7 May 2012
Top South African mountain biking stars Kevin Evans and David George debuted in spectacular fashion at the 2012 Old Mutual joBerg2c, taking five stage wins en route to overall victory at Scottburgh on the Kwazulu-Natal south coast on Saturday.
The Nedbank 360Life duo, who won the African leader jersey at the recent Absa Cape Epic, completed the 910km journey from Heidelberg in Gauteng to Scottburgh in 32 hours 27 minutes and 39 seconds, which left them 17 minutes clear of defending champions Neil MacDonald and Waylon Woolcock of RE:CM, who recorded a total time of 32:44:43.
Evans said afterwards that the event had exceeded his every expectations and that he and George had thoroughly enjoyed interacting with the 550-odd riders in the community-run race villages.
‘It’s one of the top races’
“They said it’s all about the riders and certainly the trails are testament to that. It’s one of the top races I’ve done…definitely in this country.”
He said the two standout stages had been day four, when the riders dropped down the escarpment from Sterkfontein Dam into KwaZulu-Natal, and the penultimate stage through the Umkomaas River Valley.
“I’m sure it will become an important race for our team from now on.”
The Nedbank 360Life rider said he and George had gotten a lot out of the event, but had also been proud to give something back.
They donated a wheelchair per stage win to the Cycling for Mobility initiative and an additional 14 from the proceeds of the auction of their African leader jersey.
Evans said they were now looking forward to their next big goal, the BOE Sani2c, which traces the last three days of the Old Mutual joBerg2c.
“We’re spoilt to be able to come back and do this twice in the space of two weeks. We’ve checked out the tracks and I think we know where we’re going to make the racing.”
The final day’s racing over 71 kilometres ended in a dramatic sprint across the beach, with RE:CM cementing their runner-up spot in the overall standings with a second stage win in 2:27:59. Nedbank 360Life followed them over the line just seven seconds later.
Itec Connect-Vodacom’s David Morison and Louis-Bresler Knipe finished two minutes off the pace in 2:30:06 to take third on the day and the final step on the podium overall in 33:27:09.
The shortest of the nine stages commenced at a furious pace as the teams left Jolivet Farm in the Highflats region. MacDonald and Woolcock rode hard up front to force an early break on the single track, which the riders hit after 5 kilometres.
Only Evans and George, Morison and Knipe, and the Transact pair of Paul Cordes and Arno du Toit, were able to stay with them.
“Once the break was there, it was just a matter of consolidating to the end,” said Evans.
The hills towards the first water point, after 33 kilometres, split the front group and the two top teams in this year’s race, RE:CM and Nedbank 360Life, were able to open up a gap of 1:20 on Itec-Connect Vodacom and Transact.
MacDonald and Woolcock continued to drive the pace up Heart Rate Hill, with Evans and George sitting comfortably just behind them.
‘An easier way to end the tour’
“It played out pretty much as we thought,” said Evans. “RE:CM wanted to win one more stage, so we had a free ride and just got to sit on. It was actually nice because it’s an easier way to end the tour.”
Ischen Stopforth and Catherine Williamson of bizhub-FCF took line honours in 2:57:17 to seal an almost uncontested victory in the women’s race in 38:33:27.
Contego 28E’s powerhouse couple, Erik and Ariane Kleinhans, also added the mixed category medal to their recent Epic title, completing the nine days of riding in 36:08:58.
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