Third place Cape Epic team happy with performance despite mechanicals
Third placed Cape Epic mountain bike stage race finishers Kevin Evans and Alban Lakata (MTN-Energade) survived the gruelling eight-day race despite some bad luck and are already thinking of other opportunities to race together.
"We were thoroughly tested, but we came out of the Epic as the best of friends. I always maintain that the Epic is a true test for any friendship. If you and your partner are still talking to one another after eight days of hard racing and severe suffering, it indicates a lasting friendship.
"Naturally we would have liked to do better than third overall, but I am quite happy with the way things turned out. All in all we had a good Epic. We won a stage and had second and third placings in stages. In addition, we were one of only two teams to have worn the Epic's coveted yellow jersey.
"Ours is surely a relationship on which we can build for the future. I would love to do another tour with Alban, perhaps the Trans-Alps."
According to Evans their problems started during the last three days when they were racing in the Oakdale area. "Alban battled to breath properly. We are not sure why. According to Alban, the same thing happened to him the previous time he raced in the Oakdale area. Perhaps there is something in the air to which he is allergic or perhaps it is a sports-induced asthma.
"All I know is that it is very difficult to be competitive when you cannot breath properly because that means that your muscles don't get enough oxygen.
"Our worst day was definitely the seventh stage when we lost about 13 minutes to the Flückiger brothers, Lukas and Mathias. It was really important for us to defend our 3rd position, because it would have been a waste of all our efforts if we had finished fourth."
The third stage was also one filled with drama for Evans and Lakata. "We had four punctures between the two of us," said Lakata. "As luck would have it, both of us punctured our back tyres during the last five kilometers, basically at the same time. At that time we were only two minutes behind the leaders. Even though David George and his teammate helped us out with 'CO2 bombs', luck was still not on our side. Within minutes our wheels were flat again. I decided to keep on riding with my flat tyre while Alban decided to take off his tyre and ride on the rim.
"For the last two kilometers, we had to ride on tar and it was probably the heat of the tar that caused Alban's carbon rim to explode.
"The moment that happened Alban said: 'This is it. It is race over.' I immediately responded: 'It is not race over yet. Get off your bike and run.' Alban started to run. If he did not do that, we certainly would have lost our third position overall."
Evans also appreciated the time, early on during a stage, when Lakata punctured and Adrien Niyonshuti (MTN-Energade) stopped and gave his wheel to Evans to ensure that they did not lose too much time.
"I think all of us can learn much from the German's Bulls. They enter two teams every year with just one goal and that is to win the Epic. It does not matter which team wins, as long as it is a Bulls team.
"Karl Platt and Stefan Sahm, the overall winners, had only two serious problems during the whole Epic. Both times the other Bulls team was there to help them out to prevent them from losing too much time."
Now the big question is whether Kevin Evans and Burry Stander (Specialized/Mr Price) would ever ride the Epic together to ensure that an all-South African team wins the Epic.
If one looks at the Epic's results, Evans and Stander are the only two riders who were really able to take on the international riders.
"I would love to ride with Burry because I think we would have a realistic chance of winning, but we ride for different sponsors with conflicting interests.
"For it to happen, we would have to sit down with the sponsors and see if we could reach a working agreement."
Evans is not sure whether or not he will be racing the Clarence Ultra-marathon on April 16, which is the next race in the MTN-Energade Series. "I will definitely take a break for a few days, forget about cycling and spend some quality time with my wife and daughter before I make a final decision.
"If my sponsors want me to race, I will be on my bike."
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