As far as mountain bike ultra-marathons are concerned, two heads are definitely better than one.
In the MTN Tulbagh Ultra-marathon, that took place on Saturday (14 May), David George and Kevin Evans (360Life) confirmed the truth of this statement when they put their rivals in a checkmate position with their tactically sound riding to finish first and second respectively.
George’s winning time over the 105 kilometers marathon was 4 hours 29 minutes and 8 seconds. Evans came second, 8 minutes and 15 seconds adrift and Max Knox (Ghost/Do it now) finished third, another 10 seconds later.
George, who also won the MTN Attakwas Ultra-marathon and finished second in Barberton, is now the likely overall leader in the MTN Ultra-marathon series.
The experts predicted that George would be the rider to beat and he did not disappoint his fans.
He began his attack after about 20 kilometers of racing. Only Knox could stay with him. The two of them managed to open a gap of just under one minute on the chase group that initially consisted of five riders, which soon dwindled down to just three, namely Evans, Adrien Niyonshuti (MTN/Qhubeka) and Darren Lill, the SA road champion.
According to Evans, he felt strong enough to join George and Knox in the lead but he realized that, from a tactical point of view, it would be a mistake.
“If I had hastened to join David and Max, chances would have been good that I would have given either Adrien or Darren a free ride. So I decided to rather sit on and let them do the hard work.”
In doing so Evans and George effectively put the race in a checkmate position.
Knox admitted that he fully realized that this was happening.
“I knew that, with Kevin in the chase group, 360Life had two chances of winning the race. If David should have had some mishap, Kevin would still have been in a position to contest the victory.
“This meant that I had to take a gamble. So I increased my pace in the hope of getting David off my wheel. Unfortunately he was the stronger rider on the day and, with about 50 kilometers to go, he managed to ride away from me.
“I then just tried to hang on to the finish. “
Evans’s waiting game paid dividends because first Lill and then Niyonshuti fell by the wayside, leaving him all by himself in third place.
“I surprised myself. As the race progressed, I could feel that I was becoming stronger and stronger and eventually I was able to catch up with Max and pass him,” Evans said.
It was Evans’s first mountain bike race after he had crashed out with a broken collarbone during the Cape Epic. Ironically, his crash happened in the Tulbagh area.
According to Evans his collarbone did not trouble him during the race.
“But my confidence is not yet what it should be. I was still very cautious on the downhill sections.”
Arianne Kleynhans (Contego/Giant/Sludge) won the women’s race. Britain’s Catherine Williamson (Bizhub) finished second, Ischen Stopforth (Bizhub) third, Candice Neethling (Bizhub) fourth and Karien van Jaarsveld (USN) fifth.
MTN Tulbagh Ultra-marathon, 105km
1 David George – RSA (Nedbank 360Life) 04hr 29min 08sec
2 Kevin Evans – RSA (Nedbank 360Life) @ 08min 15sec
3 Max Knox – RSA (Do-It-Now Ghost) @ 08:25
4 Adrien Niyonshuti – RWA (MTN Qhubeka) @ 12:57
5 Nico Bell – RSA @ 14:33
6 Charles Keey – RSA (MTN Qhubeka) @ 16:44
7 Darren Lill – RSA @ 26:57
8 Mannie Heymans – NAM (Garmin adidas) @ 31:34
9 Francois Theron – RSA (Garmin adidas) @ 31:36
10 Grieg Knox – RSA @ 39:10