One week after crushing his rivals at the opening round of the South African Cross Country National Series, Burry Stander (Specialized USN), outsprinted compatriot and long-time rival, Kevin Evans, to win the second round of the South African Marathon National Series, the MTN Tulbagh, in the Western Cape province on Saturday.
In a year that Stander has made a commitment to doing fewer marathons and stage races in order to focus on the shorter, more intense Olympic cross country discipline ahead of the London Games, the 24-year-old once again showed his versatility in ousting Evans in the final dash.
It was another demanding event in the world's largest mountain bike racing series, taking the riders on a circular route in the mountains around Tulbagh over a distance of 105km with 2400 metres of vertical ascent. Stander's winning time was 4 hours, 40 minutes and 27 seconds. Evans, racing for Nedbank Team 360Life, crossed the line half a bike length back, with Jacques Rossouw (FedGroup - ITEC Connect) claiming a gritty third place 20 seconds later.
Tulbagh was the only marathon Stander has on his schedule before the Olympic Games, which take place in August and he ensured it ended perfectly for him.
"I woke up a head cold on Friday, so dosed up on Vitamin C. I think I overdid it though because I cramped towards the end of the race. But I'm happy with my form. I've been doing a lot of high intensity training for cross country racing, so wasn't sure how I'd do over the longer distance," said Stander.
Stander is the current South African marathon champion and the reigning ABSA Cape Epic champion. He is aiming to defend his Cape Epic title with Swiss teammate, Christoph Sauser next month and scheduled the Tulbagh race and the upcoming three-day stage race, Columbia Grape Escape, as preparation events.
"The first 30km were quite hard and then the course became less challenging for quite some time. I didn't really know the route well and attacked through a flat, rocky section with about 40km to go," said Stander. "But I think everyone was waiting for the real climbs to start another 10km later."
Evans, David George and Rossouw were the only riders able to match Stander's acceleration, but when they hit the climbs with 30km remaining, Stander put in more accelerations and first George and then Rossouw dropped, leaving only Evans for company at the front.
"Kevin and I were very even on the day and while I didn't know most of the route too well, I was familiar with the last 10km. Being mostly downhill and flat I knew I wouldn't be able to get away from him, so I banked on taking it to the sprint. I've beaten him a few times in sprints so was quite confident I could do it again.
"We weren't going flat out in the last 10km and that allowed Jacques to close the gap. I am not contesting the Marathon National Series this year, but Kevin is and it was in his interest to ensure Jacques didn't catch us, so he led the sprint out and I came around him at just the right moment," said Stander.
George finished less than two minutes after Rossouw to claim fourth with Rwandan hero, Adrien Niyonshuti (MTN Qhubeka) rounding out the top five. Rossouw, winner of Round 1, is expected to retain the MTN Series leader's jersey.
In the women's 70km event, Ariane Kleinhans (Contego) continued her winning streak by beating visiting British rider, Jane Nuessli by over five minutes. Hanlie Booyens (Momentum) was a distant third.
Round 3 of the MTN Marathon Series will take place in Sabie in the Mpumalanga province on Saturday, February 25. The event also doubles as the opening round of the UCI's Marathon World Series.
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|10||Ruan Du Toit||0:27:52|
|17||Jacques Janse Van Rensburg||0:38:56|
|24||Louis Bresler Knipe||0:57:24|
|33||Guylin Van Den Berg||1:42:31|
|35||Henning Van Wyk||1:51:57|
|DNF||Gavin no data|
|DNF||Jozua De Kock|
|DNF||Andrew Le Cordeur|
|DNF||Stefan Jan Botma|
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|5||Bernice Van Rensburg||1:57:16|