When Kevin Evans (MTN-Energade) makes up his mind to finish off something, it is not just idle talk.
He proved this on Saturday (28 August) when he won the Cullinan ultra-marathon (100km) in the MTN series in fine style by outsprinting David George (SAFindit) to take his fourth victory in the series and win the series overall.
Max Knox (DCM) finished third, with Jacques Janse van Rensburg (DCM) fourth and Adrian Niyonshuti (MTN-Energade) fifth.
With this victory Evans ensured that his name will be part of the South African mountain-biking folklore for years to come. No rider has ever dominated the MTN series, as well as its predecessor the Mazda series, in the way this rider from Plettenberg Bay has done during the past decade.
Evans has now won the series overall for a record sixth time. By winning the MTN Cullinan ultra-marathon on Saturday, he also set a personal record. It was his fourth victory, which is one more than in previous years when he only won three races in the MTN series.
After the race, a dust-covered Evans was not prepared to make any predictions on how long he intends to dominate the MTN series.
“Immediately after the race is not a good time to ask me such questions. I would love to win the series overall once more. Perhaps it would then be time to call it quits, but at this stage nothing is final.”
According to Evans he would like to defend his title in the Crater Cruise ultra-marathon of the MTN series,
if his body should allow him to do so.
“Luckily, there is no pressure on me for the rest of the series. I have achieved what I had set out to do. Therefore, I am just going to enjoy myself and take things as they come in the last two races.”
According to Evans the deciding moment in the race came at about 70km.
“Up until then we were all just riding along at a comfortable pace. This was totally different from what happened in the World Marathon Championship in Germany, where the racing was flat out right from the word go.
“Because of the easy pace, I decided that it was a good time for me to take a chance. I then attacked and made sure that it counted. Only David (George) could stay with me. It suited me to a tee to have David with me because we worked well together to make sure that nobody could catch up with us again.
“I was never worried about what would happen during the sprint for the line. Naturally I was racing to win, but if David should have beaten me, it would not have been the end of the world. I only had to finish before Max (Knox) to win the series overall.
“Going into the sprint, I was lucky to get in front of David in the crucial final corner. This gave me a slight advantage in the sprint.”
David George, who was even more covered in dust than Evans, was not upset about being outsprinted by his friend.
“It was a good race and the best man won.”
George said the MTN ultra-marathon was much tougher than he had expected.
“Actually, it was a perfect marathon course because there was something of everything – thick sand, tough little climbs, technical rocky sections etc.”
Knox experienced some bad luck when the saddle of his mountain bike broke after about 20 kilometers. He could keep on riding, but the loose saddle prevented him from getting into a steady rhythm.
“I cannot use my broken saddle as an excuse. Up to about 70 kilometers, when the racing was not really that hard, I could stay with the front riders.
“Towards the end of the race, when it really started to count, I just did not have the legs. That was to be expected, because I was definitely not 100% racing fit going into the race. I have only been training again for the past two weeks. Given another month, I will hopefully be ready to start winning races again.”
Janse van Rensburg, who just managed to pip Niyonshuti in a frantic sprint for the line to finish fourth, said he surprised himself.
“It was the first time that I have raced since I broke my collarbone, so I am not complaining. I will admit that I was scared during a good part of the race. I kept thinking how bad it would be if I should fall again and break my collarbone for a second time. That meant that I played it safe in the technical sections and I was careful not to take any risks.”
Ischen Stopforth (Bizhub) won the women’s marathon-race over 75km, with her teammate, Yolandi du Toit, taking second and Karien van Jaarsveld (USN) third.
Photo credits: Zoon Cronje