2012 will be remembered as the year in which Max Knox (Specialized) fulfilled his mountain bike potential by winning South Africa's MTN National Marathon Series.
For his loyal fans, his success was a long time in the making, especially because they had already predicted five years ago that Knox had what it takes to become one of South Africa's best mountain bikers. The main reason why his success took such a long time to materialize was mechanical failures at crucial moments during races.
Knox has always been quite philosophical about his bad luck. "That is mountain biking for you. You have to learn to take the good with the bad," is his famous quote. A fierce battle for supremacy has been going on in the MTN National MTB series between Knox and Kevin Evans (Nedbank360Life) during the past three years. Evans can truly be called Knox's nemesis.
In 2010, Evans managed to win four races and Knox two. Last year, Evans won two races and Knox one.
This year, Knox finally managed to turn the tables on Evans by winning three out of the eight races (Clarens, Gravel Travel and Hilton). Evans was victorious on two occasions (MTN Sabie and MTN Ride Crater Cruise).
The way in which Knox and Evans have been able to dominate the series since 2010 is somewhat disconcerting. Of a total of 22 races, they managed to win 14 between them. If the results of David George (Nedbank360Life) are also brought into the equation, it means that three riders managed to win 17 of the races.
Between the three of them, they can also boast with 10 second places and eight third places. This means that, out of 66 possible podium places, they claimed 35.
Since 2010, Burry Stander (Specialized), with two victories, and Jacques Rossouw (USN), Karl Platt (Team Bulls) and Adrien Niyonshuti (MTN-Qhubeka) with one victory each, have been the only other riders who were able to win a race in the MTN series.
The MTN National MTB series had actually been dominated by only four riders over the past three years. Apart from winning in Clarens in 2011, Niyonshuti came second on three occasions, as well as third on two.
This year's Olympic Games in London definitely had an impact on the MTN series, because riders such as Philip Buys (USN), Niyonshuti and Stander opted to focus on cross country races rather than on marathon mountain biking.
What has been exciting about the series this year is the emergence of Nico Bell and Gawie Combrink (both Westvaal Columbia). If a prize were to be awarded to the rider who has improved the most during this season, the two of them would certainly have been contenders.
The two youngsters, James Reid (Nedbank360Life) and Lourens Luus (Valencia), are two certain prospects for the future. Despite focusing primarily on cross country races, Reid managed to finish second in the Crater Cruise.