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Another milestone for Kevin Evans

The name ‘Kevin Evans’ (MTN-Energade) and ‘cycling firsts’ have become synonymous in 2010.

This weekend in Parys Evans added another ‘first’ to this ever-growing list by becoming the first rider to defend his MTN Ride Crater Cruise ultra-marathon title successfully. Being the first mountain biker to win the South African individual time trial, as well as the first mountain biker to win a road tour, are just two more items on Evans’s long list of firsts.

However, moments after his victory in the MTN Ride Crater Cruise, Evans made it clear that too much of a good thing can get tiresome. ÔÇ£I cannot remember ever feeling so ‘broken’ after a mountain bike race. It was really hard. I have had enough for this year. It is time for me to get off my bike and take a well-deserved break,ÔÇØ Evans said.

ÔÇ£My only motivation throughout the race was that I did not want to go back home with empty hands after being away for more than three weeks.

ÔÇ£Have a lookÔÇØ, Evans said, pointing to the stem of his mountain bike. ÔÇ£I stuck the name of my daughter, Ruby, on the bike’s stem. There were quite a few times during the race when I was wondering why I am punishing myself so much.┬áAt times like that, I just looked down and when I saw Ruby’s name I was motivated again. I owed it to her and my wife to take home some Christmas spending money.ÔÇØ

Evans’s winning time for the MTN Rider Crater Cruise over 101 kilometres was 3hr 38min 10sec. Jacques Janse van Rensburg (DCM) finished second, Brandon Stewart (DCM) was fourth and Ben-Melt Swanepoel (Specialized/Mr Price) fifth.

To say that Evans dominated this year’s MTN Ultra-marathon series would be putting it mildly.┬áHis victory in five of the seven races could possibly be another first. The only event in which he was beaten was the Barberton. He did not race the 50-Miler.

The Cruise race boiled down to a battle among eight men. From about the 40km marker Mannie Heymans and Philip Buys (both Garmin-adidas) drove the breakaway while Evans, Janse van Rensburg, Stewart, Pieter Seyffert (DCM), Swanepoel and Marc Bassingthwaighte (Garmin-adidas) rode slipstream to preserve themselves.

Heymans was relentless in the way he set the pace up front, but with hindsight it is doubtful whether that was the right tactic to follow, especially when it became clear that the three DCM riders were all sitting behind, enjoying a free ride. Their excuse was that they were deliberately holding back because they were hoping that Max Knox would catch up with them. What they did not realize was that Knox had already crashed out some time ago.

However, to make a long story short, the Garmin-adidas riders were certainly the biggest losers of the day, because when Evans attacked for the first time, about 15km from the finish, it was game over for them. Heymans, Buys and Bassingthwaighte were first to be dropped, along with Swanepoel and Seyffert.

That left Evans, Janse van Rensburg and Stewart to battle it out for the overall victory. With a two to one advantage, one would have expected the DCM riders to work Evans over a bit to exhaust him, but they chose not to do so. Instead Evans received his second free ride of the day, because Janse van Rensburg was pacing in front, with Evans sitting second wheel and Stewart racing in the third place.

Evans managed to drop both DCM riders with his second attack, just before the last really technical stretch, about seven kilometers from the finish.

Afterwards Evans said that his victory was basically a carbon copy of what happened in 2009. ÔÇ£I attacked exactly at the same places as last year.ÔÇØ

Janse van Rensburg admitted that there was no way that he could stay with Evans after his second attack. ÔÇ£The mistake I made was to pace in front when there were just the three of us. I thought Brandon was still strong and I was hoping to set him up for the victory. By the time I realized that his legs were gone, it was too late to change tactics. In a way I justified myself by finishing second again. It proved that last year was no fluke.ÔÇØ

Even though Janse van Rensburg finished second overall last year, he was disqualified for accepting a drink outside a feeding zone.

Swanepoel, the only other rider who had won the MTN Ride Crater Cruise twice, said that this race was certainly the hardest. ÔÇ£Every rider who managed to finish definitely deserved his medal.ÔÇØ

Knox, one of the pre-race favourites, might be excused if he should consider himself jinxed as far as the MTN Rider Crater Cruise is concerned. He flatted within the first few kilometers. Luckily a teammate was on hand to give him his wheel.

ÔÇ£After my puncture I was about a minute down on the leaders, but my race finished the moment we reached the first really rough section. I was trying to go too fast in my effort to overtake riders. There were all kinds of boulders and potholes along the single-track section. In my eagerness to catch up, I rode into an anthole at about 45km/h.

ÔÇ£The next moment I flew over my handle bars and landed on my back, getting badly winded in the process. I must have been lying on the ground for about 10 minutes before I had recovered sufficiently to get up again. For me it was race over.ÔÇØ

ÔÇ£To have Kevin winning five out of the six MTN Ultra-Marathon events he raced this season is nothing short of phenomenal. He has been an exceptional performer all season on the road and off it and a true ambassador for MTN. We wish him a well-deserved break with his family,ÔÇØ says Bernard Pieters, senior sponsorship manager at MTN South Africa.

In the women’s race Yolandi du Toit from Team bizhub signed off her 2010 MTN Series campaign in fine style by successfully defending her title.

Victory in the seventh and final leg of the series is likely to see her leapfrog USN’s Karien van Jaarsveld ÔÇô who was third on the weekend ÔÇô into second place overall when the final logs are releases later this week, according to series director Fritz Pienaar.

The overall title in the national series will shift from Team bizhub’s Ischen Stopforth to MTN-Energade’s Yolande Speedy ÔÇô neither of whom took part at the weekend. Du Toit will receive the polka dot jersey as the series’ most consistent climber.

ÔÇ£It (the series) was one of my major objectives for the year, but it started off badly,ÔÇØ said Du Toit, referring to mechanical problems that put a premature end to her season-opener, the Attakwas, in January. ÔÇ£I missed two other events and it was difficult to come back from that.ÔÇØ

She added that it was always good for the morale to win the final race of the season and that it gave her a lot of self-belief for next year. ÔÇ£The series will be my sole objective in 2011,ÔÇØ said the 25-year-old.

Du Toit (4:12:26), who beat off the attentions of Toyota-Cycle Lab’s Yoland├¿ de Villiers (second in 4:18:04) and Van Jaarsveld (third in 4:23:09) in Parys, said her tactics were to ignore the other riders and ÔÇ£do her own raceÔÇØ.

ÔÇ£Many don’t realise just how tough the Crater Cruise is and they go out too hard in the beginning. It is very important to pace yourself ÔÇô especially when it’s as hot as it was.ÔÇØ

The defending champion said she broke the race down into ÔÇ£portionsÔÇØ and tried to achieve specific goals in each. ÔÇ£It makes it easier when you focus on the task at hand in each section rather than on the race as a whole.ÔÇØ

She was lying in third initially, but moved into second after catching and passing Van Jaarsveld on the intimidating two-kilometre ascent up the rocky Suikerbossie climb that peaked at the 38km┬á mark. ÔÇ£I really felt good on the day and just concentrated on keeping a constant tempo,ÔÇØ said Du Toit. This mindset paid dividends as she rode up to De Villiers’ back wheel after 45 kilometres and left her behind on a grassy stretch straddling the river.

Du Toit said the Marrick (which she won with team-mate Stopforth two weeks earlier) was the perfect preparation.