Kevin Evans (MTN-Energade) outsprinted Ben-Melt Swanepoel (Specialized / Mankele) on Saturday in Clarens to win the sixth ultra-marathon race in the MTN South African Marathon Series.
Evans's winning time for the race over 110km was four hours, 13 minutes and 15 seconds with Swanepoel finishing second in 4:13:22 and Philip Buys (Garmin adidas) third in 4:20:22.
Buys had everybody talking afterwards with his performance on the killer climb of 15km with its "slickrock" surface. He is the only rider who could ride the whole way to the top without once getting of his bike. Going down the tricky technical decent he also showed his class and put time into all his rivals to ensure that he had an eventual two minute lead on Evans and Swanepoel.
Swanepoel said that Buys' performance on what is certainly is one of the most difficult climbs in South Africa was world class.
"Philip would have impressed a lot of international riders with the way he rode the climb and the decent," said Swanepoel. "At some stages of the climb I wondered how Kevin and I were going to get to the top and then I looked up ahead and saw Philip on his bike still riding. The two of us had to get off our bikes and walk a few times."
Unfortunately for Buys, he started cramping when it mattered most. Afterwards Buys said that if only the race had been 15km shorter, he would have survived but he paid for the effort going up the climb and immediately responded by attacking. Buys, who celebrated his 21st birthday last week, is not at all despondent about being beaten.
"I know I am still young and my body is not yet strong enough to race over such long distances, but I am really going to work on it during these December holidays," said Buys.
Evans joked afterwards by saying it is the last time that he is going to believe race organizers when they speak about the 10 percent gradient of a climb.
"I have raced a lot overseas and had been challenged by some tough climbs. The one in Clarens is certainly one of the toughest. The gradient was definitely more than 10 percent.
"But all in all I think the organizers deserve to be complimented on the event. It was as good as any international marathon I have raced. What made the whole racing experience even more special was the beautiful scenery. It was amazing once you managed to get to the top of the mountain and look down."
Swanepoel agreed with Evans' sentiments. "The climb was a definite highlight. Before the race I have only read about the slickrock in American mountainbiking magazines. To get the chance to ride on slickrock was special," said Swanepoel. "Everybody who managed to ride the climb can certainly feel proud of themselves. It was an amazing experience."
As far as the actual racing is concerned Evans admits that he battled going uphill.
"The only thing that kept me motivated was when I looked around me and realized that I am not alone in my suffering. What also helped my motivation was when we left Marc Bassingthwaighte (Garmin adidas) behind on the climb," said Evans. "He is the only other rider who also had a chance to win the series overall. The moment I realized that Marc is well behind me, I started to relax and enjoy the event a bit.
According to Evans they caught up with Buys with about 30 kilometers to go.
"After riding together for a few kilometers I realized that Philip was starting to battle that was when I decided to attack by making the pace hard. We managed to drop Philip.I then decided to take a gamble and work with Melt until the finish and then try and outsprint him. Luckily it worked for me. To end the series with a victory is really special for me," said Evans."
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Kevin Evans (MTN Energade)||4:13:15|
|2||Ben Melt Swanepoel (Specialized)||0:00:07|
|3||Philip Buys (Garmin adidas)||0:07:07|
|4||Adrien Niyonshuti (MTN Energade)||0:12:45|
|5||Francois Theron (Garmin adidas)||0:15:08|
|6||Renay Groustra (GT Mr Price)||0:17:30|
|7||Petrus Malherbe ( )||0:20:30|
|8||Renier Bellingan (USN)||0:26:32|
|9||Johnny Kritzinger (DCM)|
|10||Trust Munangandu (MTN Energade)||0:26:33|