UCI World Marathon Cup, Sabie, 113km, 3100m
The first race of the World Marathon Series kicked off in Sabie and piggy backs of the MTN Ultra Marathon event hosted by Advendurance. Sabie has always been a happy hunting ground for me, and this year would be no different! Except for the weather, which wasn’t playing nicely, however never deterred the nearly three thousand participants who made their way down to the small town in the Lowveld.
Heavy rains continued throughout the night, and the course in those conditions would prove to be one of the toughest races of my career. I could carry on about how muddy, and how extremely dangerous the course was in those conditions, but you would have had to be there to see first hand, words cannot do it any justice.
The Bulls were intend on using their current form and European experience of racing in these types of conditions to their full advantages, whilst for me, I was going to give it my best shot, but I always knew that these conditions don’t favor my riding style.
I was riding my Trek Superfly HT, and was flying up the first climbs with it. Huber and I soon had distanced ourselves from everyone, and only Karl Platt was able to keep us within 30-60seconds. I managed to edge out Huber for the King of the Mountain, and soon the descends would start. I would battle down the treacherous sections like ‘Rocky horror’ and Mount Moody as the Bulls set a really fast pace down the mountain. The trails in the slippery and wet mud, meant the full suspension bikes were in a league of their own (my own bike choice fault), and once the two Bulls had distanced me, they would work well together, making sure they put more than enough time between them and myself.
This would be the hardest past of my race, well from there until the finish, the more or less 70km I would spend racing on my own, losing time to the front two, but also being chased by the remaining field. I had to stay calm, focused and really concentrate, it was the longest and arguably hardest section of the race, the final 40km loop, as attrition started playing a key role in the outcome.
Brandon was going a stellar job in the ‘pits’, and kept me fuelled on various USN products, and motivated me to keep going and not give up.
I managed to consolidate my third place, not by much, but enough. Enough to earn the points I needed for World Champs later in the year, enough to roll over as the first South African rider, and enough to know that I had given it my all and I had taken the race to the Europeans as much as I could, and went down fighting. A proud and very relieved moment to cross that finish line! Neil managed his race well despite a puncture, but still fought back to 9th place overall, and again proving to be one of the most consistent riders out there.
Next race, and for the next few weekends, we will be down in the hopefully sunny Cape, starting off next weekend with the Argus MTB Challenge, and then heading into the Tour de Boland road tour for some final Epic prep.
Till then, cheers.
1st Urs Huber (Bulls) 5:28
2nd Karl Platt (Bulls) 5:30
3rd Kevin Evans (FedGroup-ITEC) 5:42
9th Neil Macdonald (FedGroup-ITEC)