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South African ultra marathoners ready for next round

Kevin Evans on his way to second place overall at the MR Price Karkloof marathon in KwaZulu-Natal.

Kevin Evans on his way to second place overall at the MR Price Karkloof marathon in KwaZulu-Natal. (Image credit: Zoon Cronje)

The next MTN Ultra marathon will take place on Saturday, August 28 in Cullinan, South Africa. Above average climbing ability and good technical skills are what it will take to win the race.

Riders likely to contend for the win are Kevin Evans (MTN-Energade), Brandon Stewart and Max Knox (both DCM), Francois Theron (Garmin-adidas) and Ben-Melt Swanepoel (Specialized/MR Price). Evans has already mentioned that it is important for him to achieve a good result at Cullinan, because he would then be the overall winner of the series again.

Wessel van der Walt, who is responsible for the planning of the routes for the MTN series, readily admits that the ultra marathon in Cullinan will certainly not be a walk in the park.

"I think the riders may be in for a rude awakening. Because the race takes place in Gauteng, they may expect that there will not be many climbs, but they will soon find out that they were wrong. Roughly estimated, I think the riders who compete in the ultra marathon will have to face between 1800 and 2000 meters of climbing.

"The route is also very technical. The riders will probably have to stop more than once to fix mechanical problems. Because of this, there will be three technical zones on the route where the riders will be able to repair their mountain bikes if necessary.

"The technical zones will be roughly about 30 kilometers apart and they will also serve as viewing points for spectators. We fully realize that it can become very boring for spectators if they have to wait at the finish for four hours or longer for a loved one to reappear. We want to encourage spectators to rather go to the technical zones to support their riders. This will also help to give them a better idea of what the riders have to endure before they finish their races.

"We will supply GPS coordinates of the technical zones on the websites and we will also give a briefing at the start, explaining how to get there."

According to Van der Walt the marathon race over 78 kilometers will also be a 'toughie' with a lot of climbing, as well as some interesting technical challenges.

The good news is that the 45km race will be a pleasant and enjoyable mountain bike experience.  "We realized after the Nissan Diamond Rush event that the 40km race was perhaps just too tough.

"Because Cullinan is so near to Pretoria and Johannesburg, we expect that many novices will compete in the 45km race. The last thing we want to do is to discourage riders from entering for races because the anticipated suffering might be too severe.

"Riders can, therefore, relax this time. There won't be any mine dumps for them to conquer. I would have loved to have some mine dumps on the ultra-marathon course but, luckily for the riders, things did not work out that way."

As usual, the city people can expect to see a variety of game on the route, but please don't give the giraffes a fright.

The riders will have the opportunity to ride through the unique rock formations just outside of Cullinan again.

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