Monday, October 24, 2011

DCM Cape Pioneer Trek

Photo by Zoon Cronje: Kevin Evans

6Day Mountain Bike Stage Race, 659km, 13500m

Stage1, Oudtshoorn-Calitzdorp, 107km, 2161m

The first stage of a tour is always the most nervous and potentially most important in the race. You also never sure what the legs will do and how the body will react. The route for the day was fairly easy to begin with, besides the rough Karoo jeep tracks with many thorns to get through.

The racing began in earnest after the first water point when we headed into the ‘Red Stone Hills’ and old Cape Epic trails of past. Dave and I turned up the pace, the temperature turned itself up, and soon the splits had formed. Up the long steep climb before the final climb, we had our gap, and put in a big effort to capitalize on our lead and make the most of what we could.

We came in around 5min ahead of Melt Swanepoel and Nico Bell, Adrien Niyonshuti and Jacques Janse van Rensburg finished in third place. Sauser and Knox had a series of errors, to cut a long story short, which cost them 30minutes plus, a one-hour penalty.

Stage2, Calitzdorp-Riversdale, 128km, 2756m

This stage was reminiscent of the old Epic stage from 2008, and started with the infamous Rooiberg Pass climb. The Contego King of the Mountain prizes each day really spiced up the racing and made the big climbs of the day that little extra harder as riders raced for the R2500 up for grabs. Once over the climb, the front group, consisting of the four main teams, rolled through until we hit some more rough and tough ‘Katot’ jeep track through one of the beautiful reserves. It was in this section, trying to show the boys how to ride a river crossing, that I got stuck in a really deep section, couldn’t unclip, and completely submerged myself to the point of near drowning.

Past the last water point, altogether and aiming for a gentle final 40km to this long stage, we were thrown a major curve ball where we hit the roughest 4x4track of the race. Forced to run and scramble, Sauser and Knox got a gap as Dave and I gave chase to no avail, but we did manage to distance ourselves from our rival teams of the previous day. After some sense of humor loss, we eventually rolled down the Garcia pass and finished second, but put in some really big time gaps to Melt/Bell and MTN/Quhbeka. RE:CM not too far behind having a really tough day out there, learning some real Karoo mountain bike lessons at its best. (respect!)

Stage3, Riversdale-Albertinia, 106km, 2379m

Today’s stage, the weather decided to up the game a bit for all the riders out there. Gusts of wind at 90km/hr were blowing, fortunately Westerly though, meaning tailwind, however, ‘Katot’ managed to wind the route that in some way, we had block headwinds and mean gutter sections. Just as the race was splitting up going into the mountain reserve, we had to stop to fix a flat rear wheel on Dave’s bike. Unfortunately the front guys continued to race on, leaving us with around a 60km chase to the finish. Melt/Bell were trying to catch Sauser/Knox, around a 1minute gap, we were trying to catch Melt/Bell, another 1minute gap, but for 60km, the gaps stayed the same and all of us made a meal out of this stage, with no real gains other than Sauser/Knox taking the stage in torrential rain. Not a pleasant day out on the bike, and even harder for the back markers, coming into a non-existent race village due to the weather. The school would host the riders in the classrooms, and plan B turned out to work well for the organizers and tired riders..

Stage4, Albertinia-Mossel Bay, 98km, 1579m

Riders set off in much better weather, and with the winds on our backs, we were off on a beautiful days racing through to Mossel Bay. The highlight for the day, well there was two, was one: crossing the ‘Island’ in the Gouritz river. This section had the most thorns I’ve ever seen besides the first day of the Grape Escape. This took Sauser/Knox out of the days racing, and gave Dave and I a few problems ourselves, but nothing that we weren’t able to solve on the go. We had to chase a few times to catch up to the same front teams, we were pretty much all content to roll through to the end, and let the other teams battle out a stage win. Highlight two was going through Gondwana Reserve, with its 7Kalahari wild lions. Unfortunately, or fortunately, we never saw any, but they did do a compulsory roll call through this section!

The most scenic section was the final 15km along the coast at Pinnacle Point, and I must say the Golf Course was looking in great nick! But the racing was on as RE:CM had put the hammer down with Melt/Bell in pursuit. We were following wheels, MTN/Qhubeka just off the pace, and for a change, the front two teams, or should I say, Dave spotted a tricky left/right sign board, and we actually went the right way, so before we knew it, with no intentions of winning the stage, we had. Unfortunately for the other guys, they did a small detour, but made their way to the finish although somewhat disappointed. Don’t worry; we know the feeling, well.

Stage5, Mossel Bay-George, 127km, 3046m

10km on Dias beach to start the queen stage of the tour, I seem to remember last year being low tide, and high tide this year really took its toll on the legs, not to mention what the poor riders at the back would be going through!

Again the racing split, but the pace was really turned up after the KOM where Sauser decided he would like to try win another stage. This time Dave and I followed and from here on, the racing was fairly flat-out. On numerous occasions they tried to drop us, but we were determined to take this stage and not disappoint our supporters at the finish.

After 120km of tough riding, we were still neck and neck, and we knew that a sprint finish would have to decide the outcome of a five and half hour day!

Knowing Dave’s sprinting ability, or lack thereof (joke), I told him to attack with 5km to go. As he did, Max followed and Sauser and I watched them ride ahead. Its always easier sprinting one on one, and it’s the second rider over the line that counts for the stage win, so I left myself up the ‘creek’ to sprint against the World Champion, but for the record, he beat me by half a tire! (damn)

Stage6, George- Oudtshoorn, 93km, 1594m

The last day will never be an easy day in the Pioneer, from my experience, and starting with the Montagu Pass, I’m sure the back riders were thrilled: a 12% 7km climb, before ‘Katot’ sent us into some more ruthless jeep tracks with the final 30km going through the rough Chandelier reserve. Again Sauser/Knox decided to try for another stage win, but the rest of us, RE:CM, Melt/Bell and ourselves were content to just roll trough to the end of a tough tour.

All was going well for me, not the best legs on the day, but up one of the rocky climbs, the camera man (BigShot Media) was trying to get me to ride up an almost impossible section, when I came to a stop, couldn’t unclip, fell over on the high side (yes its all on camera) and just about broke three ribs. I won’t lie, I didn’t have a fun ride for the remaining 50km, and I wasn’t getting much sympathy from my teammate either.

But the race was in the bag, and we had turned our stage race luck around to win the 2011 Cape Pioneer Trek.

Henco and Carel, plus all the crew, too many to mention, put on another amazing event, and really kept the riders interests first. Dryland is fast becoming a world-class events company, and Nedbank 360Life are proud to have been invited to their race and hope to be back to defend our title next year.

And to all the ‘die hard’ riders who make up the field, you have our utmost respect for completing this grueling event. I suppose it’s the toughness that makes you guys come back, however I’m amazed at how well prepared you all are! Best of luck with the recovery!

Provisional Results:

1st Evans/George (Nedbank 360Life) 26hrs53min

2nd Melt-Swanepoel/Bell (Specialized/Bell Cycles) 27hrs25min

3rd Nyionshuti/Jvan Rensburg (MTN/Qhubeka) 27hrs51min

4th Woolcock/Macdonald (RE:CM) 27hrs57

5th Sauser/Knox (Songo36one) 29hrs23min

Next race, that’s a wrap folks, season 2011 done for Team Nedbank 360Life. In the end of a dreadful start, what a finish, and with the support and like-mindedness of our sponsors, all we can say is, ‘roll on 2012’!

Thank you and proudly Nedbank ambassadors!

Till then, cheers.

Kevin Evans

Ladismith Cheese Seweweekspoort Challenge

Ladismith Cheese Seweweeksport MTB Challenge, 80km

One of my ‘local’ events (I call any event within a hundred and fifty kilometer radius of home a local event), and also one of favorite rides in the beautiful area of the Karoo. The Seweweekspoort challenge is an absolute must do ride as it’s suitable for all levels of riders, and the route is absolutely magnificent. It basically winds its way right through the Seweweekspoort, an old dirt road that connects the small and great Karoo via the Cape folded mountains.

Although this year, Dave had decided to use this race as final hard training for next weeks Pioneer Trek, and went flying out the blocks. I managed to ride across to him, where we shared the work going up, and it is up, through the ‘Poort’, so I didn’t have a lot of time to look around at the stunning area. Once through the ‘Poort’, I was sure we would have a good gap with which we could manage for the next 60km, but to my surprise, a group of 4riders had worked equally as hard and managed to catch us through the rough jeep track loop around the dam at the top of the Poort.

Ruan Du Toit (Novo Nordisk), Ben Melt Swanepoel (Specialized), Stuat Marais and Dave Morison (Blend Properties) had joined us for the really fun and fast sweeping gravel descend back down the Poort, where speeds of close to 70km/hr are achievable. Once out of the Poort, the final 35km is through Winelands and farms, and becomes a bit rougher, and tougher, with the wind usually playing a small role too. And then of course the final two climbs with ten kilometers to go are usually hard enough to decide the outcome of the race. Knowing this race really well, and having won it a few times before, I was content to wait for the last ten kilometers.

However, Dave clearly had other ides, and through one of the rough sections, used his power and Spark29er to ride alone off the front of our group. Hard way to try and win the race, but perfect team tactics, as I could sit in the group whilst the rest had to try chase him (aka the block). Its difficult to chase when you know you have a another rider just waiting to pounce should it all come back together. Dave’s gap was steadily increasing, and by the final 10kilometers, he had nearly 2minutes on us.

I then made my effort count on the final two climbs, and must say I was impressed with how the young rider, Ruan du Toit from George stuck with me. Only on the last climb around 2kilometers from the finish did he finally let go and I was able to complete the ‘one-two’ for Nedbank 360life, finishing just behind Dave.

Its always great being a part of this event, and thanks to Dryland Events and local rider Pieter Blignaut for inviting us and accommodating our families for a great weekend away in the Karoo. Hope to be back next year!

Provisional Results:

1st Dave George (Nedbank 360life) 2hrs45min

2nd Kevin Evans (Nedbank 360life) +25sec

3rd Ruan Du Toit (Novo Nordisk) +30sec

4th Ben Melt Swanepoel (Specialized)

5th Dave Morison (Blend Properties)

Next race, starts this Monday in Oudtshoorn, six days of The Cape Pioneer Trek, 700km and 14000m of climbing, team event and our final equipment fine-tuning for next years Epic.

Till then, cheers.

Kevin Evans

Monday, October 10, 2011

MTN Ultra Marathon #8, Crater Cruise

MTN Ultra Marathon #8, Crater Cruise, Parys, 107km

Having spent the better part of about 6years trying to figure this monster ‘dash for cash’ race out, its safe to say we have a formulae! We were fortunate enough being able to come into this race today with two solid cards we could throw down on the table. The one card was for overall series, which Dave had the lead of going into this final event. The other card was my knowledge of the race, tactics, and the fact that if I could win, then Dave would win the overall series, then we all win!

So with our combined strengths on race day and the preparations that we’ve made whilst being away from our family for nearly a month in ensuring we can focus 110% on the job at hand and do it professionally will prove the outcome.

The race rolled out of the town and once we crossed the river heading out on the 10km tar section to begin with, the roadies would force an early break-away, aiming for the hotspots and King of the mountain competitions. Mannie Heymans (Garmin/Adidas), Jock Green (Ghost/Do it Now) and Pieter Seyfert (Team Matlosana) were the best riders in the break with the most experience and it looked good that something may happen from this.

But back to our race, all according to plan until we hit the new section of farm roads halfway up the usual KOM hill. It bottle necked here but I remained calm then had to work my way around all the riders who were coming out the back. I managed to work my way through to Dave, in perfect position just as we hit the big technical climb for the day. I immediately went into the climb first with Dave tight on my rear wheel, as we smashed it up the climb as quickly as possible. The race was splitting into pieces and once through this 8km section, we could take stock on the wider open gravel road of the damage done, who was there who was not etc.

The racing was on and all the riders, including the early breakaway guys we had caught, were with us, and all doing their bit in contributing to setting the pace.

So we had about 8 or 10 riders, but Adrien Nyionshuti (MTN/Qhubeka) was chasing from around a minute back the whole time alone. This was playing out perfectly for us as I drove the break hard to ensure we stayed away. Adrien needed to win today for Dave not to have a chance of overall victory in the national series. All the other riders seemed focused on Dave, and through the riverside singletrack, Brandon Stewart attacked alone and caused a bit of a stir as a small group chased him for around 7km. Once he was brought back, his teammate attacked, Jacques Rossouw but I immediately followed him and all it took was for the group to look around at each other for a few seconds, and we had our gap. This would become the race deciding moment. Ears pinned back we rolled hard and fast working together to establish our lead.

I’ve raced plenty with JR and like his style, so when we went, we went hard. At the water table, he stopped to fill a bottle and I put some air into my tire, which had lost pressure through some of the many rock sections. Back on the bikes and it was ‘full gas’ with our lead increasing all the time. 12km to go, I put in an effort under the culvert and up the rough grass climb, but for some reason near the top, my wheel got stuck in a rut and down I went. I jumped back on, and at the last water point JR had to stop to inflate his front tire. By this stage I had 30seconds, and that was all I needed. I know the final 10km only too well.

Hooking along at top speeds on the Scott Spark 29er Rc (Ruby) I was stomping through the rough sections when my front wheel hit a rock and flung me over the bars in a complete mess. I thought that was the end, as I picked myself up and jumped back on, everything working, seat skew and bar-end pointing to the sky. I Looked back, still had a fair gap, gave myself a pep talk, took a look at my Ruby sign, pulled myself together and off I went, now no stopping me to the finish line where I really savored and enjoyed every moment of winning my hat-trick of Craters!

My victory would mean that Dave would be crowned the new Overall Marathon Champion for 2011, but he still attacked his group and took 3rd place, nearly catching JR for second!

Dave and I can’t thank Nedbank 360life enough for the support they have given us this year. This was but a very small way of saying thank you, and for myself personally, it was affirmation that my string of ‘ducks’ is over!

Thanks to everyone who has supported us along the way, without all of you, none of this is possible.

Lastly thank you to Advendurance, for giving us exceptional World Class events and making it possible to attract the sponsors we have into this fantastic sport of ours. You guys set the benchmark, and you set it high.

Provisional Results:

1st Kevin Evans (Nedbank Team360life) 3hrs27min

2nd Jacques Rossouw (Itec Connect-Kathea)

3rd Dave George (Nedbank Team360lfe)

4th Brandon Stewart (Itec Connect-Kathea)

5th Ben Melt Swanepoel (Specialized)

Next race, will see us heading down for a week into the Klein Karoo and Garden Route for the Seweweekspoort and then the team 6day stage race, The Cape Pioneer Trek. We will use this tough race to fine-tune our equipment for the following years Epic.

Till then, cheers.

Kevin Evans