"No rider can race week-end after week-end and continue to win. Therefore, I am going to start rotating my riders to make sure that they get enough time off to recover." This is what Ian van der Walt, owner of the DCM Chrome team, said after the MTN South African cross country event in Pretoria.
Van der Walt's statement was not mere rhetoric. The fact that Max Knox and Johnny Kritzinger will be the only two riders from DCM Chrome who will compete in the 125km Induna Ultra race in Hazyview this weekend, is proof that he keeps his promises.
A look at Knox's racing CV for the year, shows that he is definitely one of the in-form riders at the moment. Not only had he won the Barberton Ultra race as well as the Sabie Marathon race, but during the past weekend he also won the two-day Rooiberg Eco Ride.
There is a good reason why Knox is dominating the ultra races in the Lowveld. He is a born and bred Lowvelder who grew up in Sabie. One could say that he had learned his trade on the slopes of the Drakensberg.
"I know what to expect during these races," is how Knox explains his victories. He denies that there is more pressure on him to win when he is racing in the Lowveld.
"Yes, the Lowveld is my home, and people do expect me to win, but the only real pressure there is on me, is the pressure I put on myself because of my own determination to win."
One of the highlights of the Induna race could be the battle between Knox and Kevin Evans (MTN). During the first stage of the Rooiberg Eco Ride, Evans managed to beat Knox by a mere second. Unfortunately an untimely puncture during the second stage sabotaged Knox's chances of challenging Evans again in the final sprint.
What counts in Knox's favour is the fact that he is a tenacious little rider who can climb with the best on a good day and who can sprint as well when necessary. Knox realizes that if he wants to complete his hat trick of three consecutive wins in the Lowveld he will have to be wide awake.
"Racing against a team such as MTN which has the numbers, means that I will have to watch their riders carefully. However, it will be important not to get carried away by what the MTN riders are doing or not doing.
"The course is also going to play an important part in the outcome of the race. It has several short and steep little climbs which will be draining my energy level all the time. It will also be important to have confidence in my own judgment and wait for the right moment to attack."
Kritzinger is also expected to achieve a good result, because he finished fourth in last year's Induna race. He predicts that on Saturday the racing will only really start during the second lap because that is where the serious climbing begins. But he is not too worried.
"I think the fact that the race is over hundred kilometres may count in my favour. Usually I get stronger as the race gets longer. Hopefully Induna will be no exception."
When pressured to predict who would be the winner, Kritzinger tipped his teammate, Max Knox.
The other contenders for the number one position on the winner's podium will, in all probability, be David George (MTN), Mannie Heymans and Marc Bassingthwaighte (Garmin/Adidas).
The Induna will be the last serious preparation for Knox and Kritzinger before they leave for Canada where they will compete in the BC Bike race, a seven-day stage race in July in Canada. Knox and Brandon Stewart will be teaming up while Rourke Croeser will be Kritzinger's teammate.