Zoon Cronje, pic
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 would be no different and along with the usual offroad teams, quite a few roadies switched their thin wheels for “dik” wheels to compete for the overall title.
The race begins with a 5km neutral zone, and once over the Vaal River, its 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 riding similar tactics to last years race, as that worked out well for me, and the race always 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 again. I rolled over the King and I rode a hard tempo all the way up the concrete track to hurt the group a bit and make guys have to dig 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 who was just matching Brandon Stewarts hard tempo. Once down the other side, and onto the halfway point, the group contained three riders from DCM, three riders from Garmin/Adidas, Ben-Melt from Specialized/Mr Price and myself. This would make for some interesting tactics I thought and waited eagerly to see how it would play out. The extreme heat and dry and sandy conditions would soon start taking its toll on the riders.
As the race drew on, riders would begin to dehydrate rapidly, my only saving grace was stopping at the second last water point to fill an extra bottle which would see me to the end. 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 and Brandon were able to get onto my wheel, as we quickly opened a gap the remaining riders. Jacques and I rolled through, taking hard turns, with Brandon just managing to hang on to the wheels, unable to contribute though. As we turned under the tar road, I made another hard tempo effort and soon had a gap as I passed the final water point. Only 12km and a lot of wind remained between me and defending my title from the previous year. 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! Jacques came in a few minutes down in 2nd place, Brandon Stewart in 3rd, both DCM, and Ben-Melt 4th. Pieter Seyffert took 5th, placing another DCM rider in the top 5 for the day.
Next race will be the Ladismith Seweweekspoort classic, followed by 6 really hard days in the DCM Cape Pioneer Trek. Not sure what I’ve got left in the body, but lets see.
Till then, cheers.
1st Kevin Evans (MTN/Energade) 3hrs38
2nd Jacques Janse Van Rensburg (DCM)
3rd Brandon Stewart (DCM)
4th Ben-Melt Swanepoel (Specialized/Mr Price)
5th Pieter Seyffert (DCM)