Monday, March 12, 2012

Cape Argus Cycle Tour

Cape Argus Cycle Tour, 107km, 990m

I suppose besides the South African Road Race Championships, in this country, the Cape Argus is as big as it gets when it comes to one-day races. And it is a special event, going on for 35years, with nearly 40000 riders taking part, attracting any and everyone from previous Tour de France Champions to various political figures and celebrities, its South Africa’s most iconic road race. It’s also the largest timed cycle event in the world. And very often your cycling capabilities are judged by the finish time you post in this race! Dave and I were trying to work out the night before how many times we had done this race, but must have guessed at least forty times between the two us.

Conditions were perfect for the 35th year, and the only problem would be for the middle to back field riders as temperatures would easily reach mid thirties later on. For the professional bunch, with our ‘normal’ start time around 6am, we would be done way before the heat could affect us. This year our group was fairly big as we had some big teams, plus veteran A bunch riders with us. Possible the group was a little too big for a professional bunch, so safety becomes a big concern.

I was adamant to ride as conservatively as possible this year, but making sure I stayed out of trouble. That was the most important factor for Dave and I, to finish safely. The flurry of attacks continued the whole way around the Cape Point, with no real significant moves or breaks succeeding as the big teams controlled the tempo.

It was once we hit Chapmans Peak that Dave decided to light it up, and with some good depth in the front, with riders like Christoph Sauser, Darren Lill, Reinardt Janse Van Rensburg, Jaco Venter and a few others, we had actually forced a small split over the top. Speeding down in towards Hout Bay, only a few more riders were able to join, most notably some more sprinters like Johan Rabie, Arran Brown and Hanco Kagelhoffer. The tempo was consisitent up Suikerbossie and we rolled over the top with a group of around 12 riders. For Dave and myself, this was as good as it was going to get for this course. Really bad luck for us though as no sooner were we on the descent to Camps Bay and Dave punctured, ending his chances as he waited for the vehicle to get a spare wheel. Meanwhile, the group was starting to get nervous and once through Camps Bay, we started to attack to see if we could split the small group further to avoid taking the fast men to the line. Darren Lill and myself had a few tries, but Reinardt from MTN/Qhubeka was really strong, and was able to bring back all the moves we tried.

I had a final dig with 1500m left to race, but again I was caught within the last kilometer. Reinardt saw his gap, and took the sprint from a long way out. I was on his wheel briefly till he literally just rode away from me and powered his way to a well-deserved and predicted win. Herman Fouchie took second for Bonitas, Jaco Venter third for his Cape Town team Nuwater, and Arran Brown just beating me for fourth place.

I was really pleased to get fifth, just ahead of fellow mountain biker Christoph Sauser. I think for a non-sprinter, it was as good as we could have hoped for. Anyway the signs are looking good for Dave and I, and we made it through safely, and also put on a good show considering we were just a two-man team against the biggest teams in the country.

Next race, Cape Epic, say no more.

Dave and I will be heading off to the serenity and trails of Harkerville to fine tune and taper for the race, and will be back in Cape Town a couple days before the start.

Till then, cheers.

Description: Signature

Kevin Evans

Provisional results:

1st Reinardt Janse Van Rensburg (MTN/Qhubeka) 2hrs36min

2nd Herman Fouchie (Bonitas)

3rd Jaco Venter (Nuwater)

4th Arran Brown (MTN/Qhubeka)

5th Kevin Evans (Nedbank Team360life)

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Monday, March 5, 2012

Pick n Pay Argus Mountain Bike Challenge

Photo by Suzi Giliomee: Kevin Evans

Pick n Pay Argus Mountain Bike Challenge, Boschendal, 66km, 1380m

The off-road version of the Argus Cycle tour has always taken place the Sunday before its big brother, The Cape Argus, and in a short space of time, gained in popularity and prestige. As I first contested it in 2004, it always fascinates me to see how this event has changed and become one of the more organized down in the Cape. With Race Director Dave Bellairs and course designers Meurant Botha, the event really caters for all levels of riders and provides them with a fun, but also serious route that tests rider’s skills and fitness, and all in the space of the beautiful Boschendal wine estates. The 65km route includes a little bit of everything for the pros.

The other noticeable change this year was the addition of the race being held separate to the Columbia Grape Escape which last year finished on this course, but was separate from the Argus race. This way round, anyone could come and contest the race, whether you raced the stage race or not, so a few new dynamics would unfold during the race. Although the guys who rode the Grape Escape were on the grid, there would be a few fresh hungry athletes, with fresh legs, and would mean a tough battle. I too would start with relatively fresh legs as my wingman, Dave, took ill the night before the final stage of Grape Escape, and we had to call it quits on the last day. This however meant and I could conserve my strength for the Argus race.

This paid off as I had fairly fresh legs on the day, and began making the tempo hard as soon as the roads turned upward. The big group was slowly splitting up, and at around 35-55km, I went full gas, and soon Burry and Christoph were the only two riders who could join me in the front. Having both the Songo riders with was not ideal. I had to race smart, and had decided that I cannot take either rider to the line for a sprint, so was going to have to try get away somewhere in the remaining kilometers. We went through a river crossing, which was followed by some really rough and rocky jeep tracks, and Spark was absolutely incredible through this section, so I again went as hard as I could here. Unbeknownst to me, Burry had a mechanical issue at the crossing, whilst Christoph fought hard to stay on my wheel. After about 5km Christoph popped off my back wheel and this was my gap. The final 8km I just had to concentrate and make sure I rode steady and safely, which I did, and I was able to enjoy winning this great race for the second time. Christoph held on for second, just ahead of Jacques Rossouw who had made up some time in the latter part of the race.

Provisional Results:

1st Kevin Evans (Nedbank Team360life) 2hr23:19

2nd Christoph Sauser (Songo) 2hrs24:52

3rd Jacques Rossouw (Fedgroup-Itec-connect) 2hrs25:56

Next race, the big one in Cape Town, The Cape Argus Cycle Tour. Not a very important race for us, but one which we love doing and joining the other forty thousand odd riders that take part in it. Should be fun!

Till then, cheers.

Kevin Evans

Columbia Grape Escape

Photo by Kevin Evans

Columbia Grape Escape, Day 1, Durbanville-Wellington 75km, 1330m

The Columbia Grape Escape was the first race win for myself last year, however this year the race format was changed to accommodate individual riders and teams, with the focus being on teams. The race attracted all the biggest teams, and would be a real tough and closely contested race.

The first stage saw most of the individual riders set the early hard tempos, and after the big climb up to the top of Cotermanskloof, there were only three teams, and three individual riders. The Bulls1 Team of Karl Platt and Stefan Sahm were the only guys missing, but after 30km, they joined us with Shan Wilson.

There was not a lot in the stage to try and force any moves, and the fast pace saw us rapidly approaching the finish in Wellington. It came down to a sprint, but after a few hundred meters through some of the worst thorns imaginable, it was Songo who won just ahead of Dave and myself, followed shortly a few seconds back by the Bulls2 team.

Stage 2, Wellington to Diemersfontein, 70km, 1550m

Stage 2 on paper looked like a tough day, with most of the climbing coming in the last 20-30km. We also decided to change bikes back to our Scott Sparks, which was the right choice, as the route was getting rougher. The group rolled together nicely and without too much action. This was about to change in a matter of minutes as we hit the steep and rough singletracks of the Welgevan Pass. About 5km before this tough piece, I had swerved around some of the tail enders of the group and in the space of 50m, had gone through a bad patch of ‘devil’ thorns. One by one, as they came out the tire, I would loose sealant, until there was none left in my front tire. This went flat just as we were near the top of the tough section and the split was happening. Dave and I stopped twice to sort it out, then jumped back on and started our frantic chase to get back to the group.

We were going well, and as the climb continued I had to stop to inflate my rear tire which had also gone down. After this there was not much we would be able to do to catch the front guys. We merely enjoyed the fantastic route that the organizers had set out for us, and the beautiful scenery in which we were surrounded. We managed to hold onto a fourth position, about 90seconds behind the third placed Bulls2 team. Songo won the stage ahead of Bulls1.

Stage 3, Diemersfontein-Boschendal, 70km, 2050m

This stage suited us perfectly, and with a few minutes to make up to get back onto the podium, we were ready to give our all. Except those plans were derailed in the early evening of the previous night, when Dave caught a tummy bug of note. This kept him up the whole night, and he was very ill. We decided to start the stage, and just see how he felt along the way.

Again the pace was being turned on by mostly Ralph Naef, the world class cross-country rider training for the Pietermaritzburg world cup. The group was thinned out quickly with the route going mostly straight up from the start. After about 15km, I looked back and saw Dave had dropped off the back of the group. I waited for him, and it was evident then that we were not going to see the end of the stage. He was completely dehydrated from the previous evening, with no energy in the tank. We decided to ride until the tech zone where Swen was waiting for us, and from there, excuse ourselves from the race and head home.

There was no point in heading to the finish with Dave needing some good rest and down time. I also decided it would be a good idea to conserve as much energy as possible to give the Mountain Bike Argus a good go the following morning.

The final results were as follows:

Provisional Results:

1st Songo Sauser/Stander

2nd Bulls 1 Platt/Sahm

3rd Bulls 2 Dietch/Boehme

Next race, tomorrow morning, the off road Argus at Boschedal. I have won the race before, and on the short fast and technical course, its always a challenge. Here’s hoping for some good legs!

Till then, cheers.

Kevin Evans