Photo by Zoon Cronje: Kevin Evans
XCM World Cup/MTN Ultra Marathon #3, Sabie, 113km, 3200m
I’ve always enjoyed racing in Sabie and have raced here for nearly a decade. Ok that makes me feel my age now. The marathon or Sabie Classic has always been ‘kind’ to me, and I guess I learnt from the best in the race, Mister African aka Mannie Heymans, a seven-time winner of this event. The last time I raced here in the Ultra Marathon in 2010, I won my National Marathon title, so coming back, I was fairly confidant that I should be able to achieve a good result. Plus having the support from the team, and a race partner like Dave who’s equally as strong, our chances were stacked in our favor.
We decided to set the pace on the long first climb, and with tactician Gary Stanleys advice, we soon had most of the European riders on the back foot. It was only Contegos Phil Buys and Brytons Max Knox who could stay with us. As we neared the infamous ‘Mamba’ switchbacks, a relentless three and half kilometer stretch of the fifteen-kilometer climb, I used the steepness of that section, with the added, or should I say, subtracted weight of my Scott Scale RC, to good use, and put the pressure on. I went alone from there till I crested the King of the Mountain hotspot, and then eased up as Max caught back up to me. We assessed the situation from there, and decided to ride a steady tempo together. All the time I was concerned that perhaps I had gone too hard too early, and also the altitude would become a factor in your energy requirements and recovery time, so all the time I was running these factors through my mind and trying to conserve as much as I could. Somewhere between tech zone 3 and 4, Max had a slow puncture on the front wheel, and he would have to stop and inflate it a couple of times. Each time he would have to spend a few extra pennies to get back to me, and those pennies would begin adding up with a really tough 45km loop still left to race.
Max Cluer had the spectators wound up and he really gets the crowd behind you as I came through the start finish area to begin the final loop. Max was starting to fatigue a little by this stage, and still had problems with his front wheel, as I slowly put in what little I had left, to slowly start pulling away from him. The climb just seemed to continue and with no end in sight, I started getting concerned that I might be running out of energy. I knew Dave was about 2-3min back, but I wasn’t sure on who was behind him and what the time gaps were. I carried on and willed the top of that climb to just arrive, and as soon as you think you may be there, you round another corner, and it rears upwards again. My sense of humor monitor was reaching fail point by this stage, and had it not been for the little bit of motivation from some of the Advendurance team, I may have cracked. I finally crested the climb and began the fast 10km downhill stretch towards the finish area. I knew I had a gap of around 4minutes and all I needed to do was concentrate for about 15minutes longer, and I was on my way to my first World Cup Marathon win.
Again Advendurance raised the bar for this event, which is hard to believe, but coming into the finish area and over the final ramp with a large crowd waiting, was a fantastic experience. After an emotionally draining week, I finally put everything behind me and enjoyed the win and the moment.
Max would hold on for 2nd, and Dave would finish 3rd, just ahead of Karl Platt.
The last Marathon World Cup I raced was in 2005, in Sweden Falun, where I finished 10th, and its great to have a world series again, although its not really our focus.
We had some great support around the course and the best support as usual from Nedbank Team 360life. Its hard not to, ‘Make Things Happen’ with support like that.
1st Kevin Evans (Nedbank Team 360Life) 5hrs8min
2nd Max Knox (Bryton) 5hrs14min
3rd Dave George (Nedbank Team 360life) 5hrs17
4th Karl Platt (Team Bulls) 5hrs17
5th Nico Bell (Westvaal/Columbia)
Next race, back down to the Cape for the Columbia Grape Escape, one with special memories as it was my first race win for the team in 2011. This year we will race three days, followed by the Mountain Bike Argus on Sunday. Again there will be a full field of the world’s best riders on the start line.
Till then, cheers.