Monday, September 26, 2011

MTN Ultra Marathon #7, Hilton College

Pics by Zoon Cronje

MTN Ultra Marathon #7, Hilton College, 105km, 3000m

The MTN Ultra Marathon series moved to Hilton for the seventh leg, and the race would be hugely important in deciding the overall winner for the 2011 series. At the start of the race, the series could go possibly four or five ways, but after a very tough race, by my calculations, it looks set to be a two-man race for the overall title in two weeks time at the final.

This was the first time I was taking part in this event, and the Hilton/KZN courses are always incredible. Loads of fun flowing singletrack, hard climbs, and a real sting in the tail was the order of the day for this particular race. Local legend Brandon Stewart (Itec Connect) was the early instigator and set a really hard and fast tempo. The race quickly split into pieces, and there was a fairly select group of all the top contenders out in front. Unfortunately for him, he broke his seat clamp, so had to do some repairs costing him a possible great result.

The rest of us continued with various riders setting the tempo, and I guess everyone was waiting for the first ‘major’ climb of the day up to the 70km mark. This climb would be decisive in the overall outcome of the race. The climb was not actually that bad, however the speed the guys raced up it was incredible. Over the top, three riders had a small gap, Burry Stander (Specialized), Adrien Nyionshuti (MTN/Qhubeka) and Dave George (Nedbank 360life). A couple seconds back alone, Darren Lill (Bonitas), followed closely by Max Knox (Ghost/Doitnow), Jacques Janse Van Rensburg (MTN/Qhubeka) and myself. It was this section though, from around the 70km to the 80km feed zone that I really had a horrible encounter with ‘the man with hammer’ and I was paying large dividends for some heroic early efforts. I was soon on my own, but fortunately a handful of gels, USN spike shots and an energy bar, and I was able to pick myself up and pull myself together, although too little too late.

The race then headed down a very technical hiking trail and finished with an eight kilometer climb to the finish. At the front, Burry had opened a gap on Adrien, and was able to ride alone to another win. Adrien took second, whilst Max got the better of Dave toward the end of the climb, taking third and fourth respectively. Darren Lill came in alone in fifth place, whilst I had to settle for sixth position on the day.

All was not lost though, as Dave will become the new overall series leader with one race remaining. But its going to be a close race come the final, so expect some super exciting stuff and the closest finish in the series in the past couple of years!

Provisional Results:

1st Burry Stander (Specialized) 4hrs18

2nd Adrien Niyonshuti (MTN/Qhubeka) 4hrs20

3rd Max Knox (Ghost/Doitnow) 4hrs22

4th Dave George (Nedbank 360life) 4hrs24

5th Darren Lill (Bonitas) 4hrs24

Next race, Team Nedbank 360life will be heading up to Klerksdorp to take part in a new mountain bike race, and should be good final preparation before we head to Crater Cruise.

Till then, cheers.

Kevin Evans

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


Sunday Tribune Hill2Hill, 105km

After a five-year break from doing the inaugural Hill2Hill race, Dave and I were back to have a crack at trying to win this super tough race. In 2006 I finished 2nd, and last year, Dave managed 2nd. Seems we would have to come back next year and have another dig though!

The race starts up at Worlds View in Pietermaritzburg, and it’s always a sprint start to try and get into the technical singletrack in the lead as it winds its way down and through the city center. The wind was blowing hard for the early 6am start, but the heat was going to play a big role later in the day.

Same as the first year I raced here, the group comes back together after the technical start, and the climbs start coming thick and fast from around 30km onwards. The temperature also started to rise rapidly, and with a strong tailwind, the body had to adapt from the colder weather we’ve had down in the Cape recently.

The main group after the climbs consisted of Marc Bass, Mannie Heymans, Phil Buys (all Garmin/Adidas), Brandon Stewart (Itec Connect), Burry Stander (Specialized) and Dave George and myself (Team Nedbank 360life).

I guess with around 30km left to race, we had a steep climb before a long piece of rocky singletrack. Just before the climb I had a slow puncture on the front wheel, which I stopped to inflate. I then rode hard to get back to the leaders, which was now down to only Brandon, Burry and Dave. I just got onto the lead trio when Burry put the hammer down through this technical section. I have to say though that our new Spark 29ers were really impressive, not only through this section, but for the whole day, however we simply couldn’t match the speed of our top cross country rider, and soon it was three of us chasing Burry.

I had to stop again to pump my wheel, and that managed to get me to the final tech zone where I was able to change it. I had to ride my own tempo from there on, and in the last 10km Mannie and Phillip caught me. Mannie was having a really good ride, as he pulled us the last 5km into a strong headwind, and on a day where I didn’t have the best legs, I had to settle for 5th as Mannie outsprinted me to take 4th.

Meanwhile at the front, Burry had stayed away to win his 4th Hill2Hill challenge, Dave taking 2nd and Brandon 3rd.

It was a super tough day, and I quickly remembered how hard this event was. The organizers do a fantastic job of piecing together some great trails on land that must be very hard to get access into. And being a point to point race, it definitely requires more effort and there is no lack of that from their side. I’m sure Team Nedbank 360life will be on the start line next year again! Thanks to all involved.

Provisional Results:

1st Burry Stander (Specialized)

2nd Davie George (Team Nedbank 360life)

3rd Brandon Stewart (Itec Connect)

4th Mannie Heymans (Garmin/Adidas)

5th Kevin Evans (Team Nedbank 360Life)

Next race, the MTN Ultra Marathon 50Miler in Hilton. It will be an important race in the hunt for the series. Dave and I will be staying the next week up there in preparation for the race.

Till then, cheers.

Kevin Evans