Sunday, January 26, 2014

African XC Championships

African Cross Country Champs, Willowbridge, 8 laps, 4.2km

As continued preparation for my main goal later this year, I decided I would include a few Cross Country races where possible, to focus on my technical skills and XC racing was always one way to stay sharp in this department.
I hadn’t raced a XC since one of the nationals in George, in 2010. And I would quickly see how much I’ve been missing out on, from a skill point of view, and spectator and support view. It’s the Olympic discipline of our sport and in essence, the roots of mountain bike racing.

I would need to change a few things leading up to the race, mostly time management, as we would only race at 15:15 in the afternoon. I had practiced the course on Thursday, with some help and guidance from one of the world’s best XC racers, Manual Fumic from Germany. This was the only practice I could fit in, and a short bit of time to get used the Trek Superfly hardtail I would use to race.
I had no expectations for the race, I just wanted to get through safely, and work on the technical department. Being African Champs, there were riders from other African countries, and would make for an important race for the XC specialists.

We raced 8 laps, and I had a fairly good start, the starts are seeded according to your XC points, which I didn’t really have. I settled into the usual frantic pace and tempo of the fast starts, but had two silly crashes early on, costing me valuable time.
From there on I just settled into my own race, rode my own rhythm and enjoyed the support of the crowd that had come to watch this super fun course.

There were a few ‘hectic’ sections, but I managed to negotiate them with no major problems. I also stayed on top of my nutrition again, not quite sure what to expect from my body, but used the USN Cyto Power and gels to keep fueled for the intense nearly two hours of racing. I had to bust out some Oakley Racing Jackets, a firm favorite amongst XC racers, and they kept the dust and debris out my eyes and face.
You can have a look at the effort required as recorded on my Suunto Ambit, if you log onto their movescount web page. A completely different kind of racing from what I have become accustomed to.

I managed to sneak into the top ten, I lost two places on the final lap, but I was content with my effort by this stage and wasn’t going to battle for minor placing when we have such a long season ahead of us with specific goals.

Next race, is an old favorite of mine, the VW EP Herald cycle tour, two days, MTB and road. Time to jump into my KIA Soul and head home, to train and get ready for next weekend!
Till then, cheers.

Kevin Evans


Provisional results:
1st Phil Buys (RSA) 1:39
2nd Lourens Luus (RSA)
3rd Rourke Croeser (RSA)

9th Kevin Evans (RSA)

Attakwas Extreme

Attakwas, Chandelier-Grootbrak, 121km, 2900m

The Attakwas 2014 would spark my return to racing after a long break, and I don’t think I could have found a tougher race to start with.
We had a great two-week team training camp leading up to the race, and Neil and I would take to the start, whilst Brandon would second us.

The race had some of the best riders in the world on the start line, and combined with a top SA quality field, a top ten was looking like a solid result. The Trek Superflys had only been put together the previous day, as the Team bikes are still on their way over from the States, and didn’t give us much time to get used to them, but we would have more than enough time to bond with them on the day.
The pace was really rapid from the get go, and within the first 15km, the front group was split down to around 10 riders.
I was comfortable to just follow the wheels, but I forgot about some of the short steep climbs heading into the hardest part of the race, the Attakwas Kloof. With riders bailing infront of me, I was forced to walk and lost the momentum of the front bunch. At the same time I had a few mechanical issues with the bike, and once all sorted, I was my own. And I would stay on my own from around 55km all the way to the finish, a long day to think about things!

Brandon kept us nicely fuelled up on USN, and I managed my efforts and race nutrition really well considering I haven’t been in race mode for such a long time. Neil was just a few minutes behind me, feeling good and still building on the form.

At the end I managed to hang on to 8th place, and could take a lot of positives out of the race, and move forward, happy and most importantly, healthy!

Next race, will also be a first for me in awhile, as I tackle my first Cross Country race in three years, this weekend in Cape Town, at the African Continental Championships. This is purely for training and to sharpen up my technical skills ahead of the marathon series.

Till then, cheers.

Kevin Evans


Provisional results:
1st Urs Huber (Bulls) 4hrs47min
2nd Christoph Sauser (Specialized)
3rd Karl Platt (Bulls)
8th Kevin Evans (Fedgroup-Itec)

11th Neil Macdonald (Fedgroup-Itec)