“Cometh the hour cometh the man.”
These words are the perfect way to describe Max Knox (Specialized/EAI Solutions) winning the MTN Gravel Travel National MTB driven by Nissan Ultra Marathon outside Wellington on Saturday (11 May).
Knox might just have made South African mountain biking history. It is not known whether any rider has ever managed to win two of the MTN National MTB Series on consecutive weekends.
The previous weekend he was also victorious at MTN Clarens.
Knox’s winning time for the race over 102km was 4 hours 46 minutes and 27 seconds; Lourens Luus (RE:CM) was second in 4:48:25 followed by Matthys Beukes (Scott) in 4:49:12; Nico Bell (Westvaal/Bell Cycles) in 4:54:43 and Charles Keey (Cannondale/Blend Properties) 5:02:06.
It is interesting to note that Knox has won three of the four MTN National MTB ultra marathons he competed in so far. If he manages to win one more race in the MTN-series it will be a personal record for Knox. Last year he managed to win three of the eight races
Knox who fully realizes that any mountain biker is only as good as his last race is hoping that he will be able to pull of one more victory. “Naturally I am going to give it my all to win again. I really would love to win the Hilton Dirt Festival again but I got to be realistic mountain biking is an unpredictable sport and the biggest mistake any rider could make is to get over confident. Therefore I will take each race as it comes.”
Knox’s game plan at the MTN Gravel Travel boiled down to “slow poison”.
“I purposely upped the pace quite early on during the race as I wanted my rivals to suffer. Each time there was a climb I accelerated that little bit more to put even more pressure on them. By the time we got the last climb I could see that there were gaps forming in our lead group of five so I knew the other riders were starting to get tired.
“I attacked knowing that if I managed to get to the top of the climb first I will also be the first going onto the single track and that would make things difficult because the other riders won’t really know where I am.
“It was basically a case of out of sight out of mind.”
Luus admitted that Knox totally caught him unaware with his final attack. “I knew Max was going to attack, I just did not know when he was going to do it. I was slowing down at the water point to get some refreshments when it happened.
“But that is no excuse. Max was definitely the strongest rider on the day, and fully deserved to win. “After being dropped by Max I just wanted to consolidate my second place finish.”
At 21 Luus is definitely the revelation of this season’s MTN National MTB Series.
Food for thought is the fact that at one stage four of the six riders in the breakaway group were Lowvelders (Knox, Luus, Bell and Gawie Combrinck). Knox said he also picked up on that. “I thought to myself this is might as well be one of our local Lowveld races.”
Beukes had a little bit of bad luck. He was in the lead group but was brought to an abrupt halt after 25 kilometres when he had to stop to fix a puncture. “It took me about 20 minutes of hard riding to catch up again. Luckily I still had enough left in my legs to take the king of the mountains prime, but as luck would have it, I started to cramp during the last 20 kilometres.”
Mariske Strauss (Contego/Giant) won the women’s marathon in 3:49:58. Jennie Stenerhage was second in 3:51:05 and Robyn de Groot third in 3:51:06.
4. Nico Bell 04:54:43