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!
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.