Evans secures the undisputed first place in South African MTB at MTN Ride Crater Cruise

The name ‘Kevin Evans’ (MTN-Energade) and ‘cycling firsts’ have become synonymous in 2010.

During the past weekend in Parys (9-10 October) Evans added another ‘first’ to this ever growing list by becoming the first rider to defend his MTN Ride Crater Cruise ultra-marathon title successfully.

Courtesy Zoon Cronje

The name ‘Kevin Evans’ (MTN-Energade) and ‘cycling firsts’ have become synonymous in 2010.

During the past weekend in Parys (9-10 October) Evans added another ‘first’ to this ever growing list by becoming the first rider to defend his MTN Ride Crater Cruise ultra-marathon title successfully.  Being the first mountain biker to win the South African individual time trial, as well as the first mountain biker to win a road tour, are just two more items on Evans’s long list of firsts.

However, moments after his victory in the MTN Ride Crater Cruise, Evans made it clear that too much of a good thing can get tiresome.

“I cannot remember ever feeling so ‘broken’ after a mountain bike race. It was really hard. I have had enough for this year. It is time for me to get off my bike and take a well-deserved break,” Evans said.

“My only motivation throughout the race was that I did not want to go back home with empty hands after being away for more than three weeks.

“Have a look”, Evans said, pointing to the stem of his mountain bike.

“I stuck the name of my daughter, Ruby, on the bike’s stem. There were quite a few times during the race when I was wondering why I am punishing myself so much.  At times like that, I just looked down and when I saw Ruby’s name I was motivated again. I owed it to her and my wife to take home some Christmas spending money.”

“To have Kevin winning five out of the six MTN Ultra-Marathon events he raced this season is nothing short of phenomenal.  He has been an exceptional performer all season on the road and off it and a true ambassador for MTN. Evans and team mate Adrien Niyonshuti will be in action again next week at the Cape Pioneer Trek,” says Bernard Pieters, senior sponsorship manager at MTN South Africa.

Evans’s winning time for the MTN Rider Crater Cruise over 101 kilometers was 3 hours, 38 minutes and 10 seconds. Jacques Janse van Rensburg (DCM) finished second, Brandon Stewart (DCM) was fourth and Ben-Melt Swanepoel (Specialized/Mr Price) fifth.

To say that Evans dominated this year’s MTN Ultra-marathon series will be putting it mildly.  His victory in five of the seven races could possibly be another first. The only event in which he was beaten was the Barberton. He did not race the 50-Miler.

Evans, DCM and Garmin making the racing in the early part of the 103km Ultra

Saturday’s race boiled down to a battle among eight men.  From about the 40 kilometer marker Mannie Heymans and Philip Buys (both Garmin-adidas) drove the breakaway while Evans, Janse van Rensburg, Stewart, Pieter Seyffert (DCM), Swanepoel and Marc Bassingthwaighte (Garmin-adidas) rode slipstream to preserve themselves.

Heymans was relentless in the way he set the pace up front, but with hindsight it is doubtful whether that was the right tactic to follow, especially when it became clear that the three DCM riders were all sitting behind, enjoying a free ride. Their excuse was that they were deliberately holding back because they were hoping that Max Knox would catch up with them.

What they did not realize was that Knox had already crashed out some time ago.

The big names battling it out

However, to make a long story short, the Garmin-adidas riders were certainly the biggest losers of the day, because when Evans attacked for the first time, about 15 kilometers from the finish, it was game over for them. Heymans, Buys and Bassingthwaighte were first to be dropped, along with Swanepoel and Seyffert.

The Garmin adidas boys did a lot of work before Evans put in the final attack

That left Evans, Janse van Rensburg and Stewart to battle it out for the overall victory. With a two to one advantage, one would have expected the DCM riders to work Evans over a bit to exhaust him, but they chose not to do so. Instead Evans received his second free ride of the day, because Janse van Rensburg was pacing in front, with Evans sitting second wheel and Stewart racing in the third place.

Evans managed to drop both DCM riders with his second attack, just before the last really technical stretch, about seven kilometers from the finish.

Afterwards Evans said that his victory was basically a carbon copy of what happened in 2009.

“I attacked exactly at the same places as last year.”

Janse van Rensburg admitted that there was no way that he could stay with Evans after his second attack.

“The mistake I made was to pace in front when there were just the three of us.  I thought Brandon was still strong and I was hoping to set him up for the victory.  By the time I realized that his legs were gone, it was too late to change tactics.

“In a way I justified myself by finishing second again.  It proved that last year was no fluke.”

Even though Janse van Rensburg finished second overall last year, he was disqualified for accepting a drink outside a feeding zone.

Swanepoel, the only other rider who had won the MTN Ride Crater Cruise twice, said that Saturday’s race was certainly the hardest.

“Every rider who managed to finish definitely deserved his medal.”

Knox, one of the pre-race favourites, might be excused if he should consider himself jinxed as far as the MTN Rider Crater Cruise is concerned.  He flatted within the first few kilometers.  Luckily a teammate was on hand to give him his wheel.

“After my puncture I was about a minute down on the leaders, but my race finished the moment we reached the first really rough section. I was trying to go too fast in my effort to overtake riders. There were all kinds of boulders and potholes along the single-track section. In my eagerness to catch up, I rode into an anthole at about 45km/ph.

“The next moment I flew over my handle bars and landed on my back, getting badly winded in the process.  I must have been lying on the ground for about ten minutes before I had recovered sufficiently to get up again. For me it was race over.”

Photo credit: Zoon Cronje

For full results visit www.mtncycling.co.za