Kevin Evans (Nedbank 360Life) fended off strong challenges from Jacques Rossouw (FedGroup-Itec Connect) and the waterlogged course itself to take his second win in the 80km Extreme mountain bike race at Addo just outside Port Elizabeth on Saturday.
Evans, who last won the mountain biking segment of The Herald VW Cycle Tour in 2009, outsprinted Rossouw as he entered the fields of the Addo Polo Club to take the title (3:10:17) two seconds ahead of his rival (3:10:19). His teammate James Reid completed the podium (3:14:39).
“PE is where I started my mountain biking career so it’s always satisfying to get a win here,” said Evans, who lives in Plettenberg Bay.
Despite the swampy conditions on the day, the 33-year-old adopted an attacking strategy from the outset in what rapidly became a race of attrition.
“I had the mindset that in these conditions you’re either going to give it or you’re going to take it. I was quite happy to put myself in the front rather than be on the receiving end.”
He set a fast tempo early in the race and succeeded in splitting the large bunch on the first hill.
“There were about five of us who got a gap and it came back together on the climb up the Zuurberg Pass.”
Halfway up Evans and Reid intensified their efforts, forcing teammates Rossouw and Brandon Stewart to follow.
Then an attack by Reid saw Stewart drop off the pace as the leaders went over the top to the turning point at the Zuurberg Hotel.
“Coming back down the pass, Brandon and Dave Morison (Blend Properties Group) caught us again. But then on the next piece of single track, which was quite muddy and downhill, we were away again.”
With the inclement weather forcing organisers to swap large sections of single-track for gravel road, an extra 30km loop was added to make up the original distance.
Evans took the lead at the start of the loop and Stewart lost touch as he missed a turn-off. “Then it was just Jacques, James and myself from there.”
After losing Reid on a climb in the final 20km stretch, Evans and Rossouw worked together to the finish.
“I think I’ve lost this race a few too many times on that last corner, so I led the sprint out from the road, before you turn onto the field. It worked out for me for a change.”
He said preservation had been a key element in his success.
“You have to look after your equipment and get yourself and your bike to the end. I suppose Jacques and I managed that the best of everyone today.”
Evans’s victory now evens the score between himself and Rossouw after losing to the Cape Town-based professional at the MTN Barberton ultra-marathon a week ago.
He said he had been “pleasantly surprised” at his team’s early season form, especially that of 19-year-old Reid. Absent from his squad was regular partner David George, who missed the race due to a cancelled flight.
“I believe the organisers had a fantastic track set out, which in these conditions we couldn’t do, but I’m sure we’ll be back next year to ride the proper course.”
BMC’s Candice Neethling won the women’s race by a comfortable margin (4:06:35) ahead of the Merrell duo Heidi Koen (4:26:12) and Andrea von Holdt (4:41:37).
80km Extreme (Men)
1. Kevin Evans 3:10:17
2. Jacques Rossouw 3:10:19
3. James Reid 3:14:39
4. Oliver Munnik (GT) 3:20:26
5. Julius Cobbett (GT-Zaskar) Brandon Stewart 3:41:29
80km Extreme (Women)
1. Candice Neethling 4:06:35
2. Heidi Koen 4:26:12
3. Andrea von Holdt 4:41:37
4. Bridgette Stewart (FedGroup-Itec Connect) 4:42:51
60km Adventure (Men)
1. Andre Hugo 2:39:25
2. Johan Britz 2:44:15
3. Marco Joubert 2:45:37
4. Benjamin Giliomee 2:47:14
5. Andrew Schubart 2:49:08
60km Adventure (Women)
1. Nicola Giliomee 3:18:41
2. Michelle Reed 3:32:34
3. Chanel Rood 3:54:55