Knox wins MTN 50 Miler and sets sights at hat trick at MTN Crater Cruise

Max Knox (DCM) is on the verge of quite an unique hat trick after he won the MTN 50 Miler mountain bike ultra-marathon over the weekend in Pietermaritzburg.

Two weekends ago Knox also won the Sunday Tribune Hill2Hill Classic which means that he if wins next weekend’s MTN Crater Cruise in Parys he will have completed his hat trick of victories.

The reason why it will be an unique achievement is because it certainly does not happen often that a rider manages to race three Classics and win every time.

Kevin Evans (MTN-Energade) has already outdone Knox with a hat trick of victories in the MTN ultra-marathon series by winning the Attakwas, Sabie, Clarens and Cullinan races. The only difference being that his victories were not in succession.

Knox makes it clear that he does not want to speculate about completing his hat trick next week in Parys.

“If I keep on talking about it, I might just ‘jinx’ myself so I prefer to keep quiet and let my legs do the talking. All I can say is that my training has really been going well in the last weeks and I am feeling good at the moment.”

Getting back to Saturday’s MTN ultra-marathon race.

Adrien Niyonshuti (MTN-Energade) proved that his preparation for next week’s Commonwealth Games in India is still on track when he finished second while Marc Bassingthwaighte (Garmin-adidas) continued his upward curve in his racing performances by being crossing the line in third. Brandon Stewart (DCM) was fourth.

Niyonshuti wearing the series leader jersey in Evnas' absence finished 2nd behind Knox

They were the four dominant riders throughout the race.

According to Knox the race consisted of three laps – 30km, 40km and another 30km. “Things started off slowly” he added

Things only started to happen when Stewart attacked on one of the single track sections which resulted in Niyonshuti and Bassingthwaighte having to give chase. Knox followed them, making sure that he saved his energy.

Stewart stayed out in front for about ten kilometers but was eventually caught by the end of the first lap.

The cat and mouse games between the four leaders started in all seriousness during the second lap when Knox and Stewart took turns to launch attacks trying to rid themselves of the other two riders.

Marc Bassingthwaighte utterly exhausted following his ride to 3rd place

Bassingthwaighte said “I decided I need to set a steady fast pace upfront. It basically boiled down to survival because it did not take a brain surgeon to work out that if I did not do something drastic to put Max and Brandon under some pressure I will become the next race casualty off their constant attacks.

“The 40km lap finished off with the major climb of the day. I knew this is where proverbial pawpaw would hit the fan,” is how Bassingthwaighte remembers the race.

“Brandon proved me right by attacking as soon as the road tilted up. I realized it would be unwise to try and follow especially since I have done most of the defending and chasing during the second lap. So I opted to rather play it safe and race at a pace which I was comfortable with.

“A few kilometres further on I saw that Brandon was off the pace and I knew “the bombs” must have exploded as Max had attacked and was out in front on his own being chased by Adrien.

“When I saw Brandon was battling I came to the realization that if I could stay calm and collected that I could get a podium finish. Which I managed to do in the end.”

Knox crossing the line in first

Eszther Cluer (Jeep) proved that she might just be the only rider capable of beating Yolandé Speedy (MTN-Energade) on regular basis by winning the MTN women’s marathon. Speedy finished second. Cluer also managed to beat Speedy at the MTN Cross Country-race in George.

Last week Cluer won the Hill2Hill’s women’s race.

Karien van Jaarsveld (USN) was the third women’s rider to complete the 50 Miler marathon.

Photo credits: Zoon Cronje