On Saturday, 15 May, Kevin Evans (MTN-Energade), the South African marathon champion, will make his comeback to cross-country racing in George after an absence of three years.
It will not be a surprise if he should win the MTN National pro-elite race, especially with Burry Stander (Specialized/Mr Price), the world’s second best cross-country rider, having decided to take a break.
After Evans had won the George race in 2007, he decided to stop competing in cross-country races because he wanted to specialize in marathon racing.
“At the time I felt that it was difficult to be at your best in both disciplines. You become a jack of all trades, but master of none. That is why I competed only in marathons during the past few years. I still don’t see myself making a full-time come back to cross-country racing.
“The main reason why I have decided to compete, is loyalty to my province and sponsors. I know that the guys have put in a huge effort to ensure that this weekend’s event will be a success and that the people would love to see me racing on my home turf.”
Evans was not prepared to make any predictions on the outcome of the race, apart from saying that he would not put his wheels on the line if he had no intention of racing to win.
“I honestly don’t know what to expect from the other riders, but I do know that someone like Philip Buys (Garmin-adidas) will be strong on the technical sections.
“After competing in the MR Price Karkloof marathon in KwaZulu-Natal, I am quite confident of my technical abilities. As far as I am concerned, Karkloof was basically a three hour cross-country event. I was the only rider who could stay with Burry. He only managed to drop me at the last technical section, so I must have done something right.”
Actually, Sunday’s Karkloof marathon was an exact repetition of the previous year’s event with Evans and Stander again the main protagonists. The moment the two of them opened a gap, it was game over for the rest of the riders because they were just too strong.
Buys finished third, more than eight minutes behind them.
Evans reckons that the fact that Stander has competed in two Cross-country World Cup events during the past three weeks, certainly counts in his favour.
“Burry is more used to intense hard racing at the moment, while I am in an in between stage as far as my training is concerned. If the MTN-Energade road cycling team should receive a definite invitation to compete in a tour in Spain next month, that will be my next important goal. Otherwise my training programme will be geared towards being really competitive in July when I will be going to Austria to train and race with Alban Lakata as part of my preparation for the World Marathon Championship in August.”
In what should be no surprise, Yolandé Speedy (MTN-Energade) was the winner of Karkloof’s women’s marathon, with Mariska Strauss (MTN-Energade) finishing second and Sam Oosthuizen (WIN) third.
Photos courtesy Zoon Cronje