Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Tour De Plett Mountain Bike Challenge

Photo by Sean Steyn: Kevin Evans

Tour De Plett Mountain Bike Challenge, 75km, 1700m

The inaugural Tour De Plett kicked off this weekend with a mountain bike challenge, comprising of three distances and was held in the small town of Wittedrift just a few kilometers outside of Plettenberg Bay. Again I would have my hands full to try and win another “home town” event as the MTN/Qhubeka team had stayed the week after Knysna to take part in this inaugural event. Besides the stiff competition, I also had post Xterra legs to deal with, and that was definitely going to make it even harder.

With all the rain we had the week leading up to the event, the course was completely water logged and would take its toll on the riders and equipment. The course was fairly similar to the Knysna Oyster route, although starting in Wittedrift, we would head up the ‘Stofpad’ and onto Petrus se Brand but in reverse. The 75km route would have 1700m of climbing in it, and combined with the conditions, made the route one of the hardest in the area. But the Club100 had done their homework, and everything ran smoothly on the day, amble marshals, enough water points, and most importantly, some proper mountain biking which is what its all about!

The group was thinned down to only five riders after the first big wet climb up the ‘Stofpad’, three from MTN/Qhubeka, Charles Keey, Jacques Janse Van Rensburg and Adrien Nyionshuti, youngster James Reid (Mr Price/BMC) and myself. (Teammate Dave had opted to take his break and so left me to ‘hold the fort’ on my own.)

The guys were riding a fairly steady pace, and I thought that Adrien would be the instigator of making the racing really tough, but it was Jacques and Charles who started turning in the screws after around 40km. And when they started attacking, they did so with gusto. James was riding really well and managed to help me chase down one or two attacks, but the boys in yellow were clearly on a mission.

I was starting to wonder if they would ever slow down, and didn’t favor my chances riding against three of them to the finish. Just then Adrien put in a massive effort, and it took literally everything I had left in my legs to follow him and stay on his wheel. Fortunately for me we were distancing the other riders, but I still had to keep up with him. The last 15km were a bit easier and I knew I just needed to hang with him to the end to have a chance. I also knew the last couple kilometers really well as its one of my training routes. Once through the trickiest section, the descend down Buffalo Hills Reserve, it was straight forward to the end, but I had to ride on the front as I saw a MTN rider coming across not far behind.

In the end it was a sprint and again I was lucky to take it from the front, as it was who ever went around the final corner first would take the win, and I just managed to do this, narrowly edging out Adrien to win the race.

After that effort, the road race the following day would merely be for the sake of taking part in my hometown event. After that I look forward to taking a few days off the bike to build for the last half of the season.

Provisional Results:

1st Kevin Evans (360life)

2nd Adrien Nyionshuti (MTN/Qhubeka)

3rd Jacques Janse Van Rensburg (MTN/Qhubeka)

Next race, Tour de Tuli, in August, although I hear from our sponsors that its not a race. I will certainly train my red wine and beer threshold for that one!

Till then, cheers.

Kevin Evans

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Due South Knysna Xterra

Photo by www.oakpics.com: Kevin Evans

Due South Knysna Xterra, 3km run, 23km bike, 7km run

After having won the Due South Xterra the previous year, the organizers insisted I return to try and defend my title. However, this year round, they had gathered some of the countries best Xterra and multi discipline athletes, including a four time world champion, just to make sure that last year was no fluke!

Having confirmed I would be taking part again this year, I really started to get nervous just before the event as unlike last year, this year I had no time to train my running side of things. Whilst in Europe for the last month preparing for World Marathon Champs, I had only enough time to run twice. I was however not nervous with the quality of the competition, but more the fact at how much damage I knew I would inflict on myself in the following few days after the event.

So after some useless preparation in the transition area, the best field assembled for an Xterra event took to the start line to begin the first 3km trail run. Same as last year, I was immediately blown away with the pace that the top guys run at. My legs could simply not go fast enough and I quickly realized I had no other option than to run at my own pace and limit the time I would loose on this first leg. I could see the likes of Conrad Stolts, Liuewe Boonstra, Dan Hugo, Tyrone White, Raoul De Johng to name a few, just disappear and put nearly a minute and half into me in the first run. I entered the transition in 19th place, had a quick change over to the bike, and basically went into time trial mode.

The fact that the course for the mountain bike leg was quite hilly, and extremely muddy, definitely played into my favor, and after around 5km, I had caught everyone except for Conrad. I was riding as hard as I could, and knew that I needed to put as much time into the rest of the field as possible to stand a remote chance of finishing in the top ten. By the time we turned back onto the grass climb up the field of dreams, I had caught Conrad, but I knew I had no chance against him in the next 7km trail run.

Again I had fairly smooth transition, and managed to keep up with Conrad up the first steep climb, but soon after the top, again I had to settle into my own pace and just try surviving to the finish. Conrad opened a massive gap on me, and my legs were starting to really ache as I kept up as hard a tempo as possible. It helped that I remembered the course from last year, and I was just suffering on until the final kilometer. It was only once I could see the field of dreams did I realize that I would actually have done enough to hold onto second place.

This was an exceptionally big effort and I had tremendous support on the field from all the spectators, which really helped me so much. Despite finishing and not being able to walk, it was probably one of my best results considering the quality of athletes there.

I guess I will be back again next year, and no, I won’t do any other Xterra’s as the rest of them have a swimming component, and I swim like a brick. The only thing I will change is perhaps next year I will run a little more in preparation!

Provisional Results:

1st Conrad Stoltz (Specialized)

2nd Kevin Evans (Nedbank 360life)

3rd Leiuwe Boonstra (Momentum/Red Bull)

Next race will be the Tour de Plett, in two days time. With no time to recover, I should be in for a tough weekend of racing… again.

Till then, cheers.

Kevin Evans

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Monday, July 4, 2011

Knysna Oyster Festival

Knysna Oyster Festival Mountain Bike Race, 80km, 1650m

So after a month in Europe, it was straight back home and in time for my favorite race of the year, my ‘home’ town Oyster festival race. I’ve raced this event probably ten times or more in my career, and only won it once, despite having finished 2nd on five occasions! Being at home, I have some incredible support around this event, and all the pressure to do well here, comes from myself. Despite only winning it in 2007, I’ve always been really close and the support to win it only gets better!

So as per normal, the start was cold and the weather this year was looking even more grim than ever as the rain was coming and would start to drizzle soon after we started. The race started fairly controlled as everyone awaited the climb up Simola and Gouna as the ‘decider’ for the select riders that would battle for the win. This year however, with some really good competition, we had five riders crest the second climb in the lead group, Adrien Nyionshuti (MTN/Qhubeka), Jacques Janse Van Rensburg(MTN/Qhubeka), Darren Lill (Bonitas), Dave and Myself (360Life). With two from 360life and two from MTN, Darren was definitely in the better position, as he had no reason to contribute to the pace that the four of us were setting to ensure that the lead group remained only five. I had a dig at the king of the Mountain, as usual, which I just managed to win ahead of Adrien, and soon realized that I had good legs on the day.

I decided from there on to be conservative with my efforts, ride my own tempo through the forest sections of Petrus se Brand on the front of the group, as I knew the trails so well. This would help me in conserving my energy, as I also knew exactly where I would have to spend it all in order to have a chance to win the race. It was going to have to be similar to the other years when I came close, as the final 20km of the route this year was back to the original course and is tough.

Soon after the flowing singletrack of Petrus se Brand, Dave and I had a small gap, but Darren quickly closed this with Adrien on his wheel, and once he had closed it, he noticed Dave taking a little bit of strain. This gave him and Adrien the motivation to hot up the tempo, and also allowed me the opportunity to sit on the back and watch the two guy’s work hard to make sure Dave would not come back. So then we were down to just three, and I knew what was coming. I made sure in the wet and cold weather that I was eating and drinking all the time so that my energy levels would be at maximum when I needed it.

We crossed the national road, and only 15km remained. I waited very patiently until finally we hit the climb up the side of the Pezula Estate, and right from the botton, I put in a big attack. Darren initially responded, but soon started to drift off my wheel. I continued with a very hard tempo, and I looked back and saw Adrien riding across to me. I had another attack, but again, he hung on. I had my final dig, literally on the last 100m of the climb before we dropped down the final tricky descend to Hunters Home, and only just managed to get a small gap. I had a gap of around 10seconds, and as I knew the technical roots at the bottom, I figured this gap would be all I needed.

I came out onto the tar, put my head down and gave the last of my effort to make sure I held my gap. At this stage it was around 20seconds, but with the final 3km all on tar, the win was in the bag, and I could really enjoy the victory onto the field.

Only when I got onto the field did I realize how bad the weather was as most of the spectators were huddled up together under the small stadium. However, it didn’t matter to me as I had finally achieved my second win in Knysna, and nothing would spoil that for me!

Provisional Results:

1st Kevin Evans (Team360life) 3hrs00min

2nd Adrien Nyionshuti (MTN/Qhubeka)

3rd Darren Lill (Bonitas)

4th Neil Macdonald (RE;CM)

5th Charles Keey (MTN/Qhubeka)

Next race, that small problem of one times Xterra…

Till then, cheers.

Kevin Evans

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