One of South Africa's favourites to take top honours at this year's Absa Cape Epic, Kevin Evans will again be partnering with David George as Team 360LIFE. Evans, 32, has participated in all seven previous editions of the race, providing him with excellent experience to face the fast pace promised during this year's event, which will take place from March 27 to April 3.
Evans' CV is impressive. He has won the MTN South African Marathon Series six times, is a four-time national marathon champion, a two-time national cross country champion and a national time trial champion. He's placed in the top 10 at the World Marathon Championships, ninth in the Tour of Ireland and has represented South African in nine marathon, cross country and road Worlds.
He finished third overall in the Cape Epic in 2005, 2008 and 2010, and he was fourth in 2009, and he is excited to be reunited with his teammate Dave George, 35, in this year's race.
"The Cape Epic has brought the world of mountain biking to our doorstep and given us the opportunity to become world class," said Evans. "It has brought so much to South African professional mountain biking, and for that I say thank you.
"Dave and I have unfinished business when it comes to the Cape Epic, so we're very excited to be back in our own team."
George is reportedly in the best shape his ever been. He has been the national road and time trial champion five times and is a two-time Commonwealth Games medalist.
"I can't wait to pick up where we left off. This time it will be on our own terms," said George of his upcoming race with Evans. It's a chance for us to take on the best in the world right here in our own backyard. That never happens!"
Evans, who has recovered from an emergency appendectomy just a few months ago, reckons they have a good chance in the race this year. "We have very similar physiology, which I think counts over 30 hours of racing. If we have no bad luck, we want to win the race. The chances are as good as anyone's."
According to George, he and Evans make a good team. "Apart from our similar physical attributes, perhaps better matched than most, we have a fantastic time just being boys on bikes out in the bush! We're equally passionate and invested in winning this race and, being all about partnerships, this is fundamental to our success as a team."
The two train together as often as possible. "We recently trained at altitude, mostly around the Cape though. Our programme is very focused and scientific. The same principles apply to our diet, especially the final two months leading up to the event."
For Evans, the most important ingredients for finishing the Cape Epic are excellent nutrition, good equipment, family support and a strong mind. "Start easier than you think, save everything for the final three days which are hard. Attrition will get you to the finish. And ultimately, look after your partner. I also reckon the first stages are harder because it's the time when you see who is where in terms of strength. By the last stage, the race is generally over for the win."
On crossing the finish line every year, Evans feels relief and emotional. "Hopefully this year we'll be spraying champagne," he said with a smile. One of his personal highlights of the event was "leaving Knysna, my hometown, in the yellow leaders' jersey with Dave in 2008".
To the question of their chances of a podium finish in 2011, George thinks theirs are as good as any of the favourites for 2011. "The Cape Epic is a savage beast we hope to tame but all the preparation in the world can't see off a bit of bad luck that can end it all. We hope Lady Luck is in team 360life's trailer."