Kevin Evans, pic Gary Perkin
I don’t remember Barberton being so hard!
After my first two weeks back on the bike, I thought I would use the 2nd leg of the MTN Ultra Marathon series as training and see how the body handled its first Ultra. Turned out that I would surprise myself. It helped a lot that the two weeks of training was great quality spent in Clarens at altitude. We managed nearly 50hrs in the two weeks, so we wouldn’t have the ‘freshest’ legs for the race.
The start of the race was slightly different as with all the rain, we could not use the first section of jeep track. I wasn’t very disappointed with this, except that it meant we rode straight into the first big climb of the day, gulp. As we hit the climb, the tempo at the front was a little too much for me, and I had to watch a small group of around eight riders disappear. At least Dave, series leader, was comfortably there, and I tried to ride my own but steady tempo, limiting the time I would loose so that if Dave did have a mechanical, I would not be too far behind to assist.
I was soon in my own small group with Ben Melt, Jock Green and Nico Bell. Melt would be my “partner” for the day it seemed, and as he has one of the most steady tempo’s in the bunch, I thought if I could pace with him I might be alright.
I must again commend Advendurance on what they have done and are doing for the sport in our country. Their events are world class, and with UCI points up for grabs, they are setting the standard high. Besides that they are taking the riders wellbeing into account. For us pro’s, we had three technical and feed zones. Just to give you an idea, at a world championships, we have up to eight zones. This makes it so much easier for us to race hard. For all the mere mortals, I lost count of the number of water points they supplied! Another two small changes made, but of huge significance, the half marathon and fun ride was moved to Sunday, eliminating back markers and congestion on the course for us, and prize giving was held within half an hour of the top ten riders finishing. Brilliant to see the top riders, in their kit, on the podium whilst the crowds are still there, fantastic for every ones sponsors!
Back to my race, I cannot comment on what was happening up front, but from what I heard, Max Knox displayed his consistent Barberton performance to win his third consecutive ‘home town’ race, whilst Dave did his best to finish an awesome 2nd, maintaining his series lead. It sounded like Mannie and Brandon slogged it out for 3rd and 4th. Meanwhile, a few minutes behind all the action, Melt and I kept up our steady pace and reeled in quite a few riders on the final climb.
I felt really good in the last 15km and considering my lack of training and depth at the moment, to finish up 5th after my traumatic start to my season, felt as good as a victory for me.
It was great to have “rocket Rodge” back in our team for the assistance and mechanical expertise that is so necessary in these tough events.
Great team effort and a special ride for me in my new colours of Team 360Life which I’m absolutely loving being a part of.
Next race, South African Road Championships in Port Elizabeth next weekend, time to throw myself in the deep end again, take it like a man, and remember where our goals and focus lies. Till then, cheers.
1st Max Knox (DCM)
2nd David George (360Life)
3rd Mannie Heymans (Garmin/Adidas)
4th Brandon Stewart (DCM)
5th Kevin Evans (360Life)