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Evans tops in Lowveld

Kevin Evans (MTN-Energade) finished off a near perfect team performance in grand style when he outsprinted Jason Bakke (House of Paint) to win the first stage of the four day Clover Tour in the Lowveld.

Evans’ winning time for the 155km-stage (Graskop-Sabie-Hazyview-Graskop) was 4 hours 25 minutes and 04 seconds.
Bakke finished second, four seconds slower than Evans with Shaun Ward (Panda) third in 4:26:00, Paul van Zweel (Toyota Cyclelab) fourth in 4:26:08 and Nic White (Medscheme) fifth in 4:28:00.

The big question remains whether Evans managed to already checkmate all of his main rivals after just one stage. There is no arguing that the South African time trial champion will increase his lead during Saturday’s hillclimb-timetrial.

So the challenge for any rider with aspirations of winning the Clover Tour is to basically ÔÇ£eliminateÔÇØ Evans in the three remaining stages. That certainly is not going to be easy especially since most of the pre-race favourites are already three minutes and more behind.

It seems as if only the two youngsters, Bakke and Van Zweel, are not ready yet to accept defeat.

The 20-year old Bakke even reckoned that if he had not cramped in the last 50 meters of the sprint to the line he might have caused a big upset during the first stage.

He made it clear that he is not going to let Evans out of his sight during any of the stages.

When asked about the hillclimb timetrial Bakke admits that might not be as prepared as he should be. The last time he race a timetrial was when he was still a junior.

Van Zweel is a firm believer that nothing is over until the proverbial ÔÇ£Fat Lady has sungÔÇØ.

Shaun Ward (Panda) performance up the legendary Kowyns Pass-climb was yesterday’s other big surprise. It seemed as if Ward was even enjoying himself while the rest of the riders were definitely swearing silently while battling their way uphill.

ÔÇ£I have no aspirations for this tour. I am just out on my bicycle to enjoy myself. Whatever happens, happens. I don’t care,ÔÇØ was Ward words after finishing.

What certainly counts in Evans’s favour is that it would seem as if his two teammates, Bradley Potgieter and Reinardt Janse van Rensburg, are also in top form.

Potgieter was away in a breakaway with Neil MacDonald (Medscheme), Richard Baxter (House of Paint), HB Kruger and Johann van Zyl (both Cyclelab Toyota) for most of the race.

Potgieter only got caught and passed after nearly 140 kilometers while Evans only passed MacDonald after 143 kilometers.
What made Potgieter’s performance remarkable is the fact that for the two weeks leading up to the MTN Zoo Lake Criterium he basically could do no training after being involved in the motorpacing accident in which Jaco Venter broke his arm and Dylan Girdlestone a collarbone.

ÔÇ£It was good for me to get in the breakaway I paid the prize for not training I really start to get tired,ÔÇØ Potgieter said.

Janse van Rensburg is definitely the day’s unsung hero. At one stage the breakaway with Potgieter and ÔÇ£friendsÔÇØ had about a ten minute lead on the peloton, but things changed dramatically the moment Janse van Rensburg decided to go to the front and up the pace.

Within a space of just 20 minutes he closed the gap by three minutes and never relented in his pace making duties until he was satisfied that Evans was in an ideal position to win the stage.

Janse van Rensburg made it clear that he won’t hesitate to do all the hard work again if needed.

ÔÇ£I am a firm believer in the idea of one for all and all for one. That is what cycling is all about.ÔÇØ

As usual Evans was more than modest about his victory.

ÔÇ£Today was one those days that you had to race the course and not the competition, because it was just such a hard stage.

ÔÇ£I take my hat off for those riders who went into the break and tried to stay away until the end. It were a really heroic performance. I also want to thank Reinardt for the way he had put his body on the line to ensure a team victory.ÔÇØ

Evans is confident that if he can get to Saturday’s hill climb time trial without losing time that he will have a realistic chance of winning the Clover Tour overall.

Joanna van de Winkel (Cyclelab-Toyota) won the first┬á stage of the women’s Clover Tour in 3 hours 30 minutes and 46 seconds. Lylanie Lauwrens (MTN-Energade) finished second in 3:31:48 and Lise Olivier was third in 3:32:55.