Evans continues as king of the Crater Cruise

Kevin Evans continued his reign as the king of the MTN Crater Cruise marathon mountain bike race in Parys, Free State on Saturday, when he became the first three-time winner of South Africa's richest one-day mountain bike race.

Jacques Rossouw (ITEC Connect-Kathea) finished second and Evans's Nedbank 360Life teammate, David George, was third, which was enough for him to secure the prestigious 2011 National Series overall title. Brandon Stewart (ITEC Connect-Kathea) and former winner, Melt Swanepoel (Specialized), rounded out the top five places respectively.

"It was hard as usual. This race is always hard. The last 30-odd kilometres is gradual uphill and I know that bit so well," said a relieved Evans, who has finished in the first two places at the Crater Cruise six times.

An early break comprising Mannie Heymans (Garmin adidas), Pieter Seyffert (Matlosana) and Jock Green (Ghost Do-It-Now) shaped the early part of the 107km race, but it came back together before the riders reached the technical section after 50km where the relentless pace set by the stronger riders blew the field apart and a group of 12 remained at the front.

At 60km, Stewart put in an attack to which nobody responded. The KwaZulu-Natalian held a lead on his own for close to 10km before the pack reeled him in with just over 35km to go. Stewart's ITEC Connect-Kathea teammate, Rossouw, immediately counter-attacked and only Evans responded.

"I saw we were getting a reasonable gap, and I told Jacques we need to go for it as this could be the winning move if we got a decent lead quickly. Jacques was strong and I felt good. What was actually a soft break turned out to be the winning break," said Evans.

With 12km remaining, Evans attacked Rossouw and got a gap, but then crashed, which allowed Rossouw to close him down again.

"As he caught me, Jacques stopped to inflate a slow puncture and that allowed me to get my gap back again, and I really just maintained focus until the finish. It's good to be the first to win three in a row here. And it was a double bonus that Dave won the Series," said Evans, winner of the National Series for the past six years.

"I finished strong today because with Kevin up the road, it was up to the others to chase which put less pressure on me. Winning this series is my first real mountain bike racing milestone," said George, a former road cycling professional.

"My only real threat for the series title was Adrien (Niyonshuti), but I could see he was scratching a bit early on. Then when Kevin and Jacques were up the road, I could relax a bit. I have to mention how important it is to have supportive sponsors and the best equipment. Those are two key elements that have made this Series win possible."

For Nedbank 360Life, it was a fitting end to the 2011 edition of Africa's largest bicycle racing series. George won the opening round of the eight-event series, the MTN Attakwas near Oudtshoorn, in January, giving the new, ambitious team a confidence-boosting early victory.

Evans was a spectator that day, still recovering from a near-death experience following infection caused by a leaking appendix. He then suffered a broken collarbone in a crash early on at the 2011 Cape Epic two months later, sinking any hope of becoming the first South African team to win the event.

"It's been a rollercoaster year for us, but there were more ups than downs. It's great to finish the Series on an up. But our season isn't over yet. Still some tough races to come and we're aiming for more ups!" said George.

The perfect birthday win for Kleinhans in women's race

In the women's 107km race, Ariane Kleinhans finished first in a time of 3:58:36. She was just five seconds in front of runner-up Yolande Speedy, whom she outsprinted, while Yolandi Du Toit took third at 7:11. Ischen Stopforth (Bizhub) was fourth.

Race day was actually Kleinhaus's birthday, and she decided to spend it the hard way - by winning a bike race. Her victory did not come easily. Moments after she crossed the line, she gave everybody a scare by collapsing, totally exhausted.

Kleinhans just lay still on the ground for some minutes while Erik, her husband, cradled her head in his lap, telling her how proud he was of her performance.

Speedy secured the overall victory of the MTN series for women with her second place.

Kleinhans and Speedy were involved in a titanic battle. Kleinhans managed to ride away from Speedy about halfway through the race, but Speedy refused to give up. She caught up with Kleinhans and passed her on the last rocky climb.

According to Kleinhans, it was of the utmost importance for her to regain the lead before they reached the final technical section.

"It would have been 'race over' for me if I had not done that. So I had to dig deep to pass Yolandé again."

Afterwards Speedy was full of praise for the way Kleinhans raced. "Ariane deserved to win today. I am happy to finish second."

Du Toit, who won the race the preceding two years, reiterated that the MTN Ride Crater Cruise was, in her opinion, one of the toughest races on the local calendar.

"It is a race that drains your energy right from the beginning until the end. Therefore I am happy just to be on the rostrum."

Stopforth, who raced the MTN Crater Cruise for the first time, described her racing experience as "shaken but not stirred".

Four years ago Du Toit was knocked off her mountain bike by a frightened blesbok. This time it was Stopforth's turn to befriend some antelopes.

"This meant that we had to play catch up for the rest of the race."

Full Results

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Elite men
#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Kevin Evans3:27:51
2Jacques Rossouw0:02:03
3Dave George0:02:14
4Brandon Stewart0:03:29
5Ben Melt Swanepoel0:03:32
6Adrien Niyonshuti0:03:34
7Nico Bell0:03:36
8Neil Macdonald0:05:13
9Mannie Heymans0:05:52
10Philip Buys0:06:17
11Jock Green0:06:49
12Erik Kleinhans0:07:26
13Jacques Janse Van Rensburg0:07:42
14Max Knox0:07:54
15Waylon Woolcock0:09:55
16Paul Cordes0:10:20
17David Morison0:11:00
18Ruan Du Toit0:12:35
19Marc Bassingthwaighte0:12:38
20Slahde Seale0:14:03
21Charles Keey0:14:45
22Lourens Luus0:14:52
23Hendrik Kruger0:17:46
24Francois Theron0:20:41
25Guylin Van Den Berg0:23:59
26Ruan Louw0:25:28
27Paul Alexander Vanzweel0:26:32
28Bruce Diesel0:27:37
29Lloyd Priestman0:29:01
30Pieter Seyffert0:29:34
31Shaun-Nick Bester0:29:36
32Morne Styger0:35:47
33Henry Uys0:37:22
34Shaun Mackenzie0:37:32
35Koos Klopper0:38:03
36Jaco Du Toit0:38:14
37Francois Botha0:42:22
38Kallen Williams0:44:48
39Danie Steyn0:51:09
40Christiaan De Vries0:56:31
41Johan Wentzel0:56:32
42Mark Thijs1:02:16
43Willie Smit1:05:01
44Etienne Jansen Van Vuuren1:15:05
45Cedric Jansen Van Vuuren1:22:16
46Rynard Van Hoven1:24:42
47Johan Koekemoer1:28:21
48Johan Malan1:28:23
49Jannes Malan1:29:46
50Mathys Oosthuizen1:33:00
51Nicolaas Tjaart Van Der Merwe1:34:34
52Bradley Stroberg1:37:22
53Christiaan Kriek1:37:25
54Mark Pretorius1:54:27
55Izak Coetzer2:00:29
56Rico Van Der Merwe2:14:53
57Reinhardt Basson2:32:05
58Burt Gildenhuys2:32:09
59Leon Marais3:09:22
DNFAndrew WestawayRow 59 - Cell 2
DNFBrett DicksonRow 60 - Cell 2
DNFAndrew McleanRow 61 - Cell 2
DNFTaygan RobsonRow 62 - Cell 2
DNFChristo DiedericksRow 63 - Cell 2
DNFDuncan SchulzeRow 64 - Cell 2
DNFHenry MullerRow 65 - Cell 2
DNFJan Frederick Van Der MerweRow 66 - Cell 2
DNFPeter JoughinRow 67 - Cell 2
DNFFritz PienaarRow 68 - Cell 2
DNFMark BridgesRow 69 - Cell 2
Swipe to scroll horizontally
Elite women
#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Ariane Kleinhans3:58:36
2Yolande Speedy0:00:05
3Yolandi Du Toit0:07:11
4Ischen Stopforth0:07:32
5Cherise Taylor0:09:51
6Catherine Williamson0:10:27
7Karien Van Jaarsveld0:21:28
8Leana De Jager0:22:27
9Marissa Van Der Merwe0:43:17
10Ronel Van Wyk0:47:53
11Charmaine Werdmuller Von Elgg1:44:06
12Amy Mcdougall1:46:03
13Janine Stewart1:47:13
14Corrie Steenkamp3:20:48
DNFNicci GroblerRow 14 - Cell 2
DNFMichelle Van Der MerweRow 15 - Cell 2
DNFCindy RebelloRow 16 - Cell 2


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