MTN Ultra Marathon #6, Van Gaalens
The sixth leg of the Ultra marathon series took us to the well known cheese farm of Van Gaalens in Magaliesburg. If anything, the start of the race would be remembered as one of the coldest yet, a chilly minus 5 as Max and I warmed up behind the Team Fedgroup-Itec KIA Sorrento on the way to the start. (or possibly a warm down!)
The cold start was short lived as the racing began, and I was pleased to know that we were following most of the trails we rode in the Route66 MTB race earlier in the year. So I knew what to expect, well at least kind of for the first 30km. The group split up very early on with the usual contenders at the front. I put the pressure on the group up the second big climb of the day to take the King of the Mountain, and was surprised that I had managed to ride a small gap into the chasing group.
Knowing better though at what still lay ahead, I took it easy and stayed with the group. We then had a very rocky (understatement) of a descend to the first tech zone. I was not comfortable on this section at all, and I will be the first to admit that I was not going to take any risks with World Champs only two weeks away.
The first half of the route was really technical, perhaps one of the more technical in the series, with plenty of physically demanding trails, making it tough on the body.
The second half of the race included some rolling gravel roads, and then various short steep climbs with technical trails up and down, and I knew the final 30km would always be tough. At 65km, Max decided to split the large group that had reformed, and it left only Lourens Luus, Darren Lill, Max Knox and myself. I could feel that my legs had not fully recovered from SA champs the week before, and normally where we would have had the upper hand in terms of tactics and numbers, Max and I were actually in a slightly stalemate position as we had to make the racing and set the pace to keep the other riders from re-joining.
I only needed a good result to move up the series rankings and with Nico Bell missing from the front group, we found ourselves racing maybe more for the series than the race win.
I lost touch with Lourens and Darren on the final descend when I had a slight off in a corner, and could not chase back to the two, who sprinted for the finish, with Lourens taking his second MTN Ultra win for the season.
Darren was second and myself third.
The series however starts to get a little interesting now. You see the best five races of the eight race series count towards the overall points and the eventual winner. So although Bell is leading, he has done all six races so far, thus giving him the lead. The rest of us have only done four races, with two races remaining. As I've won the series 6 times, I know better than most how the points work, and if I go on average points after three races, its interesting to see Lourens Luus would have overall lead, followed by myself, Bell and Lill. So in theory the series is hotting up and still wide open, but of course it leaves no margin for error in the remaining two events.
1st Lourens Luus (RECM) 4hrs49
2nd Darren Lill (Cannondale/Blend) 4hrs49
3rd Kevin Evans (FedGroup-Itec) 4hrs50
Looking forward to another tough but well organised event from the Advendurance crew next week I Hilton.