The battle for the overall supremacy in MTN’s National ultra marathon series will start in earnest tomorrow morning when all of the “top dogs” line up at the start for the MTN Gravel Travel event just outside Wellington at Diemersfontein wine farm.
If David George (360Life) wins he will have ensured that he will also take the overall honors as he will have a near unassailable lead. He already won the MTN Attakwas and MTN Tulbagh and was second at the MTN Barberton.
However if Max Knox (Ghost DIN) or Adrien Niyonshuti (Team MTN Qhubeka) manage to win it is going to set the series alight. Especially if George misses out on a top three finish.
Knox won at MTN Barberton and was third in Tulbagh while Niyonshuti won at MTN Clarens and was third at MTN Sabie.
George’s biggest advantage is having Kevin Evans, multiple winner of the MTN National series, as his teammate.
The two proved at Tulbagh that as far as mountain bike ultra-marathons are concerned, two heads are definitely better than one.
The two of them put their rivals in a checkmate position with their tactically sound riding to finish first and second.
George made the first move by attacking after about 20 kilometers of racing. Only Knox could stay with him.
The two of them managed to open a gap of just under one minute on the chase group that initially consisted of five riders, which soon dwindled down to just three, namely Evans, Adrien Niyonshuti (MTN Qhubeka) and Darren Lill, the SA road champion.
According to Evans, he felt strong enough to join George and Knox in the lead but he realized that, from a tactical point of view, it would be a mistake.
“If I had hastened to join David and Max, chances would have been good that I would have given either Adrien or Darren a free ride. So I decided to rather sit on and let them do the hard work.”
In doing so Evans and George effectively put the race in a checkmate position.
Evans makes no secret about the fact that they are going for a repeat result.
“It is really important of us that David wins overall, so I see my role of that as a super domestique. Naturally if an opportunity arises to win I will go for it.”
With the pro-elite riders expected to do about 3000 meters of vertical climbing the Diemersfontein race is definitely a hard man’s race.
That is why Knox and Niyonshuti were not prepared to make any early predictions.
“After my legs have done the hard work I will be prepared to talk.”
What is exciting is the fact that Yolandé Speedy (Team MTN Qhubeka) will be racing.
“Yolande has been going well, her recovery has been slow. We found out that it is due to some of the medication she is on which makes her muscles feel continuously fatigued,” said Paul Cordes her teammate and training partner.
“However over the past week I have seen a big improvement with her which has been reassuring.
“We are not too sure what to expect for her next week but she will be competitive probably in the top five but without any true intensity sessions thus far I cannot really say how she, and her new leg, is going to respond when it gets hard.
“We have also been working a lot on our technical and there I can say she is back to her best and if this race is rough and with a lot of single track.”