Sunday, January 29, 2012

MTN Ultra Marathon, #1, Barberton

Photos by: Zoon Cronje

Kevin Evans MTN Ultra Marathon, Barberton, 120km, 2800m

Nice change to race Barberton in the sun and heat, although the rains in the area definitely took its toll on the route, which was now perfect for our Spark RC’s. The Ultra Marathon route basically consists of two loops, a 75km loop including the first big climb of around 10km, followed by a 45km loop, again including a leg busting lung burning climb of about 8km. The last 25km of both loops are identical, but very rocky and rough jeep track interspersed with 14river crossings, tests you and your machine to the limit. Swen Lauer our new full time mechanic made sure the bikes were singing for the race, and they ran as smooth as could be.

Usually from my past experiences with this race, if you don’t make the front split on the first big climb, potentially your race is over, as you won’t see the leaders again. I had a hard time up the first climb following the pace that was being set by a few riders, Adrien Niyonshuti and Jacques Rossouw mostly. But I managed to hang in for over an hour and went over the top of the climb with a small group of six riders. However soon after, the group sat up and before we entered the reserve, it had swelled to about 12-14riders. Not a comfortable situation racing through the rough jeep tracks and river crossings. The second loop was fast approaching and a natural thinning out of the bunch was immanent.

Within a matter of minutes up the climb, which was now also scorching hot, I found myself struggling behind the four guys in front of me, with Rossouw setting a hard pace that only Van Rensburg, Knox and Lill could follow. I decided knowing that the climb was very long, to ride my own tempo, some sound advise from teammate Dave who was just a bit further behind me. As the climb progressed, I started clawing my way back into the race after some mind games and ‘pep’ talks with myself. First I caught and passed Lill, then Knox, and right on the top finally Van Rensburg. The two of us rode well together but once we were into the rough jeep tracks, the Scott Spark was in a league of its own and combined with some freshmotivation, I was soon chasing Rossouw alone in second place. I had no idea of time gaps, but I rode a hard pace to finish 2nd, but also to finish off an intense two week block of training with the team. Dave finished in 13th, but after flu during the training camp, it was kind of what he expected. It was also quite cool to think that our ‘junior’ rider James was racing in Pretoria flying the flag for the team in the first XC race for the season at the same time. We are now officially running two programs!

Its also amazing for me to see the progress from Advendurance as they continue to roll out world class events and I don’t think it will be long before we see a marathon world champion or championship coming out of South Africa!

Provisional Results: 1st Jacques Rossouw (FedgroupItecConnect) 5hrs 2nd Kevin Evans (Nedbank 360Life) 3rd Jacques Janse van Rensburg (MTN/Qhubeka) 4th Max Knox (Decca/Ghost) 5th Darren Lill (Bonitas)

Next race, the team will travel down to Port Elizabeth for the Herald Cycle tour, where we will have two days of racing, the Herald Mountain bike race in Addo, and the road race on Sunday. Till then, cheers.

Kevin Evans

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

KZN Road Championships, 2012

Photo by Swen Lauer: Kevin Evans

Elite Road Championships, Westville 127km, 1500m

Nedbank 360lfe decided to kick off our racing season with the Kwazulu-Natal Road champs held on a circuit at Westville. As the team has been on a 10day training camp based in Pietermaritzburg, we thought the race could fit nicely into our training program, and with some quality riders taking part; the workout was well worth it.

The circuit around Westville was completely closed off, and the cyclists would have the whole M13 to themselves, a great route of around 13km per lap, allowing for some great spectating, a tough circuit, and completely safe racing.

There was not a whole lot of action early on in the race, as the course was fairly tough and riders were saving themselves for the latter stages of the race. Our newly recruited youngster was eager to turn the screws in early, and threw a few attacks, but was always marked by some of his fellow cross country mountain biker competitors. Dave who was recovering from a hard week of training and still slightly under the weather from a cold, was content to watch what was happening and offer his vast experience for when it mattered.

I had decided to wait until the last two laps to try something, but Burry Stander was looking eager and up for a challenge.

It was on lap 8, with two laps remaining that I saw a spontaneous moment in the race to hit the bunch hard when they least expected it, and once I had turned the corner, it was only Burry who had bridged the gap across to me. So here I was again, Burry and I, and a lap and half to go. Behind us, Dave and James had ridden clear of the bunch, and being only 45seconds behind us, I was able to sit on Burry’s wheel and start strategizing the best way to beat him.

Unfortunately, with the climb being too short and shallow, I had one last effort near the top to test him, but he was too good and held on, as I then had to lead the sprint out.

Not my best option to try and win in hindsight, but after a hard week of training, I was pleasantly surprised with myself, and James and Dave too who rolled in shortly after us!

So far all good, everything has been really smooth for us moving into the new year, from our new Life Policies (360life of course), to equipment from Scott and kit by Craft, we are looking forward to a great season with the best possible support behind us.

Time to ‘Make things happen’.

Provisional Results:

1st Burry Stander (Specialized) 3hrs30

2nd Kevin Evans (Nedbank 360Life) same time

3rd James Reid (Nedbank 360life)

4th Dave George (Nedbank 360life)

5th Rourke Croeser (Cannondale-Monkey)

Next race, the season opener and start of the MTN Ultra Marathon series, taking place in Barberton. Should be a great and competitive start to the marathon year!

Till then, cheers.

Kevin Evans