Knox (DCM)
4th Ben Melt Swanepoel (MrPrice/Specialised)
5th Adrien Niyonshuti (MTN/Energade)