Sunday, October 21, 2012

Bridge Cape Pioneer Trek

Defended our 2011 Title!

Photos Karin Shermbrucker. Kevin Evans

Bridge Cape Pioneer Trek, 7days, 534km, 11500m

After a frantic finish to the MTN Series in Parys, we caught a flight from Warwick Langebrink, a mate of mine who flew us down directly to Oudtshoorn in his Cesna210, and we were there late Saturday afternoon to start the Bridge CPT on Sunday with us much recovery time as possible thanks to him.

Prologue, Oudtshoorn, 15km, 330m

The first stage on Sunday would feature a short prologue around Matthys Beukes’s farm, just outside town, where he has a number of awesome hand built trails. No doubt he would be the favorite together with his partner for the event, Melt Swanepoel, to win the opener. Dave and I managed a flawless run though the tight and technical course, but the track was in great condition and flowed beautifully. Times were becoming faster with every team that that was setting off, and Matthys and Melt held the fastest time until we managed to edge them out by a mere 22seconds. Dave and I are both really well matched, and prologues suit us, so we were happy to start the race with the leaders jersey on Monday.
Team Contego, Louis Knibe and Craig Boyes posted the third fastest time of the day in the open category.

Happy Prologue winners.

Stage 1, Oudtshoorn-Calitzdorp, 103km, 1750m

The first stage to Calitzdorp would incorporate some new jeep tracks, and some amazing singletracks, which the organizers had found/made in the middle of the Karoo. The bunch stayed together for the first 40-50km, mostly due to fresh legs and a nice flowing track. The rugged terrain would slowly take its toll on equipment and tires, mostly the European riders learning the hard way. Two of the worst incidents, one involved a group of riders being attacked by a huge swarm of angry bees, causing carnage at the back, and very nearly ended a life or two. Thanks to Drylands quick response for evacuating the riders to hospital and re-routing the remaining riders, all riders were treated safely and reinstated into the race as soon as they had recovered. Another casualty for the day was Louise Knibe who took a bad fall and landed up in hospital, Contego’s race over for them.
Meanwhile Dave and I rode a perfect stage, made it count when the route got hard and rode away from the small group  with around 25km to go. We were chased hard by Westvaal/Columbia’s Nico Bell and Gawie Combrink, who at the end of the stage had finished around 40seconds behind us, with Cango-MTB’s Melt and Matthys coming in third not to far behind them. It was a hard day, and recovery for the next day would be key. Again, thanks to Dryland for rolling out the red carpet for us with Guesthouse accommodation as opposed to camping, whilst the weather all the while was looking ominous.

Stage 2, Calitzdorp-Swartberg Pass, 85km, 2800m

This was the stage that had the mountain bike community buzzing, with a mountain top finish on the Swartberg Pass, a huge climb of 1100m over 9km, winning team to the top taking R10000-00! This was provided you finished the race and met the criteria of a point system to ensure you were competitive throughout the race.
With 1700m of climbing before we even got to the pass, Dave and I raced hard from the front, opening a gap on the field, putting our heads down and opening a lead of around 3minutes going into the final climb, ahead of Melt and Matthys. Unfortunately Nico and Gawie had broken a hanger and were loosing time due to having to fix the problem. We continued to set a hard tempo up the climb I know so well, and at the top, we had won the stage by 8minutes, and were close to hundred thousand rand richer, unheard of in mountain biking in South Africa, and creating an iconic stage which will take a fair amount to surpass.

R100000-00, Swartberg Pass finish.

Stage 4, Prince Albert- De Rust, 109km, 1750m

Our race tactics would take a slight change from now on. Key would be safety, to finish each stage without hassles and avoid any mishaps. Having said that, we would remain always at the head of the race, as we still wanted to defend our 2011 title. But with no pressure, it would be fun riding from here on. Near the latter half of the stage, Cango-MTB and we had ridden away from Westvaal/Columbia as they had tire issues. The beautiful tracks took us through the Great Karoo and finally through the scenic and majestic Meiringspoort to the finish in the small town of De Rust. Melt and Matthys made sure of a solid sprint to the line to take the stage win, whilst we cruised in for second place on the day, and Westvaal/Columbia making up huge time to finish third about a minute later.

Stage 5, De Rust-Herold, 64km, 1650m

Although the shortest stage on paper, by no means the easiest, with the small task of having to ride through the infamous Kamannasie Mountains. Our Scott Sparks were absolutely in a league of their own here, and we simply used them to the max as we peddled away from the competition on the rugged jeep trails. Once safely through the harsh terrain, Westvaal/Columbia joined us, and this suited us perfectly as they were racing for second place on general classification. We got a ‘free ride’ to the finish, where they took their first well earned stage win, and reduced their deficit to second place to a mere 30seconds, whilst we had extended our overall lead to a healthy gap over second place.

Stage 6, Herold-George, 73km, 1700m

Rain had put a serious damper on the moods of the riders, and the organizers were forced to cut out a start loop of about 15km around Louvain, but obviously putting the safety and enjoyment of the riders first. The delayed start was great for Dave and I as we crept back into our warm beds, not so cool though for Swen as he was beginning to suffer from post camping/hypothermic/mud depression!
Again we had a plan, and it worked perfectly, as we set the tempo up the first climb, taking Nico and Gawie with us, and once we had safely negotiated the technical descend of the ‘Duiwelskloof Pass’, Nico and Gawie did all the work into George, securing their second place on GC, whilst Dave and I had another free ride to the finish, coming in second for the stage again behind them. We would now go into the final stage with a lead of around 24minutes, and everything looking on track!

Stage 7, George- Oudtshoorn, 84km, 1580m

The final stage, and again, not an easy one, with riders having to tackle the Montagu Pass in the first 20km. Again the weather was miserable, and the back markers of the race would feel the worst of the bad weather as it seemed to get worse as the day went on. Dave and I were keen to bookmark our race with a win, and we set a hard pace right from the start. At first I felt fine, but then the fatigue of a hectic last two weeks kicked in, and I was forced to have to battle with myself to stay on Dave’s wheel. In fact halfway up the climb, I had a few choice words with him, for whom I then apologized, and he politely offered to carry my water bottle up the climb, which saved me about five watts, but I was grateful. Westvaal/Columbia weren’t keen on letting us go, and they were chasing hard around 90seconds behind us. Dave was doing all the work, and I was constantly forcing myself to dig a little more, whilst at one stage, he said lets wait up. After he had worked for around 65km, I couldn’t let him down, got angry and mashed the peddles, only just enough to help us open a gap to around 2minutes, where we could really enjoy our ride up to the finish of the Bridge Cape Pioneer Trek, and successfully defend our title form last year.

I have to make special mention to Henco, Carel and the Dryland crew. One for putting together my most enjoyable Pioneer yet, having found the correct balance of testing routes and some of the best trails the Karoo has to offer. Also for them hosting us and looking after Nedbank 360life like true professional sportsmen, which reflects on their race and organization. For this reason, we will be first to sign up for 2013. It seems they will continue to use these routes, and develop them, so the riders can expect for fun, and even better trails!
Then special thanks to Bridge their new sponsor, with your generous prize money that will no doubt attract bigger names next year. Bridge will always stand out now as great sponsor who supports our sport.

Suffered a bit on the final stage.

So that’s a wrap for the 2012 season, and what a great year we had with Nedbank 360life. We had our fair share of ups and downs, but with their continued support throughout the season, meant we could focus solely at the job on hand, riding our bikes, and having fun. Thanks to all the rest of our sponsors for the super season, its time now for a well earned break, before preparation for 2013 gets underway.
That’s me, tapping out. Perhaps you will see me on a golf course soon!
Till then,

Kevin Evans


Provisional results: MTB
1st Evans/George (Team Nedbank 360life) 20hrs56
2nd Bell/Combrink (Westvaal/Columbia) 21hr21
3rd Beukes/Swanepoel (Cango-MTB) 21hr51


Sunday, October 14, 2012

MTN Crater Cruise

The bridge to the finish

Photo Zoon Cronje. Kevin Evans

MTN Ridemag Crater Cruise, Parys, 107km, 950m

The final race of the MTN Ultra Marathon series would again be contested at the Crater Cruise race in Parys, and although the series was essentially over, the prestige and the big cash bonus was still up for grabs in the race.
Nedbank 360life would have the full squad of three riders, with James Reid riding his last race for this season, whilst Dave and I would still have the Bridge Cape Pioneer Trek to compete starting the following day in Oudtshoorn.

Some nice rains the previous days had made the route fairly compacted, and it was the first time I remember that the dust was settled for the race. A full field was assembled for the race, and the competition looked good and ready. Dave I had a set plan for the race, not very different from the previous few years, and having won it the past three years, I seem to know how to ride the race and pace my efforts accordingly.

The bunch stayed fairly big and without too much excitement in the first 40km, as I’m sure most of the competition has taken a leaf out of my book as to how the race can be won. Once we hit the first big climbs for the day, Dave set the early tempo, and I joined him, followed shortly by James Reid, Phil Buys and Adrien Niyonshuti. We had negotiated the rocky descend and crossed the halfway point, rolling through together when the chase bunch of around 10 more riders caught us. All of a sudden the group had swelled into the biggest lead bunch I’d seen in the previous 5years of the race. I think a big part of this was due to the depth in the field, with more riders showing better form for the race. This would also mean I’d have to devise another strategy, other than what I’ve been accustomed to in the previous few years.

The group heading into the final 20km

With around 35km to go, Dave started hammering out the intervals, and soon whittled the bunch down to around 8riders. His hard efforts were taking their toll on everyone, with a few strong counter attacks from the MTN/Qhubeka pairing of Van Rensburg and Nyionshuti, the lead group was tiring fast. I tried to force a split in the usual place of my race, but again there was too much firepower in the group to try and break away.

I decided I would have to wait till we went under the highway, with a slight bumpy incline, to really give one last hard effort where it would count, to try and ride away, and put the effort in where it counted.
Soon I had a slight gap over the six riders, and the slightest hesitation was all I needed to put my head down and put in everything I had left. Fortunately I had fueled myself well during the race and had the energy when it counted. This, along with the fact that I knew the final 10km so well, and how to pace myself through it, would mean I could extend my lead to around a minute, and really enjoy the final few kilometers into the finish and under the ‘Arc du Triumph’ for my fourth consecutive win.
Junior learns fast!

I was unawares as to how the race was unfolding behind me, but James Reid had put in a great effort to ride away from the remaining riders to take a one two for our team, whilst Neil Macdonald just edged out Dave for third and fourth place respectively.

It was a fantastic end to our MTN Ultra series, and the team very nearly retained the title. Again, I must thank Advendurance, Frits, Wessel, Francoise, Tim plus all the rest of the team behind the scenes for organizing yet another world class race and series! Thanks very much and for sure Nedbank 360life will continue to support the series next season. Also thanks to Attie and Hannes Kookemoer for their continued support of the Crater Cruise.

Next race will be, today, in Oudtshoorn, when we start the seven days Bridge Cape Pioneer Trek. Fortunately we had a private flight from a good friend Warwick Langebrink, who personally flew us down straight after the race, to help ensure maximum recovery, as there is less than 24hrs between the two events.
Till then,

Kevin Evans


Provisional results: MTB
1st Kevin Evans (Team Nedbank 360life) 3hrs30
2nd James Reid  (Team Nedbank 360lfe)
3rd Neil Macdonald (RE:CM)
4th Dave George (Team Nedbank 360life)
5th Adrien Nyionshuti (MTN/Qhubeka)


Tuesday, October 9, 2012

World Marathon Championships, France.


Photo Swen Lauer. Kevin Evans

World Marathon Champs, France, 84km, 3300m

Ornans in the Eastern region of France was the host to the 2012 Marathon World Championships. We obviously missed the all-important brief on how wet this region of France actually gets.
The steep slopes and dense forests ensured that even if there were sun for a month, the course would remain wet and slippery. You were either climbing long steep narrow jeep tracks, which also became nearly un-ridable on the day, or you were descending singletracks consisting of mud, roots and rocks. In these conditions, it takes a special skill to remain upright, let alone be fast, and you were constantly forced to the edge of your limits whilst trying to remain in control of what feels like a runaway train. Not sure how else to describe it?

Race day loomed, and as predicted the rain came on cue, which by this stage, would actually help in keeping the course wet enough to try and keep the heavy mud from clogging the bike up.
I had a good start and the SA riders were all close together, I guess all in the first twenty riders after the first test of a climb, when we entered the first singletrack section. I managed to get down with one crash, Dave a few more, but immediately, in a short distance, I had lost around forty seconds to the front group, and then straight up the next climb. This pattern would continue throughout the whole race. You hold your position on the climbs, or runs, and loose up to one or two minutes every time you hit a slippery slope of a descend. Basically not our favorite conditions, and not a true test of our physical abilities. Take nothing away from the top riders, you needed to be physically strong, but you also needed more than equal amounts of skill and phycology to get through that race.

In training we had split the course up into two sections, the first fifty, followed by the last thirty-four kilometers, and I tried to pace myself accordingly. However even the climbs were becoming too slippery to ride, and without traction, I was forced to push a lot. My race had gone from a race, to just getting myself to the finish in one piece. It’s a bit frustrating after all the effort and sacrifices that we’ve made to be in great shape, and then be unable to really express ourselves out there, but such is the nature of the beast. Nearly more than a third of the field never made it to the finish line, testament to the conditions of the day.
Good thing I used my mudguard.

Other than that, there was not much to take out of the race, except completing my ninth World Marathon Champs for SA, and although not the result I was hoping for, it was another experience on the bike that I will never forget.

Big thanks to Cycling South Africa for sending a full SA team over and assisting us where possible. Thanks also to Nedbank 360life for the continued support, and sending over John Hooper and Swen Lauer, who were crucial to have with us in trying to achieve our objectives.

Next race will be in Parys, not Paris, as we line up for the final event of the MTN Marathon series, and although the series may be over, the “Dirty dash for cash” is on. Then it’s straight to Oudtshoorn to start our final race of the season, The Bridge Cape Pioneer Trek, the following day.
Till then,

Kevin Evans

Provisional results: MTB
1st Periklis llias (Greece) 4hrs18
2nd Moritz Milatz (Germany)
3rd Kristian Hynek (Cze)
18th Max Knox (RSA)
30th Kevin Evans (RSA)
56th Nico Bell (RSA)