Battle for second sets up South African MTN finale

Evans has first place locked up in marathon series

At approximately noon on Saturday, the first rider will cross the finish line of the MTN 50-Miler in Hilton, KwaZulu-Natal. That's also about when everyone will know the results of the South African MTN Series.

Kevin Evans (MTN-Energade) has dominated the series to such an extent that there is no need for him to race on Saturday. He has already won the overall by winning three of the six races in which he has competed. In doing so, he accumulated 18,963 points.

Francois Theron (Garmin adidas) is second overall with 16,174 points; Marc Bassingthwaighte (Garmin adidas) third overall with 15,675 points; Philip Buys (Garmin adidas) fourth overall with 14,568 points; Ben-Melt Swanepoel (Specialized/Mankele) fifth with 14,146 points and Johnny Kritzinger (DCM) sixth with 12,830 points.

With Theron and Swanepoel both opting not to ride on Saturday, it means that the main battle for second overall will be among Buys, Kritzinger and Bassingthwaighte. Judging by their results of the past four weeks, the safe money will be to bet that the battle for the second position will be between Buys and Kritzinger.

Apart from Evans, Buys has certainly been the most consistent rider during the past four weeks. Since the MTN Clarence Event, he has been on the podium weekend after weekend. The past Sunday he won the Addo Mountain Bike Challenge in the Eastern Cape.

Kritzinger is also in good form, having won the inaugural six-day Cape Pioneer Trek in the Klein Karoo with Erik Kleynhans (GT/Mr Price). Both Kritzinger and Buys have only one wish for Saturday and that is, "Please don't let it rain."

Kritzinger, who finished third in last year's race, says he hopes that he does not have to go through that mud battle again.

"In normal circumstances the MTN 50-Miler is a tough challenge because of all the technical singletrack sections and the constant climbs, but when it rains, it becomes a nightmare with all the mud. I think last year the winning time for 80 kilometers of racing was well over three hours."

Kritzinger says that his participation in the Cape Pioneer Trek will help on Saturday.

"I have got the miles in my legs. On Sunday I participated in a road race just for the fun, and I was surprised by how strong my legs felt. On Saturday I have to avoid doing something stupid that will cost me the race."

Buys' technical expertise and kamikaze approach when things get tough, will definitely count in his favour. According to himself, he has got about two good races left in his legs before he will also begin to consider taking a break.

Bassingthwaighte will be the proverbial "Joker" on Saturday. He has kept a very low profile during the past few weeks which could mean that the Namibian is ready for a good race.

Fritz Pienaar, organizer of the MTN series, described the race as a real MTB race with lots of undulating climbs and purposely-built singletrack that will be thoroughly enjoyed.

"It is a scenic race and a very suitable way to end the season," said Pienaar.

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