Kevin Evans (MTN-Energade) proved on Saturday, 17 April, that he is currently in a class of his own by winning the MTN Clarens Ultra-marathon for a second year in succession.
Evans rode in front for almost the entire duration of the race and his performance can only be described by the word ‘impressive’.
He seemed to challenge the rest of the riders to catch him if they could.
The Garmin-adidas riders, Philip Buys, Mannie Heymans and Francois Theron, were the main protagonists in the chase to catch Evans, but their efforts were to no avail.
Heymans finished 2nd, Buys 3rd and Theron 4th.
Evans admits that he surprised himself.
“I really did not expect to win, because it was my first race after the Cape Epic. After Matthys Beukes attacked on the first serious climb in the Golden Gate National Park, I decided to ride at the same pace that I did in the Epic. I was surprised to see how easy it was for me to get to the front.
“Only Mannie, Philip and Ben-Melt Swanepoel (Mr Price Specialized) managed to stay with me.”
Unfortunately Swanepoel crashed on the downhill section in the nature reserve. That effectively put an end to his ambitions to win.
As expected, the real race started on the ‘slick rock climb’. According to Evans he knew that he had to gain as much time as possible on Buys before he reached the very tricky technical descent.
Evans reckons that he had about a two-minute lead on Buys at the top. After the descent his lead was down to about 30 seconds. From then on Evans was in total control, basically increasing his lead with each pedal stroke.
“It is always special to win. My win in Clarens is important to me because it brought me one step closer to an overall victory again in the MTN series.”
Buys, who was in the second place up to the last few kilometers, admits that he was his own worst enemy.
“I would not have won. Kevin was definitely the strongest rider on the day, but I should have finished 2nd. The mistake I made was to lose concentration towards the end. Because of that, I missed the sign that indicated the direction in which we had to ride. So I got lost! It took me about two minutes to rectify my mistake.
“Luckily it was Mannie who passed me to take the second place. I finished about 10 seconds behind him.”
According to Buys he now knows why ‘slick rock’ is called slick rock.
“Because of the good rains, moss grew on the slick rock surfaces in some sections of the climb. This made it basically impossible to stay on your bike. I had to get off. The only way I could move forward was to grab hold of grass or branches and physically pull myself forward. At times it felt as if I was crawling my way to the top.
“I was bargaining on making up time on Kevin on the descent. However, the situation became difficult because that was the point where our race joined up with the MiWay half-marathon. I did not expect to suddenly have so many riders in front of me. I could never get into a comfortable rhythm. It was a matter of racing and stopping all the time. I did manage to make up time on Kevin, but not enough.
“At the bottom of the descent I had to stop first to clean my bike. Lots of grass got stuck into my gears because of the muddy conditions. That gave Kevin the opportunity to increase his lead and he then further increased his lead on the last big climb.”
As expected Yolandé Speedy (MTN-Energade) dominated the women’s marathon, winning by minutes. Her team-mate Mariske Strauss (MTN-Energade) was second and Yolandi du Toit (Bizhub) third.
For full results visit www.mtncycling.co.za
Photo credit: Zoon Cronje