Four-time South African marathon champion, Kevin Evans and his Nedbank 360Life teammate, David George, will launch a powerful assault at the MTN Gravel Travel race in Wellington in the Western Cape province on Saturday, 25 August in their quest to claim the South African 2012 Marathon title.
Evans was beaten to the 2011 national title in a close finish with Burry Stander in KwaZulu-Natal last March. But that was after having spent a month off the bike following surgery to remove a burst appendix. Evans has been in excellent health in 2012 and has been focussing on peaking for both the South African and the World Marathon Championships.
Since the 2011 Marathon Championships, George has developed from a consistent podium contender into a regular race winner. The former road racing professional has found increased confidence through technical sections and on descents on his SCOTT SPARK 29 RC dual suspension 29-inch wheeled bike, essentially strengthening his only real weakness.
After having won the Gravel Travel event in 2011, Evans will be a firm favourite on Saturday. But the 103km race, which has almost 3 000 metres of ascent, is deceptively tough and any of a number of title-hungry riders could claim the coveted victory including Jacques Rossouw (USN Mannie’s Bike Hut), Max Knox (Specialized), Melt Swanepoel (Squirt Merida), Brandon Stewart (FedGroup – Itec Connect), Neil MacDonald and Waylon Woolcock (both Team RE:CM), Charles Keey, Ruan du Toit and Dave Morison (all Blend Properties) and Gawie Combrink and Nico Bell (both Westvaal Columbia).
Stander has opted not to defend his marathon title in favour of preparing for the 2012 XCO World Championships.
“Our main goal for the second half of the year is a medal at the marathon World Champs. But we would love to capture the South African title in the process. Kevin has won this title a few times, but it’s one title I’ve not yet won,” said George, a former five-time national time trial champion and the 2003 national road race champion.
George was complimentary about the race route for the national showpiece.
“It’s a beautiful course, possibly the nicest marathon race route in the country. Besides being very scenic, it’s well balanced with lots of flowing singletrack. There are no super-long climbs, but you still climb a lot in total, so you need to measure your effort evenly throughout,” said George.
The race is also Round 6 of the eight-race 2012 MTN National Marathon Series. George is the 2011 Series champion and says that defending the title it is a high priority.
“It’s the most prestigious marathon series in the world, not just in South Africa, so Kev and I are definitely gunning for the Series win again in 2012,” said George.
Knox currently leads the 2012 MTN Series points standings with Evans and George, who, despite missing one round, are dangerously poised in third and fourth respectively. They’ll be contesting all of the last three rounds in Wellington, Hilton and Parys.
Interestingly, George and Evans may choose to ride their SCOTT Scale 29 RC hardtails on Saturday.
“We’ve not made a final decision yet, but if the course isn’t too rough, we’ll go with the Scale hardtails like we did at the same race last year. There is so much climbing and the descents are short. It just makes sense to go with the platform that’s best suited to that,” explained George.