Evans and George determined to give it their all at this year’s Absa Cape Epic

One of South Africa’s favourite teams to take top honours at this year’s Absa Cape Epic, Kevin Evans (33) and David George (35), will again be partnering to take on the challenging 781km and 16 300m of climbing from 25 March to 1 April in the Western Cape as team 360LIFE.

Evans has participated in all eight previous editions of the Absa Cape Epic, providing him with excellent experience to face the fast pace promised during this year’s event. Although not finishing last year’s race due to a shattered collarbone in stage 1 of the race, his CV remains impressive. He has won the MTN Marathon Series 6 times, is 4 times SA Marathon Champion, the Cross-country Elite Champion twice, the SA Time Trail Champion, in the top 10 at the World Marathon Championships, 9th in the Tour of Ireland, and has National Team representation in Marathon, Cross Country and Road in 9 World Championships. He also finished in third place overall in the Absa Cape Epic during 2005, 2008 and 2010, and 4th in 2004, 2006 and 2009, is three-times Crater Cruise Winner  (2009, 2010 and 2011) and with George are the Cape Pioneer Trek overall winners of 2011.

Kevin Evans prior to crashing out during stage 1 of the 2011 Absa Cape Epic

George is reportedly in the best shape he has ever been. He has been the National Road and Time Trail Champion five times, is a two time Commonwealth Games medalist, three times winner of the Giro del Capo, winner of the Tour de Langkawi in 2006 and finished in 3rd place overall in the 2008 Absa Cape Epic with team mate Evans. In 2011, he finished in first place in the Tulbagh Ultra Marathon, the Willingen bike festival in Germany, as well as first overall in the MTN National Ultra Marathon Series.

David George rides alone during stage 3 of the 2011 Absa Cape Epic

Says Evans: “The Absa Cape Epic is arguably the biggest, toughest and most important stage race in the world, and its on our door step, bringing the world stage of mountain biking to us… you’ve gotta do that!” George adds: “We return every year for the beauty and uniqueness of the race and the pairs racing format, as well as the opportunity to take on the world’s best mountain bikers in our own back yard.”

Evans reckons they have a good chance in the race this year. “Bad luck can also be seen as good luck. Depends how you look at it I guess. But that’s the X-factor and mountain biking,” says Evans. “Dave and I have very similar physiology which I think counts over 30 hours of racing. If we have no bad luck, we want to win the race. Our chances are as good as anyone’s.” George adds: “We always have fun! Kev and I have very different personalities and backgrounds which compliment each other in our preparation and approach. On the bike, we’re so similar, within a couple grams of body weight and couple of watts of power. We’re one of the most evenly matched teams.” Evans continues: “Dave and I will be riding our fourth Absa Cape Epic together. We’re best mates and have fun together – that’s important.”

David George makes his way through a deep river crossing during stage 3 of the 2011 Absa Cape Epi

According to Evans, they have their sights set on winning. “Our chances are as good as any other.” George comments that they would like a podium finish and if all goes well, be the first South Africans to win the race. “We believe it’s very achievable in 2012.”

They train together as often as possible. “We train together mostly when we’re away racing together, which is fairly often. We also do a few training camps where we spend a couple of weeks together. The rest of the time we follow a similar programme. We do lots of hours, block training for those who understand, starting our build after a 6 week break in December, then an intensive 3-month programme of training and racing leading up to the Absa Cape Epic. We follow the same caloric value based diet throughout the year that we’ve been on for the past four years to ensure our weight is constant and on target for the event,” says Evans, with George adding: “We live in separate towns so aren’t always able to train together but remain in constant contact. Most often we’re in similar preparation phases so even if we aren’t together we’re aware of each other’s metrics. Once the season starts, we race a lot and so spend more than enough time together in the trenches. For this race, you have to train harder than the rest to give yourself the biggest chance of success. Diet is more of a lifestyle, so we don’t often veer to far off the programme. Red wine is our vice.”

For Evans, the most important ingredients to finishing the Absa Cape Epic are excellent nutrition, good equipment, family support and a strong mind. “You can get yourself as fit as possible, but you can’t prepare for the mental rollercoaster ride you’ll embark on. This you will need to conquer yourself, but that’s more than half the challenge. Remember, anything you set your mind to, is achievable.” For Evans, the first stages are harder as all the riders are still strong. “There’s also a lot of nerves to get through and you’re not sure who the tough competition will be in the first couple of days. The last few stages are hard, but by then the racing should be fairly settled.” George reckons you have to “prepare, prepare, prepare! Great partnerships are also important and to have fun.” His advice to other participants includes: “Don’t skimp on the tyres. Go reliable as it’s not worth throwing away all the hard work for a couple of grams. Trust me, we’ve learnt the hard way. Never give up on your dream and work harder than the rest.”

For Evans, crossing the finish line gives “a sense of relief, achievement, lump in throat kind of stuff. My favourite memory of the race is winning the first prologue in Knysna in 2008 and leaving Knysna in the yellow leader jersey in stage 1.” For George, the first stage is always hectic as there are still so many unknown variables. “The last stage is normally the most enjoyable and a chance to soak up the atmosphere and views. Can Dr. Evil please find another way down to Lourensford Wine Estate so we don’t have to run down a mountain on the last day? Every Absa Cape Epic is a life experience and crossing the finish line brings a different emotion every year. I agree with Kev – my fondest memory of the race is definitely the prologue victory on the Field of Dreams in 2008. Another fond memory of my career is my first competitive mountain bike race and win.”

In his free time, Evans enjoys spending time with his family, at his bike shop and playing some golf. His goal for this year is to finish on the podium at the World Marathon Championships. George loves pottering around the house, relaxing and reading. “I’d also like to grow Team360life into a world class outfit with world class infrastructure and people.”

Lourensford Wine Estate will once again host the finish of the race and the Grand Finale celebrations on 1 April 2012. The Grand Finale will kick off with live entertainment by well-known South African band Freshlyground, a Farmer’s Market, delectable food and wine as well as glorious scenery. Vantage points will be accessible to the general public, so that all may have a piece of the mountain biking action. Entrance is free.