An on-form Kevin Evans confirmed that he and team-mate David George would challenge for the title at this year’s Old Mutual joBerg2c, which starts on April 27.
Fresh from his win at the Cape Argus Pick n Pay Mountain Bike Challenge this weekend, the Nedbank 360Life rider said he was looking forward to his first outing in South Africa’s longest stage race.
With Evans still recovering from a collarbone injury, the duo missed last year’s nine-day, 910-kilometre trek between Heidelberg in Gauteng and the coastal town of Scottburgh in KwaZulu-Natal.
“It was nearly healed but I had to err on the side of caution even though I really wanted to ride. If I’d had a mishap it would have set me back further.”
The Plettenberg Bay rider demonstrated his return to racing fitness this season by taking consecutive second places in the first two legs of the MTN Ultra Marathon Series at Barberton and Tulbagh.
He followed that up with victory in the third race at Sabie, which was especially significant as it doubled as the opening round of the UCI Marathon World Cup. George, a Capetonian, placed third.
Evans said he and George were both in top form ahead of the Absa Cape Epic, which takes place at the end of the month. They will be among the top local teams vying to become the first all-African winners of the eight-day race.
“I should be near peak now and then it’s just a matter of fine-tuning in the next two to three weeks. Dave’s very good at determining when he needs to peak, so he will have timed it right for the end of March.”
Evans said after that their focus would shift to the Old Mutual joBerg2c, which offers a total prize purse of R330 000. “We won’t go there to play around; we’ll definitely try and win.”
Not having done the race before, he said they were not entirely certain what to expect. “We’ll have to approach it a bit conservatively, like we do most stage races, and just take our chances when they present themselves.”
As a four-time BoE sani2c champion, Evans will certainly have the advantage during the final three days, which follow the well-known route.
“We know that section really well, so, if worst comes to worst, we could try to stay out of trouble until that point and then give it a full go.”
The 33-year-old said they would use the multistage race to build up towards their international programme, which includes the Trans Germany in June and Trans Alp in July.
They were strong contenders in last week’s three-day Columbia Grape Escape until illness put George out of action on the final stage. “He’s back on the bike and feeling all right so he should bounce back pretty quickly.”