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

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