Knysna Oyster Festival MTB Challenge, 80km, 1800m
The Knysna Oyster festival mountain bike race is one of my top events on the calendar. Not only because it’s a ‘home town’ event, but the route, the trails through the indigenous forests and the atmosphere around the week of events is fantastic.
The weather for the week was great, and the trails would be mostly dry for a change. But it’s always fresh at the start, and we rolled out of town heading into a cold forest. Usually the race splits up early, on the first two climbs, Simola and Gouna. The field was strong this year, and we were a group of around ten riders as we completed the first section of the race up to the Uniondale road.
It was though the next 18km section of ‘Petrus se Brand’ where first, Neil Macdonald started to increase the tempo, and thereafter I took responsibility for turning up the pace. The group was too big and I wanted to make sure there was a select group after this part of the race. Soon it was only five riders, still a fair size group, but the last thirty kilometers around the back of Knysna is tough, and on one of the steep climbs, I managed to put in enough of an effort to have only the newly crowned South African Marathon champion, James Reid, left with me.
I had decided I would avoid a sprint finish at all costs, and put in a final few hard attacks to finally ride him off, where I was then free to ‘sail’ to the end. It’s always a special race to win, but always better with a quality field. Johan Rabie held on for third place, and Brandon Stewart who had helped me up the first few climbs rode well to finish strong in sixth place.
The Sunday morning saw us take on the road riders in the Road race. The race was shortened to 80km due to road works, but with no major climb at the halfway mark, it would be fairly fast and easy for the bigger teams to control.
Nolan Hoffman took the win for Team Abuntu, whilst we were happy to win the overall combined prize for the fastest mountain bike and road race of the event.
A great weekend of racing, thanks to Clive from the Knysna Hollow for hosting our team, and Zandile for the support.
Next race will probably be in Israel when I compete for the country at the Macabbiah Games, Time Trial and Road, in two weeks. I forgot to mention the Pezula Xterra on Thursday, another top event attached to the Festival, will be hard.
Till then, cheers.
1st Kevin Evans (FedGroup-ITEC) 2hrs58
2nd James Reid (Trek/Craft)
3rd Johan Rabie (Nuwater)