Sunday, May 18, 2014

Nedbank Sani2c

Nedbank Sani2c, Underberg-Scottborough

Hard to believe that this year would already be the tenth running of what has become the biggest stage race in the country. Its not easy to get an entry into this event and I would be fortunate to be racing my 8th one.

Over the years I’ve seen many different tactics play out in the race, but riding with Max, and knowing that our build up over the last month has been progressive, I sensed we had a slight advantage over the rest of the teams. We used this that to really take the racing to the teams form the start, as we set a hard tempo on the first stage, where only team RECM were able to ride across to us, where we would have a sprint finish up the hill to Mackensie Club and take the first stage with a handful of seconds.

Stage two is the ‘holy grail’ of mountain biking in this country, with 30km of technical descending down into the mighty Umkomaas valley. With the Adventure and Trail race starting two days before us, and about three thousand wheels riding the trails in, it would be a super fast downhill. Our plan for the day was to get through the first half safe, trouble free, and then race the next half out the valley as the climbing would suit us.
Unfortuntaley I had a bad crash at the bottom of the Umko when Andrew Hill washed out on one of the wooden bridges, leaving me with nowhere to go except over him and over my bars. I landed hard on my shoulder and thankfully the reinforced plate kept me in one piece. 
We continued to follow our plan, and we powered out the valley getting the gap we needed. We soon caught and passed the two cross country teams who were out front, but with 10km to go, team RECM had pulled back our gap to 20seconds.
Max and I pushed on, and in the last 3km, Erik Kleinhans had a bad crash, which ended their race.

With only the final stage to the beach, all we had to do was follow the GC contenders and get to the finish safe with no hassles. I had been in this situation before, and a costly mistake cost us the win. This time, we stuck to the plan, and rode safely onto the beach, super happy to take our first stage win together, racking up my sixth win in the event, and Max’s third. The Treks were perfect; in fact, Trek bikes won every stage of the elite race. As usual USN kept us fueled, and our KIA’s got our staff around and to the water points with no hassles.

It was a bittersweet end to the race for our fantastic sponsors, FedGroup-ITEC, as Neil Macdonald announced his retirement from professional racing after 15years. Bridgette had the privilege of riding along side him in his last race.

Thanks again to our sponsors who continue to support us and give us all the opportunities to perform to the best of our abilities. 

Next race, race, Max and I head off to continue the MTN Ultra series in Rooiberg. Hopefully some time at altitude will lessen the suffering, somewhat.

Till then, cheers.

Kevin Evans

Provisional results:
1st FedGroup-ITEC (Evans/Knox) 8hrs57
2nd EAI Cycling (Rabie/Combrinck) 9hrs01

3rd Kargo (Croeser/Walker) 9hrs05

Old Mutual Joberg2C

Old Mutual Joberg2C, Heidelberg-Scottborough, 900km, 9Days

The Old Mutual Joberg2C is a nine day race from Heidelberg, just outside of Johannesburg, going through the Freestate towns of Frankfourt, Reitz, Sterfontein Dam, then down through the ‘Berg’ to Winterton, Kamberg, Underberg and finally through the last three well known days of the Sani2C route finishing on the beach in Scottborough. 
The biggest change and challenge to this years race, would the first time it became a ‘self navigated’ GPS race where the riders were responsible for finding their own way through the entire route via GPS maps downloaded from the race. This would change the race tactics a fair bit in the front of the race, whether or not it’s the format of racing in the future, we will have to wait and see.

Unfortunately for Max and myself, we had a very up and down race, with not much going our way. The second day of the race I got ‘The Bug’ that would take out a vast number of riders during the event. This bug left me depleted for the third day of racing, and we would loose a fair bit of time, but fortunately I could recover enough to continue.
After two good days, making back some time, it would be Max’s turn to have ‘The Bug’. The sixth day was probably one of the hardest days of the race, and Max had to experience what I felt on the third day. We lost a huge amount of time, and when we crossed the finish line and went to the race doctor, we had actually decided to pull out the race. We spent the day and night at Max’s uncle in Underberg and again we were fortunate enough to recover and find our sense of humor, and come back the following day and resume racing. Another good day saw us reclaim our third place on the overall podium.
And just when we thought our bad luck was over, the penultimate stage down the Umkomaas Valley, we broke our chain, twice. The second time though, I had lost my chaintool and we were absolutely stranded, again close to being completely out of the race, until the beginning of the B batch riders came along and we were able to repair it and fight our way back to sixth place for the stage.

With one stage left, we put everything on the line to try and win one stage, and for once in the nine days, things went our way and according to plan, and we managed a fantastic stage win on the beach in front of a large crowd awaiting the finish of the race.
We finished third overall, and the race for first and second was fiercely contested between Team EAI Cycling and Cannondale/Blend, with the overall lead exchanging three times in the final three days. It was EAI Cycling who took the win on the final day for what must have been one of the closest finishes in the history of the race. 
Bridgette managed to fly the solo women’s flag and finish second overall, but also winning the final stage.
Our backup team, Scott and Grant Field, also rode a great race bringing home the middle of the pack riders☺

Many thanks to Sue and Brandon for helping us through the many ups and downs, and keeping us all in one piece.

Next race, race, we go straight back to Underberg to race Sani2C with the trails still freshly engraved in our minds from the past weekend.  Max and I will team up again and we are starting to gel well together, so im really looking forward to this race.

Till then, cheers.

Kevin Evans

Provisional results:
1st EAI Cycling (Rabie/Combrinck) 33hrs36
2nd Cannondale/Blend (Woolcock/Lill) 33hrs39

3rd FedGroup-ITEC (Knox/Evans) 34hrs35

Spar Hessequa MTB Challenge

Kevin Evans

Hessequa MTB Challenge, Riversdale, 88km, 1800m

This would be a new race for me, but with familiar hospitality from Dryland Events who have fast become one of the leading race organizers in the country. With Supersport TV coverage, helicopters, good prize money and organizers going out their way to accommodate professiona and amateur riders, it only made sense for me to go take part and represent FedGroup-ITEC in Riversdale. And the route, which would be the ‘pudding’, wouldn’t disappoint and featured some superb mountain bike trails, with a variety of jeep tracks, single tracks and gravel roads through the plantations of the Garcia Pass and surrounding Hessequa Farmlands.

The mass start saw all the various distances start together, including even the trail run. With Carel (AKA the Dutchie) as MC, the race began with a vibe, and after a short neutral zone, the race was on the go!
I mentally split the race in to two sections, the race to the King of the mountain, and then the final race to the line, reason being equal prize money for the King, and for first place overall.
After a few efforts, it was only Gert Heyns and myself left out front, and we would be boxing clever trying to save as much energy for the King, whilst still trying to test each other out.

The King was at the 70km mark, and the climb was not easy, nor was the pace that Gert set from the bottom, but both of us matched each others efforts, and it was only in the final 2km from the top that I managed to put in a big effort and get the gap I needed to take the King. From there we descended the fairly technical downhill off the mountain known as Cliffhanger, where I would have enough of a gap to ride conservatively and not take any chances. Unfortunately Gert had a slow puncture to deal with, but this afforded me the gap I needed to race to the finish without taking chances and bag the Hessequa win.

The Mayor of Riversdale, who gave us her commitment to grow the race to the best of their/her ability going forward, presented the fantastic prize money sponsored by the Spar. Together with Dryland events, I have no doubt this race will grow into one of the big classics on the calendar.

Next race, race, we go straight back to Underberg to race Sani2C with the trails still freshly engraved in our minds from the past weekend.  Max and I will team up again and we are starting to gel well together, so Im really looking forward to this race.

Till then, cheers.

Kevin Evans


Provisional results:
1st Kevin Evans (FedGroup-ITEC) 3hrs33
2nd Gert Heyns (PYG Academy) 3hrs37
3rd Vickus Boshoff (Coimbra Cycles George)