Max Knox and Brandon Stewart (both DCM) have decided to compete in two mountain bike tours within nine days.
Most riders would consider a six-day mountain bike tour as a tough enough challenge, but then Max Knox and Brandon Stewart (both DCM) are not your average mountain bikers. Their motto is ‘The tougher the better’ and they thrive on physical challenges.
From Friday (15 October) Knox and Stewart will compete in the Three Towers Tour in the Lowveld. Thereafter, on Sunday, minutes after the prize-giving ceremony, they will rush to the airport to catch a flight to George where they will compete in the six-day DCM Cape Pioneer Trek Tour in the Southern Cape and Klein Karoo which begins on Monday (25 October).
When asked whether they were not overdoing it somewhat, Knox’s answer was a definite ‘no’.
“We are professional cyclists who are just doing the job we get paid for. I think it will be an interesting challenge,” Knox said.
There is actually a good reason why the two of them will be competing in both tours. Last year Knox/Stewart won the inaugural Three Towers Tour and, being a born-and-bred Lowvelder, it is a matter of pride for Knox to defend their title.
It seems that you can take Knox out of the Lowveld, but you cannot take the Lowveld out of Knox.
As far as victory in one or both tours is concerned, Knox and Stewart do not venture any predictions.
“We are certainly going to race to achieve top results but in mountain biking, especially tours, nothing can be taken for granted. According to Stewart on any given day so many things could effectively end your tour if you do not stay focused.
Interestingly enough, the two of them will not be teammates when racing the DCM Cape Pioneer Tour.
Knox will race with Switzerland’s Thomas Zahnd, while Stewart will team up with Jacques Janse van Rensburg. Both DCM teams will be in the contest for a podium finish.
Kevin Evans, who will team up with Adrien Niyonshuti (MTN-Energade), and Christoph Sauser, who will race with Silvio Bundi, will be the other two teams to watch.
Zahnd is no stranger to South African mountain biking. He has competed in four Cape Epic Tours. His best result was winning a stage in 2007.
The Swiss rider is also a previous winner of the St Wendel Marathon in Germany.
Knox describes Zahnd as a very strong marathon rider.
“I think the first stage, which will be basically the same as the Attakwas ultra-marathon, will suit Zahnd to a tee.”
As usual Knox is exceedingly modest about his own abilities, but his results during the past five weeks speak for themselves. He won the Hill2Hill and 50 Miler ultra-marathons. Unfortunately for Knox, he crashed out of the Ride Crater Cruise which took place during the past weekend.
There is no doubt that Knox is one of the strongest climbers in South African mountain biking. During the Barberton ultra-marathon he made riding away from Kevin Evans and Burry Stander on one of the really steep climbs look oh so easy.
An interesting statistic which is worth mentioning is that Knox and Evans have won all the important local ultra-marathons this year.
Janse van Rensburg, who is equally adapt at racing on tarred roads, was adament that he would also race to achieve good results.
“The ultimate achievement for us would be if Brandon and I could finish in the top three overall. If something should go wrong, our next best result would be to win at least one stage.”
According to the high standards he sets for himself, Janse van Rensburg has not had the best of seasons so far. Breaking his collar bone certainly did not make things any easier for him.
He was puzzled by the fact that, quite often during races, he would suddenly run out of energy. A check up by a doctor revealed that he suffered from a hiatus hernia which made it difficult for him to eat properly before a race.
“The doctor gave me some medication and I must admit that I can already feel a difference. It is also exciting for me that I can now feel that I am getting stronger after every race.”
During the Ride Crater Cruise it was Janse van Rensburg who made Evans work really hard for his victory. He finished second and Stewart was third.
“The Ride Crater Cruise was a good confidence booster for me because I continued to get stronger as the race progressed. Actually, I have learned an important lesson as far as mountain biking is concerned.
“I have made the mistake of often starting too quickly in mountain bike races. That led to me paying the price when it really mattered. Now I have learned that it is important to start more conservatively and so preserve your legs for the last few kilometres.
“After studying the route profiles I am really looking forward to the DCM Cape Pioneer. It will certainly be tough, but what excites me is that only about 5% of the route for every stage will be on single track. Being a roadie turned mountain biker this will suit me,” Janse van Rensburg said.