Max Knox (Specialized/EAI Solutions) will be a busy man during the first two weekends of May. The South African mountain biker is aiming to defend two MTN National mountain bike series titles.
Last year, Knox won the MTN Clarens and MTN Gravel Travel marathons. However, there is a big difference between last year and this year. Last year, MTN Clarens was in May and the Gravel Travel in August, but this year the two races are scheduled to be only a week apart.
Knox will be racing the UCI marathon world series event, MTN Clarens , on the May 4 and a week later, he will be in Wellington. He openly admits that it will take a heroic effort to win both races again, but he seems to feel up to the challenge.
"Luckily I have fully recovered from the knee injury that I sustained during the Cape Epic," said Knox.
"But with regards to racing two hard races on consecutive weekends, I realize that no rider can be in peak condition weekend after weekend so it will be a tall order. That was actually why I decided to take a break after the Epic to give my body time to recover to be able to handle more hard efforts."
Knox said his current goal is to be competitive from MTN Clarens up to the UCI Marathon World Championship in Austria on June 29. "Everything I do from now will be aimed at ensuring that I will be at my best for the world championship race."
"I believe that I am capable of improving on my 18th place at last year's world championship. That does not mean that I am not serious about getting good results in the MTN National MTB Series. Both races are special to me. I regard the course at Clarens to be one of the most exciting of the series. The fact that I won my first South African marathon title in Wellington means that the Gravel Travel is also special."
At the MTN Clarens this weekend, Knox will contend with international riders Steffen Thum (Ultra Sport Rose racing team), Stefan Sahm (The bulls) Pablo Morales and Tom Ettlich (r2-bike.com MTB Racing).
Last year, his victory at MTN Clarens was achieved in emphatic style. Knox bided his time, and patiently waited for the most opportune moment to attack. When the riders reached the first serious climb, it was the right moment and there was no way of stopping him as one-by-one, favorites dropped off the lead group and he was left out in front on his own.
According to Knox, the second half of the race was the hardest. "I think the MTN Clarens could be won or lost over the last 50 kilometres. Many riders make the mistake of going out too fast, too soon, and they end up paying the prize. The high altitude definitely has an effect on the way you race."
Charles Keey (Cannondale/Blend Properties) is the current overall leader in the MTN National MTB Marathon Series. He won at MTN Sabie as well as MTN Tulbagh. Knox was victorious at MTN Barberton.