Photo by Vic Momsen: Kevin Evans
VW Herald MTB Challenge, Addo, Revised route, 80-90km
I always enjoy racing in the Eastern Cape, after all, it’s where I started my mountain bike racing way back when. Except for the torrential down pours we had been experiencing over the past few days, the weather just wouldn’t let up. In fact, on Friday, it even got worse, to a point where Dave George could not even fly into Port Elizabeth, and would have to sit this race out. This would leave James (Junior) and myself, to fly the Nedbank 360life flag for the weekend.
Conditions were so bad, that race organizers were forced to have to change most of the route, and for the safety of the riders, was the only choice they would have. They did however provide a challenging route nonetheless and for us in the front, the racing would always be hard.
In these conditions, you really have to manage your equipment well, as the non-stop mud takes its toll on the drive train of the bike. It also taxes the body, and you constantly have to force yourself to eat and drink which is difficult most times. I decided the best place to ride, was in the front, and that’s where I stayed right from the start of the race. I figured its only going to be harder trying to follow wheels, and setting the pace would be marginally easier.
The main split for the day happened on the big climb up the Zuurberg pass, a hard 8km climb. This is where James and I pushed the pace up, and he was really impressing with his gutsy ride on the day. We were expecting a big effort from Jacques Rossouw who we know is on good form, and when it came, junior was able to follow the wheel comfortably. Having a teammate up front with you, that’s strong, is invaluable and James was filling Dave’s shoes for the day.
After the climb, we were four riders left, two from FedgroupItecConnect, and two from Nedbank 360life. We would then descend and make our way through the farms back to the start finish where we would do another lap of the 30km course. Just before the final loop, I put in an effort and Jacques had to work really hard for the next ten kilometers to catch me, whilst James could sit on his wheel, but the efforts were enough to isolate him.
James only battled in the final 20km, where Jacques and I rode away, and from here, I knew on the flat muddy run in to the end, it would come down to a sprint.
I’ve lost a few races on this exact same sprint, and today I wasn’t going to take any chances, and gave it everything to make sure I got on the field first, with only about 300m from there to the finish line. I managed to just hold Jacques off to take a close win. James held on for 3rd, and Brandon Stewart and Dave Morrison, who were in fourth and fifth on the road, got sent on a third, lap, giving fourth place to Oliver Munnik and fifth to Julius Cobbett.
A great ride in terrible conditions, but I guess, you have these days and the experience you gain from them is always important.
1. Kevin Evans (Nedbank 360life) 3:10:17
2. Jacques Rossouw (FedgroupItecConnect) 3:10:19
3. James Reid (Nedbank 360life) 3:14:39
4. Oliver Munnik (GT) 3:20:26
5. Julius Cobbett (GT-Zaskar) & Brandon Stewart (FedgroupItecConnect) 3:41:29
Next race, take the team to the Cedarberg, where I can actually for a change say I have no idea what to expect as it will be my first time there. Ride the Rock, a new three-day race. Looking forward to it, plus some hotter weather, please.
Till then, cheers.