It rarely occurs that Max Knox (Specialized) has the luxury of going into a cycling race with absolutely no pressure on him to win.
When he lines up to start the MTN Hilton Ultra Marathon in KwaZulu-Natal on the 23th September, he will be in that privileged position.
With his dominant performance at the MTN Gravel Travel and SA Championship, which enabled him to finish nearly 12 minutes ahead of David George (Nedbank360Life) and 23 minutes ahead of Kevin Evans (Nedbank360Life), Knox had basically secured an overall victory in the MTN National MTB Series.
George was last year’s overall winner and Evans has won it on numerous previous occasions.
One of the key aspects of the series is that every minute counts. In other words, the larger the time gap between opponents, the more points it counts for an overall victory.
Ryan Gould, MTN SA General Manager: Brand and Communications says: “It is these commendable performances that unearth riders such as Knox that keeps MTN involved and excited about cycling in South Africa,” he said.
“MTN would like to wish Knox the best of luck during his participation in the MTN Hilton Ultra Marathon, which is one many races we are involved in to produce amateur and professional cyclists on a national level across BMX, mountain biking and road cycling. MTN also has its own cycle team, Team MTN Qhubeka, which is an association with Wildlands, a non-profit initiative that provides communities with sustainable “work-to-earn” based solutions to slow the impact of climate change,” Gould concluded.
Knox has been the most consistent rider so far in the series. Apart from winning the MTN Gravel Travel, he was victorious at MTN Clarens, finished second at MTN Sabie, as well as second at MTN Mabalingwe.
If Knox should finish among the top five in the MTN Hilton ultra-marathon, it would mean that the series would be done and dusted.
This race could be the most exciting of the series because it will be the last race of importance before the World Marathon Championship takes place in France on 7 October.
It is almost certain that the ‘who’s who’ of South African mountain biking will be competing.
Tim Fair, race organizer for Advendurance, describes the race as ‘challenging, but also fun’.
“This is a must-do ride for riders from Gauteng because they will experience typical KwaZulu-Natal racing.
“They will race through indigenous thorn veld, pine forests, and the Midlands sugar cane plantations, as well as a game reserve where there will be an excellent chance that some of the animals might come out to inspect the ‘funny creatures’ on two wheels.
“The ultra-marathon and marathon will offer some never-before-ridden areas with fast descents, challenging climbs and exciting sections of single track.”
After last year’s race the riders were full of praise for the single-track sections, calling it one big adrenaline rush from beginning to end.
Tom Cottrell, author of the Cyclist Guide, calls it one of the most scenic routes available.
Riders will be able to see KwaZulu-Natal’s capital, the Albert Falls Dam and the Umgeni Valley. On a clear day it is even possible to see all the way to Durban.