Sunday, February 19, 2012

MTN Ultra Marathon #2, Tulbagh

Photo by Zoon Cronje: Kevin Evans

MTN Ultra Marathon, Tulbach, 107km, 2400m

The second leg of the MTN series headed to a small town in the Western Cape that holds some special memories for me. Tulbach was the disaster scene of the end of our 2011 Cape Epic, and although I did return with Dave to make amends after the Epic as it was part of 2011 MTN series, I don’t think I’ll ever fully recover from the emotional scarring stowed upon me from that day. Ok, enough of the drama writing.

Advendurance had organized another class event, and this event would field the best quality riders in the country, all vying for a good result to count towards the overall series. Most notably on the start line, was Burry Stander who is always ready to make the racing hard, but is always great to race against as he sets the level for us compared to the international riders. But we were up for the job at hand, and we always embrace the competition. Added to that, Jacques Rossouw off a fantastic win in the first race, plus the best of the rest, the race was set to be a tough one. And besides the competition, the ruggedness of the area, the rocks, dry loose sand and hot temperatures, would prove more than enough for most riders to deal with.

The route followed the same first 30km loop as the Epic did, so we knew it well, only without the descent where I crashed. The Spark 29er’s absolutely demolished the route, and our Scotts were turning what last year seemed like a rough and rocky course, into ‘tarmac’. We were only six riders left after the first climb, and that would be the selection for the day. As predicted by some of the media, Adrien Nyionshuti, Max Knox, Jacques Rossouw, Burry Stander, Dave George and myself. The six of us rolled through the dry terrain of Tulbach and after the second feed zone, around the 70km mark, the trails began to get rough again, and Burry, Dave and myself decided it was time to start making the racing hard. We upped the tempo, and dislodged Max and Adrien, with Jacques hanging off the back like an elastic band.

When we hit the final climbs, I set a really tough tempo, and Burry was able to follow, Jacques was fighting to try and stay in contact, and Dave just a little behind him.

Burry and I had the gap, and when we thought the climbs were over, they weren’t, and the race wound its way through some super singletrack, and then up a final monster of a pull. By the last tech zone, we had a minute on Jacques, but his persistence saw him nearly catch us in the final two kilometers, great fighting spirit!

We hit the final straight into the finish, where I led the sprint out, and my record against Burry in sprint finishes does not count in my favor, however this one was remarkably close, and he just snuck around in the final 50meters to take the win. Jacques came in third, and Dave a good fourth place, Adrien rounding out the top five.

If we take the good out of it, bikes, body and team is in great shape. We had a benchmark with which to compare ourselves, and we are on track. A few more weeks, and the form will be ready for our big goal. Thanks Swen for the great back up, and Grant Clack, Nigel Clack and his ‘special late harvest’ friends for their Tulbach hospitality.

Provisional Results:

1st Burry Stander (Specialized) 4hrs40

2nd Kevin Evans (Nedbank Team360Life) same time

3rd Jacques Rossouw (Fedgroup-Itec Connect)

4th Dave George (Nedbank Team360life)

5th Adrien Niyonshuti (MTN/Qhubeka)

Next race, the Sabie MTN Ultra Marathon, and the first of the Marathon World cup events. Its great to have a marathon world series again, which I last, competed in 2005. We are looking forward to seeing the international riders out for that.

Till then, cheers.

Kevin Evans

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