Kevin Evans (MTN-Energade) proved on Saturday that he is currently in a class of his own by winning the MTN Clarens Ultra-marathon for a second year in succession.
Evans rode in front for almost the entire duration of the race and his performance can only be described by the word "impressive". He seemed to challenge the rest of the riders to catch him if they could.
The Garmin-adidas riders, Philip Buys, Mannie Heymans and Francois Theron, were the main protagonists in the chase to catch Evans, but their efforts were to no avail. Heymans finished second, Buys third and Theron fourth.
Evans admitted that he surprised himself. "I really did not expect to win, because it was my first race after the Cape Epic. After Matthys Beukes attacked on the first serious climb in the Golden Gate National Park, I decided to ride at the same pace that I did in the Epic. I was surprised to see how easy it was for me to get to the front.
"Only Mannie, Philip and Ben-Melt Swanepoel (Mr Price Specialized) managed to stay with me."
Unfortunately, Swanepoel crashed on the downhill section in the nature reserve. That effectively put an end to his ambitions to win.
As expected, the real race started on the slick rock climb. Evans knew that he had to gain as much time as possible on Buys before he reached the very tricky technical descent.
Evans reckoned that he had about a two-minute lead on Buys at the top. After the descent, his lead was down to about 30 seconds. From then on, Evans was in total control, basically increasing his lead with each pedal stroke.
"It is always special to win. My win in Clarens is important to me because it brought me one step closer to an overall victory again in the MTN series."
Buys, who was in the second place up to the last few kilometers, said that he was his own worst enemy. "I would not have won. Kevin was definitely the strongest rider on the day, but I should have finished second. The mistake I made was to lose concentration towards the end. Because of that, I missed the sign that indicated the direction in which we had to ride. So I got lost! It took me about two minutes to rectify my mistake.
"Luckily it was Mannie who passed me to take the second place. I finished about 10 seconds behind him."
According to Buys he now knows why slick rock is called slick rock. "Because of the good rains, moss grew on the slick rock surfaces in some sections of the climb. This made it basically impossible to stay on your bike. I had to get off. The only way I could move forward was to grab hold of grass or branches and physically pull myself forward. At times it felt as if I was crawling my way to the top.
"I was bargaining on making up time on Kevin on the descent. However, the situation became difficult because that was the point where our race joined up with the MiWay half-marathon. I did not expect to suddenly have so many riders in front of me. I could never get into a comfortable rhythm. It was a matter of racing and stopping all the time. I did manage to make up time on Kevin, but not enough.
"At the bottom of the descent I had to stop first to clean my bike. Lots of grass got stuck into my gears because of the muddy conditions. That gave Kevin the opportunity to increase his lead and he then further increased his lead on the last big climb."
Speedy dominates women's marathon
During the women's race, Yolandé Speedy (MTN-Energade) displayed for the umpteenth time why she deserves to have the surname of ‘Speedy'. Not only did she win, but she also excelled by finishing fourth overall. In the process, she beat nearly 200 male riders.
Speedy's winning time for the marathon over 75km was three hours 41 minutes and 47 seconds. The 18-year-old Mariske Strauss (MTN-Energade) finished second in 3:56.03 with Yolandi du Toit (Bizhub) third in 3:58.22. Strauss and Du Toit were respectively 18th and 19th overall.
As usual, Speedy refused to boast about her performance. She was more impressed with her younger teammate, Mariske Strauss's performance. Strauss managed to stay on Speedy's wheel for the first 20 or so kilometers, but then she dropped back on one of the climbs.
"I think I probably had a slight advantage over Mariske by riding on a dual suspension bike, while Mariske was riding on a hardtail. I could see that she was bouncing all over the road. I was relieved to notice that my legs are again in proper working order after racing the Cape Epic."
According to Speedy her main goal now is to get good results at the World Cross Country and World Marathon Championship. She is leaving for Europe after the South African Cross Country Championship in Pretoria to compete in three World Cup races as part of her preparation.
Strauss surprised herself by finishing second. "I did not expect it. It is my best result so far in pro / elite women's marathons. In Sabie I finished fourth."
Strauss said her initial game plan was to see how long she could keep up with Speedy. "When Yolandé dropped me on the climb, I decided that I was going to play it safe by racing as hard as I could without taking any unnecessary risks."
Du Toit described her race as memorable. "I had a near perfect race. You get those days when you manage to get into the ‘zone' and it feels as if you can ride forever and ever without getting tired. Well that is how my race went."
Karien van Jaarsveld (Natro), who was second in MTN's Barberton and Sabie races, unfortunately had the starting time of Saturday's race wrong. When she arrived to start racing, she was informed that the pro / elite women's riders had already left. They started their race together with the ultra-marathon riders.
Van Jaarsveld was told to race as hard as she could because her race time would be compared with those of the other pro-elite female riders and she would be given a position accordingly.
Four days after the race, it became clear what Van Jaarsveld's official result is. At Saturday's prize giving ceremony it was announced that she finished third, but if one has look at the official results it seems as if she only rode the fifth fastest time over the marathon distance.
According to Van Jaarsveld it was certainly one of her toughest rides. "I basically time trialed on my own for four hours."
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|31||Jean Pierre Kroll||2:09:21|
|DNF||David De Lima|
|DNF||Wynand Andre Basson|
|DNF||Wessel Van Der Walt|
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|3||Yolandi Du Toit||0:16:35|
|5||Karien Van Jaarsveld||0:26:23|
|12||Claudia Von Tutschek||1:29:19|