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.
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)