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!
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.