|Photo by Zoon Cronje: Kevin Evans|
MTN Ultra Marathon #5, Tulbagh, Western Cape, 105km
It would be ironic that my first race back after breaking my collarbone in the Cape-Epic, would see me returning to Tulbagh and making amends with this small beautiful town.
Going into the race I had no expectations, although I’ve managed to get some good training in on the road bike, I had no idea on how or where my form was relative to guys who’ve been racing. Needless to say, I felt rather nervous, and more so than usual as, with my recovery time since operation only six and half weeks, another fall on the shoulder would spell major disaster. This would mean I was very apprehensive on the descends and not quite my normal self, but with good reason. However I did have some fantastic new Magura brakes dialed in onto the Scott Scale, so I had no doubt at all in any of my equipment.
The race began fairly relaxed, and I’m sure the riders were taking it as easy as we knew the hard terrain that lay ahead. At 15km into the race, we hit the first major obstacle of the day, a steep 2km climb that we would have to tackle again at around 90km. it was here that five riders emerged at the top, and essentially would be the make up of the race for the day. Immediately after the climb we went into some fairly rough and steep 4x4 trails that we rode in the Epic. Up the steepest climb of the day, Dave started to power ahead, and Max Knox managed to literally run up the climb behind him, just in time to join him for the descend. I was following Darren Lill and Adrien Nyionshuti at this stage, and although I felt I may have been able to try ride across to Dave, I decided not too as it may mean I drag the other two riders across. Also with myself and Dave in the front, Max would be entitled to a “free” ride as we would have to do most of the work.
The tactics from there definitely played into our hands, as I could do little work in my chase group, and with myself only a minute or two behind Dave, he too took a backseat, happy to know I was not far behind.
The course was relentless and the weather was cool, 12degrees average for the whole race, which meant adequate hydration and nutrition, or face a potential visit from the ‘man with the hammer’. I was starting to feel the distance creeping up on me, but at that exact stage we were going up a long climb, and I could see Dave had just dropped Max, giving me the confidence that Dave was feeling good, and Max, well I may just see him still before the end.
The final 30km was brutal, and we repeated the first loop, including the big climbs and steep jeep track. The energy I had saved from sitting on paid off as I started to up my tempo here, leaving Adrien behind on the climb, and reeling in Max. I was surprised to have energy left, but the training I had done at home under the circumstances was proving valuable. Once I had caught Max, he kindly supervised me down the technical descend towards the finish, and I only just managed to get ahead of him on the grass field leading him into the finish.
Our unfinished business with Tulbagh was now complete, with a great team performance, and in good time as we prepare for some bigger goals ahead. My quick comeback is also a direct reflection of the support and head space shown by Nedbank 360Life and the way they’ve helped us move onwards following our disappointment six weeks ago. Once again for this, we thank them and love working together in tis professional environment.
Cheers Tulbagh, a fitting end to the day, a fine bottle of Saronsberg Full Circle (more irony), lets call it even for nowJ
1st David George (360Life) 4hrs29min
2nd Kevin Evans (360lLfe) 4hrs37min
3rd Max Knox (Ghost/Doitnow) same time
4th Adrien Nyionshuti (MTN/Qhubeka) 4hrs52
5th Nico Bell (Bell Cycles)
Next race, Sani2C and a very popular race and personal favorite of ours on the annual calendar. We looking forward to being there and staying in the village, accessible to all riders and BOE clients. Also looking forward to having our main men, Lance and Dave as our backup teams!
Till then, cheers.