To win the MTN Tulbagh mountain bike ultra-marathon (105km) on Saturday (18 February), Burry Stander (Specialized) had to dig deep.
Going into the last few hundred metres Stander and Evans (Nedbank360Life) were racing shoulder to shoulder.
As they approached the line, Evans managed to edge slightly ahead of Stander on the inside and it seemed as if he might just take the victory.
But Stander, who does not know the meaning of giving up, somehow managed to push himself that extra bit harder to regain the lead.
He eventually beat Evans by mere millimetres or, as Evans described it, “by a spoke length”.
Stander’s winning time was 4 hours 40 minutes and 27 seconds, with Evans finishing second in 4:40:28 and Jacques Rossouw (Team Fedgroup-Itec Connect) third, a mere 20 seconds adrift.
Stander was full of praise for Evans. “I wanted to race a hard ultra-marathon before the Cape Epic and thanks to Kevin’s “never say die” attitude that is exactly what happened today.
“This proves that my training for the Cape Epic and the UCI Cross-Country World Cup in Pietermaritzburg is still on track.”
Evans was also satisfied with the way in which the race played out. “Naturally I race to win, but for now I am happy to be second.It was important for me and David to test our equipment in racing conditions on the Cape Epic terrain. “This race has proven that our equipment can withstand harsh punishment.”
“From a personal point of view, it was also exciting to be able to stay with Burry right to the finish. If I am able to maintain this form, the Epic will be very exciting.”
The MTN Tulbagh basically boiled down to a six men race. Stander, Evans, Rossouw, David George (Nedbank360Life), Adrien Niyonshuti (MTN-Qhubeka) and Max Knox (Ghost) were in front during most of the race.
The real fun started when, as Rossouw described it, Stander began to launch attacks like “a mad man”.
“After 75 or 80 kilometres, I am not really sure, Burry made the pace so hard that riders began to drop off.
“As luck would have it I got caught behind Max and Adrien on a single-track section.
“I had my work cut out to try and pass them and catch up with leaders.
“I joined up with Burry, Kevin and David just before a climb. I had no problems staying with them to the top, but I was like an amateur when we reached the downhill single-track sections.
“I cannot explain why, but I repeatedly went off the single track and ended up among the bushes. It was as if I was not able to focus properly and in the end it I had to pay the price. I got dropped on the downhill section and had to start chasing again. It was very frustrating.”
What makes Rossouw’s performance remarkable is that he suffered from a severe case of “gippo guts” the night before the race.
“I hardly slept at all because my stomach kept forcing me to do toilet sprints. It really sapped my energy.
“Taking this into account, I am surprised that I was able to keep on chasing back to the leaders.”
Rossouw is the current leader in the MTN series. He won the Barberton event.
Since his comeback he has been the most consistent rider in the MTN series, not missing out on a podium finish in any race.
Last year he was third in the MTN Diemersfontein and second in the MTN Ride Crater Cruise.
Ariane Kleinhans (Contego) who won the women’s Barbeton race, claimed her second victory at the MTN Tulbagh 75km race with a winning time of 3:17:14
Jane Nuessli was second in 3:22:54 and Hanlie Booyens (Jeep) third in 3:28:05.
MTN Tulbagh Ultra-marathon, 105km:
1 Burry Stander (Specialized USN) 04hr40min27sec
2 Kevin Evans (Nedbank 360Life) 04:40:28
3 Jacques Rossouw (FedGroup ??? ITEC Connect) 04:40:48
4 David George (Nedbank 360Life) 04:42:36
5 Adrien Niyonshuti (MTN Qhubeka) 04:51:42
6 Max Knox (Decca Ghost) 04:55:02
7 Nico Bell (Bell Cycling) 04:58:44
8 Nico Pfitzenmaier (Robert Sim Momsen) 05:01:44
9 Gawie Combrink 05:01:57
10 Ruan du Toit 05:08:19
MTN Tulbagh Marathon, 70km:
1 Ariane Kleinhans (Contego) 03hr17min14sec
2 Jane Nuessli (GBR) 03:22:53
3 Hanlie Booyens (Momentum) 03:28:05
4 Karien van Jaarsveld (MTN Qhubeka) 03:32:25
5 Jane Seggie 03:37:40