MTN Ultra Marathon #2, Barberton
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.
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)