Kevin Evans, pic Zoon Cronje
The fifth race in the MTN Ultra marathon series took place in the small mining town of Cullinan, just North of Pretoria. Extremely hot and dry conditions would make for a tough race on a fairly rocky and technical course. As it was the first time I was racing in this area, I had no idea what to expect, and maybe sometimes this is a blessing in disguise.
I wanted a good result in the fifth race, as this would cement my chances of the overall series win, so decided to race smart and play a bit of a waiting game to see how the body was, and also how the competition was looking. In the first part of the race I was feeling really comfortable, and the decision to ride my Volcan full suspension was paying off, as the course was proving to be very rough and technical. The group had split after about 20km and soon it was down to about six riders, team mate Adrien Niyonshuti, Dave George(SA Findit), Max Knox and Brandon Stewart(DCM) and Marc Bass(Garmin/Adidas). However no one was really keen to make the racing and I knew I would have to take control sooner or later. I waited until about 75km, just past the feed zone to put my effort in. On one of the long rocky drags I rode a hard tempo and saw only Dave George responding, Max was battling to keep in contact after an early crash had left him slightly rattled. As I increased the tempo, our gap went up over the rest of the riders. Dave and I worked well to further our gap and I could relax now, knowing that even if Dave were to beat me, I should have done enough to secure the series. We still had to be careful though, all the way to the finish to avoid a mechanical or puncture.
The final 500m was singletrack, and fortunately I entered it ahead of Dave, giving me the advantage into the finish straight. I managed to just finish ahead of him, making absolutely sure to wrap up the series. This would be my sixth consecutive national series win, and with two races remaining in the series, it’s great to have no pressure at all to have to do well.
Max held on for third spot, and Adrien had a sprint finish with Jacques Janse Van Rensburg for forth and fifth, Jacques however just getting the better of him, although the fifth place should be good enough to keep Adrien in the top three spots overall.
Thanks to MTN/Energade and our team for all the support to win the series. It’s great to pay them back with another win in their own series.
Next race for me will be one of my favorite events on the calendar, Karoo to Coast on the 19th September. I will take an easy week now or a short break and then build up for the last few events of season.
Till then, cheers.
1st Kevin Evans (MTN/Energade) 4:04:00
2nd Dave George (SAFindit) same time
3rd Max Knox (DCM)
4th Jacques Janse Van Rensburg (DCM)
5th Adrien Nyionshuti (MTN/Energade)