Photo Belinda Blumeris: Kevin Evans
SA Marathon Championships, Inando Dam, 80km
Valley of a Thousand Hills would be the host for the 2011 Marathon Championships and the setting couldn’t have been more dramatic. The area and terrain could certainly host a World Class marathon event. The organizers assured riders, although the distance was only 80km, it would be no less than the ‘minimum standard’ set by the UCI that the winning time would be in the region of 4hrs15-4hrs45min. However we have world class riders and the course time was quicker than anticipated!
The Elite field would be fiercely contested with all riders hoping to take home the title. The early climbing on the route thinned out the bunch significantly, and just before the second of the big climbs, I cut my tire on a piece of glass. I had to stop to inflate it, and could only hope the tire would seal. Former teammate Adrien Niyonshuti helped pace me back to the front group of five riders, and the tire was looking good and holding air. Dave was also looking fairly comfortable, despite the thirty stitches in his elbow from the crash on Friday.
The route began to wind its way around the dam, crossing the river a few times, with some fairly technical singletrack sections to get through.
The temperature in the valley was climbing fast, and the first tech/feed zone was a welcome sight. I stopped briefly to inflate my tire one last time, and had to work a bit to catch up again. No sooner had I caught up, and I misjudged a corner completely, taking a nasty tumble over the handlebars and into the bush. One I picked myself up and dusted myself off, I had to chase again to make contact with the group. This proved tricky as we were into the very technical singletrack of the race that ran along the waters edge. I could see Burry’s knowledge of the course was paying off as it was here that he started to surge in the front and use his cross country skills and power to the most effective use and start splitting the small group up. I had to ride past the guys as they started dropping off his pace, but managed to close the gap and join him and Phil Buys (Garmin) as the select three riders left. Burry continued to attack the short steep climbs, and very quickly it was just the two of left, again to fight out the race for the title.
I had a small dig in the final 5km as I knew it would be hard to beat Burry in a sprint to the line, but unfortunately with the course being so quick, a sprint finish would decide the SA Marathon Champion for 2011. His explosiveness in the sprint, combined with his speed around the final corner, meant I could only watch as he crossed the finish line just ahead of me, wrestling the jersey off me for a year.
The final five positions were then Phillip Buys, Rourke Crouser and in fifth Dave George.
It was somewhat disappointing to loose the title, albeit to an incredible rider, who medalled at the marathon world championships last year. I think most of my frustration was due to the fact that the race was around an hour too short for a true marathon. But on the plus side, it was a good effort and I’m more than happy with my condition, a week before our main goal, and considering that 12weeks ago, I was lying in the ICU wondering what would happen to my season.
All said and done, another championships ridden, and fortunately Dave and I emerged ‘relatively’ unscathed and full of confidence for the objective ahead of us.
Next race, that small team race around the Cape, known as The Cape-Epic!
Till then, cheers.
1st Burry Stander (Specialized) 3hrs25min
2nd Kevin Evans (team 360life) same time
3rd Phillip Buys (Garmin/Adidas)
4th Rouke Crouser (Cannondale/Monkey)
5th Dave George (360Life)