Monday, May 20, 2013

Nedbank Sani2c

Podium finishers :)

Nedbank Sani2c, Underberg-Scottborough, 3 days

Day1, Underberg-Mackenzie, 82km, 1200m

The Nedbank Sani2c has become one of the most iconic events on the South African calendar. So popular that the organizers had to make it into three races held over three days. Our race, known as the ‘race’, is the last to start, after the ‘trail and ‘adventure’, and after nearly three thousand riders have hit the trails before us, it makes for a fast and smooth course, but takes nothing away from the super trails.
The start was pleasant, temperature wise, as Underberg has some fresh mornings to say the least. The pace however was hot, and the competition was super close this year. After the twin oaks single-track, where the race normally splits up, there were about 9-10 teams all together. This would change the dynamics of the stage. Personally I was having a better day, as I was starting to find some long lost form returning to the legs. My partner, Gawie Combrinck from Westvaal/Columbia was battling with the flu that caught me the previous week, and was struggling through the end of the stage.
By the finish it was almost a bunch sprint of around five teams, with Team Cannondale/Blend winning the stage, with all the top teams finishing on the same time, Brandon and Neil right up there. Gawie and I managed to only loose around one minute, which keeps us in the loop for the race, should we feel better for tomorrow.
Our only podium for the day was from a fantastic ride by team manager Bridgette and her partner Jackie. Top ride to finish third.
The race is normally decided on the second stage, and I doubt it will be a bunch finish tomorrow, but who knows!

Day2, Mackenzie-Jolivet, 102km, 1950m

This would be the second time I’ve had to descend down the mighty Umkomaas in slippery wet and muddy conditions. Combined with mist and an early start, with poor visibility, I was just happy to make it through the stage in one piece.
We got to the bottom of the valley in ‘bits and pieces’ as teams were separated in the technical conditions. After a few kilometers of easy rolling along the river, the teams were all back together and the racing heated up. Team Contego had taken a few risks and made a big gap down the valley, and we would basically be chasing them for the stage. Max Knox and Nico Bell also had a small gap, but were quickly joined by Brandon and Neil. Gawie and myself were trying to follow RE:CM and although he was a bitter better today, the flu still had the better of him on the steep climbs.
At the end of the day, Max and Nico won, followed by Brandon and Neil. Gawie and myself were 5th, around ten minutes behind on the stage.
With only around 10minutes separating the first five teams, the racing will still be on tomorrow, and it won’t be an easy day, that’s for sure.

Day3, Jolivet-Scottborough, 84km, 1000m

Farmer Glen decided to mix things up a little for the final stage, with a new ‘reverse’ order of starting. The A batch would start at 11am, whilst all the rest of the riders would start at 7am. The reason for this would be to have all the riders at the finish when the top guys came in. I have to say that it was a great idea and worked really well. The slower riders that we caught towards the end were gently pulled aside by the lead bikes, and the enthusiasm and support from them whilst racing past was fantastic.

Back to the racing, the start was really fast, and there was a serious tempo being set by most of the top teams. We had decided we wanted to have a hard day of racing, one for training, and two because we had nothing really to lose.
Gawie and I took over the pace making up front, and the group of around five teams rolled quickly through the trails. Once we were through the beautiful Vernon Crooks Reserve, I knew from Joberg2c that the route had changed and the ‘railway’ track was approaching. This was where we made our move, and with Brandon and Neil riding the single-track behind us, they just rode steady which allowed Gawie and I a chance to get our initial gap. Once we had a gap, we put our heads down and powered through the last 20km of the stage.

The finish was really special, the Nedbank floating bridge along the lagoon was unique, but it was the support and the crowds at the finish that made it even more special. Personally for me it was an emotional win as I’ve battled some health issues for the past seven months. The body is good, and the form is slowly returning.
Brandon and Neil finished third on the stage behind RE:CM with Max Knox and Nico Bell finishing fourth.
Max and Nico won the overall title, with team FedGroupITEC taking a great second place and Team Contego finishing third.
Our FedGroupITEC third team of Bridgette Stewart and Jackie Moore took third place overall in the ladies race, rounding out a very successful three days of racing for the team.

Again big thanks to all the sponsors, Scott bikes performed flawlessly, USN kept us fuelled to the finish, and KIA Motors carried our super back up crew of Grant, Sue and Lucky. Thanks again for all the support, on and off the bike.

Next race, Brandon Neil will race the Nissan Trailseeker in Johannesburg, whilst I’ll be flying the flag on golf tour for a change of scenery. Then it’s final preparation for SA Marathon Championships at Induna, Hazyview in two weeks time.
Till then, cheers.

Kevin Evans


Provisional results:
1st Max Knox/Nico Bell (EAI/Westvaal) 9:44:50
2nd Brandon Stewart/Neil Macdonald (FedGroupITEC) 9:46:19
3rd Louise Knipe/Gert Heyns (Contego/Giant) 9:49:02
4th Lourens Luus/Waylon Woolcock (RE:CM) 9:50:48
5th Kevin Evans/Gawie Combrinck (FedGroupITEC) 9:51:43

Monday, May 13, 2013

MTN Ultra Marathon, Gravel Travel, Wellington

Family support!

MTN Ultra Marathon, Wellington Gravel Travel, 110km, 2950m

Almost exactly one year later, including four trips to the hospital, and I finish the 2013 MTN Gravel Travel one position worse than the previous year. Although scratching my head for some positives to take out of this race, I have to remember that it was only five weeks ago, in the same town, whilst spectating at the Epic, that I had only just gone for my first ride. And after all that I’ve been through, the body is still fine, and the problems I had are a thing of the past.

So moving on, at least this year’s race was bathed in great weather, and a really tough and technical course was set for us to race. The track would have no less than nearly sixty kilometers of flowing single-track, and three thousand meters of climbing, making it slow and demanding. As all the riders knew, the last forty kilometers is really tough, and so the pace wasn’t too fast from the start. However it didn’t take long before the top riders started to increase the tempo. This would be just too fast for me, recovering from a lingering cold post Joberg2c, I would have to settle for my own pace on the day, and use it for good training.

I had a few moments when I thought I may just throw the towel in for the day, I had Kari and Rubes with me for seconding, and the temptation to stop was great. On the other hand, I just pressed on with the task at hand, and decided to not think too much about the direct outcome of the race, but rather the good riding and training adaptions I would be making.

As we all knew, the last forty kilometers was brutal, and many of the top riders would feel the effects of a super hard course in the final section.
I cannot comment what happened at the head of the race, but it sounded like Max Knox was the dominant rider as expected, whilst Lourens Luus put in another great ride to take second place ahead of a class field of riders.
I would scrape in for tenth place, and only just made the podium call up to round out the first ten. But having considered all I’ve been through, and where I’ve come from, I was quietly happy with my form and build up thus far.
Thanks to Kari and Ruby for coming with me, and watching me suffer through not quite some of my finest five hours. Always there for me through thick and thin.

Next race sees us making the trip back to Underberg for the Nedbank Sani2c. We will have two teams, Brandon and Neil, and guest rider for FedGroupITEC, Gawie Combrinck and myself. It’s a super competitive field this year with a few subtle route changes. I’m looking forward to some different dynamics whilst racing with a partner, it has been awhile!
Till then, cheers.

Kevin Evans


Provisional results:
1st Max Knox (EAI)
2nd Lourens Luus (RE:CM)
3rd Mathys Beukes (Scott)
10th Kevin Evans (Fedgroup-Itec)

Monday, May 6, 2013

Old Mutual Joberg2c

Took this pic whilst riding, stage 1.

Old Mutual Joberg2C, 9days, 900km,

The Old Mutual Joberg2C has quickly established itself in four years, as one of the must do stage races in South Africa. Besides being the longest, it is also without a doubt, one of the best events to show case our beautiful country. The event is definitely about a journey.
In a very brief description, you start in the very dry town of Heidelberg, just outside of Johannesburg, wind your way for three days through the arid and rocky countryside of the Freestate, to the magnificent Sterkfontein Dam, before literally dropping off the escarpment and descending through the foothills of the Drakensberg mountains, before hitting the lush cane plantations and forests of the Kwazulu-Natal province, and finally, rolling up onto the beach in Scottborough.
The first day is as always a ‘neutral’ stage with no racing as such, but by no means an easy day. The racing then begins the following eight days, and the physically challenging route, combined with great competition, makes for a very hard week on the bike.

Whilst the racing was on in the front, I was riding the ‘solo’ category this year, and using the event as preparation for the rest of my season due to obvious setbacks. It’s not easy riding solo, for one, I know you need to stay out of the mix of the racing in the front, but you also want to try and gauge yourself against the others. I think I managed to balance this well, as I would ride some days up front, others just inside the top twenty, taking it easier where I needed to be more progressive. I did however spend a large majority of the race riding completely on my own, in the middle of some of the most beautiful parts of our country, I guess essentially what I signed up for.

The racing was made easier with our fantastic sponsors, and in the thick of the suffering that happens at the back of the race, Scott Field (Fedgroup) soldiered on through the whole race to complete his second Joberg2C journey. Crusader Logistics Stu and Cath Roos had supplied us the ‘Chillbox’ truck for our accommodation, and without this, the results and atmosphere created by the team would have been impossible.

Brandon and Neil would roll onto the beach as the overall winners for 2013, Neil’s second win in the event, but Brandon’s first and probably biggest win of his career. Bridgette and Brad finished inside the top ten in the mixed category, whilst I won the solo race, and finished fourth overall. More importantly for me however, was the fact that I finished healthy, body feeling good and without any issues. I’m happy to say that my health is back to normal, and can start progressing forward finally!
Our equipment, Scott Sparks were flawless, tires (Maxxis Ikons) bomb proof, and nutrition from USN superb.
Thanks again to everyone for making our journey that much easier, Grant, Tannie, Lucky, Stacey, Sue and Kobus, no one sees the ‘behind the scenes’ and how hard you guys worked for us.

Next race, I will try fly the flag at the MTN Ultra Marathon in Wellington. This will only be my second Ultra for the season, and will great to see how the form is moving.

Till then, cheers.

Kevin Evans


Provisional results:
1st Stewart/Macdonald (FedgroupItec) 34hrs11
2nd Woolcock/Luus (RE:CM) 34hrs22
3rd Pfitzenmeier/Cooper (Bridge) 35hrs02