For the first time since the inception 10 years ago of the Absa Cape Epic, an eight-day international mountain bike tour, Kevin Evans (FedGroup Itec) will not be competing. After consulting with the team of doctors treating him, it was decided that it would be unwise for him to ride in the Epic. The body cavity where his appendix was removed has still not drained properly.
Since October last year, Evans has been in hospital on three occasions to be treated for the same problem.
However, Evans remains optimistic. "I think the doctors are now, for the first time, treating the cause of my problem instead of just the problem itself. It feels as if the body cavity is, at long last, beginning to close."
Evans has competed in every Cape Epic up to now and he admits that not being able to compete this year is a great pity. He managed to win four stages in the Cape Epic, and he always finished seventh overall or better.
Last year he was second overall. "But remember that I am, first and foremost, a husband and a father. Therefore my health will always be my main priority."
Evans was discharged from hospital last week. He will know by Thursday, after another MRI scan, when he will be able to start training again.
"I might be able to do the Joburg2C and Sani2C but, if not, it won't be the end of the world. It is important for me to be patient. My biggest goal for the next 18 months will be to try and win a medal at next year's UCI World Marathon Championship in Pietermaritzburg."
Brandon Stewart, FedGroup Itec rider and team owner, said Evans' withdrawal from the Epic is a great loss.
"We are all disappointed about it. But we will continue to support Kev 100% until he is back to full strength and on the top step of the podium. I will now do the Cape Epic with Neil MacDonald. He has been in awesome form during the past few weeks."
Despite not being able to ride the Cape Epic, Evans will not miss out. "I am going to be there to support Brandon and Neil. If possible, I would love to do some live commentating during the Epic as well. It will also be fun to go out with my dad, Leon, in the lead vehicle during a few of the stages." Evans' dad is the Epic's route designer, which led to him being nicknamed "Dr Evil".
Stewart will not compete in the UCI World Series race, the MTN Sabie marathon, on Saturday, February 23. "It is important for me to prioritize my season. I am simply not able to race weekend after weekend."
"Since the end of January, I have competed in the MTN Barberton marathon and in the Addo Challenge outside Port Elizabeth. Then there was the Ride the Rock (a three-day stage event), as well as the Tankwa Challenge (a three-day stage event) the following weekend. Next weekend we will be competing in The Grape Escape, which will be followed by the Argus Mountain Bike Race."
"To be able to compete in Sabie on Saturday, I would have to do a 16-hour road trip. In the end, this constant travelling and racing just become too much. To ensure that you stay competitive, it is important that you sometimes take a break."
"Neil (MacDonald) will be at Sabie, because it is not such a long journey from Johannesburg."