Sunday, May 20, 2012

BOE Sani2c

Pic Coetzee Gouws. Kevin Evans

BOE Sani2C, Underberg-Scottburgh, 3days, 300km

You have to love the enthusiasm that surrounds this race. It’s created such hype within the mountain bike community and has clearly become the race to do. Hence the reason that they now have three races running back to back over the week to accommodate the numbers.
I would be lining up for my 6th time, and third with Dave as a partner. And we were eager to put the previous years misfortune on the final behind us and reclaim the Sani2c title, one which I have had the privilege of winning four times.

Part of this plan was to make the racing as hard as possible from day 1, usually an unexpected move as the stage is fairly short with not too much climbing. But having raced through the route ten days ago in Joberg2c, we saw how hard it could potentially be. And as we hit the first 7km, we opened up the taps and forced ourselves off the front, establishing a small gap. The chasers were Stewart and Lill of FedgroupItecConnect/Bonitas and a pleasantly surprising second team of ours, made up last minute consisting of James Reid and Charles Keey from Blend Properties. As they were also essentially a backup team for us, they were able to just sit on the wheels of our pursuers and not contribute to the work being done.
Dave and I pushed hard and kept a solid tempo, one that we could maintain till the end of the stage. Meanwhile behind us, Lill had snapped his chain in the last 10km, presenting the opportunity for James and Charles to take second place about 2minutes back, whilst Stewart and Lill managed to come in third about 5minutes back.

Day two is always the highlight of the race, and words cannot describe the 40km of singletrack that descends into the Umko Valley. It really is something special, and having the route fresh in our minds, we were really able to enjoy the near perfect conditions on the day and just have fun.
The real racing started for us around the 45km mark through the rough tracks in the valley where we were able to put our bikes into action and use our strength as a team on the climbs to ride away from the same two teams. I found the second half of the stage quite hard with the legs feeling the effort of the previous day, but I guess we were all in the same boat. Dave and I rode a flawless stage to take our second win, and again, our backup team managed to take second place as Stewart and Lill had a slow puncture to contend with, essentially taking them out of contention for the win.

The final day, and one, which cost us the race a year ago, we were adamant not to make any mistakes. We were also hoping to try and somehow get our second team to take a stage win. Not sure how everyone was feeling, I could feel my legs were good, and as soon as we hit the first climb, Stewart battled to keep up with the tempo that Lill was setting. As soon as we saw this, Dave took over and forced the pace, taking James and Charles over with us. From there we had a four-man team trial, making no mistakes over the 75km course, all the way down to Scottburgh beach and up to the school fields.
It was really special to watch the two youngsters ride onto the field ahead of us to take their first stage win in this event, whilst Dave and I could really savor the moment, enjoying our second and fifth win respectively in this fantastic event.

Our performance over the three days is definitely a reflection of the head space we are in thanks to the great sponsors and support we have behind us, making it all happen.

Next race will be Trans Germany, and Dave is in great shape for this race. I will decide in the next couple of days whether I go over and ride as back up for him, or take a well deserved break before the second half of the season arrives.

Description: Signature

Kevin Evans


Provisional results:
1st Evans/George (Nedbank Team360life) 8hrs30min
2nd Reid/Keey (Nedbank Team360life/Blend)
3rd Stewart/Lill (FedgroupItecconnect/Bonitas)


Sunday, May 13, 2012

MTN Ultra Marathon #5, Mabalingwe

Pic  Zoon Cronje. Kevin Evans

MTN Ultra Marathon, Mabalingwe, 110km, 1950m

The fifth leg of the MTN Ultra series moved up north to the Mabalingwe Nature Reserve just outside Bela-Bela. Having raced here only previously in the Rooiberg Eco Challenge, I had some sort of idea what to expect, however, racing past white lion and a circular route of 110km in a nature reserve would be a fairly unique experience.

The usual suspects contending the MTN series lined up at the start, as we headed off onto the Ultra Marathon course. The start wasn’t as fast as normal, but I suppose most of the riders have had a busy couple of months, most competing in the Epic and Joberg2c. So everyone I think was a little weary of what lay ahead. That was until we hit the first climb up Vodacom Hill, and Dave ripped the race to pieces with a really hard tempo that only Max Knox and myself could follow. We soon had a small gap as we cruised past the first tech zone with no hassles, the Scott Sparks proving the right bike again for the rough course. It was just past here that I was pulling a fast pace on the front of the trio and I overcooked a corner and took a hard tumble on the gravel. I had to pick myself up, access any damage, straighten my bars and catch up to Dave and Max.
We hit the next rocky section shortly after this, and a small chasing group including Nico Bell, Gawie Combrinck and Neil Macdonald had caught us. Again Dave set the tempo, with Max on his wheel. I eased up a little and rode the climb with Neil. Just over the top, there was a really technical downhill and my front wheel was deflected off a rock and I was sent over the bars hard into a pile of rocks. Again I had to pick myself up, luckily nothing broken, just a bent derailleur hanger, a sore body from head to toe and a wounded ego. Again I chased and soon regrouped the front pack, which were now Dave, Max, Gawie and Neil. Just as I was back on, Neil had a similar crash to mine, however he would not be so lucky and was forced to quit with a broken collarbone. This was proving testament to be a really physical route, and was as tough a mountain bike route I’d ridden in a long while. At one stage I was wondering if my old man had anything to do with this one.

I starting fatiguing quite early on, mostly unable to find a rhythm particularly with the various aches and pains I had from the two crashes. I decided to rather ride my own tempo and ‘nurse’ myself to the finish. Although I’m not sure riding the following forty kilometers on my own was easy. I was expecting to be caught by the chasers and then have a few wheels to sit on, but no one caught me, and I had only myself for company right to the end.
Meanwhile Dave made good on his word and delivered the win for the team. He had a superb race and never put a foot wrong. Max would have to be content with second place, and Gawie rode a fantastic race to hold onto third place. The result from this weekend puts both Dave and I nicely poised for the overall series, and with three races left, so much can still happen.
Again it was the usual well organized event that we know Advendurance for, and is always a pleasure taking part in their races.
Now its time for me to rest up, and then move forward to Sani.

Next race will be a highlight for the year, the Sani2c, and having just done the same three days in the Joberg2c, I feel privileged to be able to be back there and race such fantastic routes.

Description: Signature

Kevin Evans


Provisional results:
1st David George (Team Nedbank 360life) 4hrs23
2nd Max Knox (Songo)
3rd Gawie Combrinck (Westvaal/Columbia)
4th Kevin Evans (Team Nedbank 360life)
5th Nico Bell (Westvaal/Columbia)


Sunday, May 6, 2012

Old Mutual Joberg2C

Kevin Evans

Old Mutual Joberg2C, 9Days, 910km

Stage 1 (non-racing) Karan Beef, Heidelberg–Frankfort – 113km, 917m
This definitely a unique way in which to start a bike race, with a neutral stage, where we could ride our own pace and mingle with average weekend warriors. It was still no gimme at 113km and with the sudden rise up to altitude and the lack of post Epic training, I was having myself a little fright of what lay ahead. Dave seemed to be fine, and the stage highlights were crossing the Val River in one of the many dragon boats that we had to paddle across. Four and half-hours later we arrived at the finish and began to setup our camper and home for the next 8nights. Along with our Hyundai H1, trailer, Swen and Nicoles tents, we would have a cozy campsite awaiting us every day.

Stage 2 Frankfort–Reitz – 93km, 1030m
Not quite sure what prompted us to do what we did on this stage, but after around 15km into the race, we some fast and fun Freestate singletrack. Dave and I came out with Stewart and Rossouw of Fedgroup, and soon found ourselves with a small gap on the rest of the field. Rossouw had dropped off the pace, and Dave and I continued on our own, building ourselves a lead of around a minute. This was not easy to maintain as four teams were pursuing us, and they would obviously roll faster than us on the big district roads. Un-sure how my legs would survive this effort, I was pleasantly surprised when we were able to hold on to take the first stage by around 40seconds. Not an easy way to win, but definitely a rewarding one.

Stage 3 Reitz–Sterkfontein Dam – 125km, 1064m
Again we started the stage with perfect weather, and how recovery had been made easy with the support of our staff. We rolled out easy and I was convinced that today I would spare as much energy as possible and just follow the wheels for what would be my longest ride in a month.
The bunch stayed together until around 80km, when the pace started heating up, and soon, it was only Team RE-CM, Fedgroup and ourselves left. Dave and I turned on the gas again around the 100km mark, but this stage looked set to finish in a sprint. It was a magnificent site rolling up to the Sterkfontein Dam, and we were at the disadvantage of not knowing how the finish worked, having not ridden the race the previous year. I looked ahead and saw a fairly subtle climb, followed by some rough grass tracks to the finish, and knew that our Scott Spark’s would be the biggest advantage over the rest. I went hard up the drag, followed by RE-CM, and straight into the rough track towards the finish. Unfortunately through the rough bit, Neil Macdonald got his chain jammed and Dave and I were able to finish ahead of Fedgroup for the win, and gain another half a minute or so.

Stage 4 Sterkfontein Dam–Winterton – 124km, 1937m
This had to be one of the most phenomenal days I’ve had on a mountain bike in my career. Not in terms of how I felt, but for the trails that Craig, Gary and Glen and found to drop us off the Escarpment and down towards the Berg. Incredible fast flowing trails, with panoramic views that showcase our country to the max. The day was long, and heating up fast. Again we had so much singletrack to digest, that the long piece after Spieonkop, you battled to be able to get your hands off the bars to eat, and could feel fatigue creeping in. Fedgroup made a break at the final feed zone and river crossing, and Dave and I responded quickly to get onto their wheels, and for the remainder of the stage, the last 20km, just followed them, allowing them to do all the work as we got a ‘free’ ride to the finish. They managed to take the stage in the sprint, but I was content to see the end of this long and challenging stage. Dave also earned more respect for some exceptional downhill skills displayed, too much fun.

Stage 5 Winterton–Kamberg – 102km, 1625m
The organizers varied the route up, and after all the technical riding of the previous day, todays stage ran along the foothills of the Berg, and was absolutely beautiful. Only downside was the start of a lot more climbing. Although this suited us, we managed to ride a gap into the field up the biggest climb, only to be joined by Team RE-CM. Fedgroups Rossouw was suffering from illness and the opportunity for us to ride away with RE-CM would mean that we extended our overall lead as Fedgroup were second on general classification. So again, the final 20km we benefited from a ‘free’ ride as the boys in black and yellow were also trying consolidate their overall place and move up into second. The finish was quite tight and narrow and they did earn a great stage win, just ahead of us. However there would be a shuffle on the overall placing behind us. Best part of the day, rolling up to our camper village, which had now grown to include two other teams and the festive vibe within our campsite, was full of good humor, war stories and of course red wine.

Stage 6 Kamberg–Hazeldene Farm – 93.7km, 1982m
The serious climbing was about to begin, and we took full advantage of this stage and put the first bit of serious time into our competition. We managed to ride away on one of the many long climbs early on in the stage, and again spent the remainder of the day alone and at the front of the race. Our bikes were running like machines thanks to the work Swen was doing on them daily, and likewise were our bodies from Nicole. She had adopted the job of mother to us and not only looked after our bodies, but also nutrition, washing and cleaning. The scenery remained breathtaking and a tough day was rewarded with a beautiful campsite just outside Underberg. We extended our overall lead to around nine minutes, which is still not much in this sport, as we know. You couldn’t help but feel the Midlands hospitality in the air, and finally we would be onto familiar tracks. Bring on the Sani routes!

Stage 7 Hazeldene Farm–MacKenzie Club – 86km, 1110m
Effectively this was stage one of the Sani2C, a race I know only too well. This time however, the weather was perfect and the trails were dry and fast. We knew not to waste any energy on the stage, and RE-CM, Brandon Stewart and ourselves rode most of the day at the front of the race, with only a slight gap over Dave Morrisson and Louise Knipe of Team Itec-Connect. They did however latch on to us in the final 10km, just in time for the usual sprint up the final climb to Mackenzie Club. Dave and I were up for the sprint, and just when we were about to have dig, Neil Macdonald opened up the taps, and we simply followed. But he had gone about 100m too early and his teammate, Waylon Woolcock was able to come past him, with Dave and myself on is wheel. Neil was just off the back of us and tis meant we had taken our fourth stage win, and probably our first in a sprint. Team Itec-Connect had now moved up into third spot overall, but the overall race looked set between Nedbank 360life and RE-CM.

Stage 8 MacKenzie Club–Jolivet – 97km, 2230m
Probably the ‘queen’ stage of the event, with the incredible descend down into the Umko Valley, followed by the notorious climbing out, this stage was always one that favored us. However it would be with mixed emotions as the passing away of a good friend and ex teammate the day before. We rode to his memory, and in a way, gave us the motivation to dig a little deeper than we needed to. Again Brandon followed us for company and we set a great tempo ride from the valley floor all the way to the finish. Our Maxxis tires were rolling fast, and had not even come close to letting us down through the various rough and rugged terrain. We took the stage, extended our overall time, and dedicated it to our friend, JVH.

Stage 9 Jolivet–Scottburgh – 75km, 1235m
75km was all that remained between the Joberg2C Massi-Fergusson Tractor Trophy and us. And this time we were adamant to follow the wheels and not miss any turns. In fact this had become the talk of the race village and we were the brunt of many jokes the evening before. RE-CM hungry for a final stage win put all the effort in, and we were content to follow them all the way down onto the beach in Scottburgh, where they rode a small gap into us to take the final stage. Dave and I could enjoy our ride up to the finish, having conquered the Joberg2C for 2012, with a flawless ride and no hassles.
I have to say that the race far exceeded my expectations and has quickly become my favorite event on the calendar, and one that I’d recommend to any budding stage race rider. Chapeau to Glen, Wappo, Gary and their crew for a fantastic nine days of riding.

Next race will be the fifth leg of the MTN Ultra Marathon series in Mabalingwe, and will be an important one as we just missed out on Clarens, which cashed with Joberg2C.
Till then,

Kevin Evans


Provisional results:
1st Evans/George (Team Nedbank 360life) 32hrs27
2nd Macdonald/Woolcock (Team RE-CM) 32hrs44
3rd Morrison/Knipe (Itec-Connect) 33hrs27