Burry Stander continued his run of good form when he outsprinted national champion Kevin Evans to win the Mazda Forest to Falls 70km mountain bike race in Graskop at the weekend.

Stander (Mr Price GT) started the race as the favourite, having climbed up to ninth on the UCI world cross-country rankings in recent weeks following a string of impressive results at international events. But he’d not yet won a local marathon distance race in 2007 so was under pressure to do so before he departed for another round of overseas racing.

Paul Cordes leads Melt Swanepoel up the steep King of the Mountains climb early on in the Mazda Forest to Falls race.

And he responded superbly to that pressure. Stander was part of a lead group of five riders with 25km of the scenic 70km race remaining. He was joined by Mr Price GT teammate Johan van Zyl and the Raleigh MTN Energade trio of Evans, Melt Swanepoel and Mannie Heymans. Heymans was doing most of the pace-setting on what is one of the easier marathon race routes on the calendar, allowing Evans and Swanepoel to sit in and save their legs for the end. But with 15km remaining, Swanepoel’s hopes of victory vanished when he punctured, leaving just four upfront to fight out the podium places.

Yolande de Villiers was too badly hurt to continue following a crash after just 20 minutes.

Having won Forest to Falls in 2006, Evans had the experience of how to ‘play’ the finish, but didn’t quite bargain for Stander’s cheeky response.

“Like last year, I put in a mock attack on the second last climb just to see who had good legs,” said Evans. “I got a small gap and Burry came with me, then he kept on going which played well into my hands because I was on his wheel and he was setting a fast pace to the finish.”

Yolande Speedy struggled uncharacteristically, but still managed to take victory in the women’s race.

Evans added one last big attack but Stander had practiced the run-in to the finish the day before and instead of easing up slightly for the right-hand turn drop-off onto the finishing straight, he kept his pace high and virtually flew past on the inside of Evans into the final metres. Evans tried to come back but couldn’t and watched his rival take the win in two hours 36 minutes and 46 seconds. Evans finished one second later with Van Zyl (2:36:51) and Heymans (2:37:05) third and fourth respectively. Shan Wilson (Adidas William Simpson) rounded out the top five in 2:38:06 and was the first Veteran home.

The final four-man lead group comprised (from right) Burry Stander (in Velotex King of the Mountains jersey), Mannie Heymans, Kevin Evans (in Mazda Series leader’s jersey) and Johan van Zyl.

The battle for the women’s title proved to be most dramatic. Pre-race favourite Yolande de Villiers (Mazda Merida) crashed out after 20 minutes, virtually handing chief rival Yolande Speedy (IMC Mongoose) the win on a plate. But instead of storming to a comfortable victory as most would have predicted, Speedy struggled and was seen weaving up a climb, head hanging down in third place behind Tania Raats (Maverick Momentum) and Amy Jane Mundy (Jeep).

But Speedy, a dominant winner of the Subaru Sabie Classic in February and Mixed category champion at the Absa Cape Epic in March, managed to pull herself together and mustered up a solid finale. She first passed Mundy who’d had to contend with a broken pedal and then managed to pass Raats on her way to the win in 3:05:31. Raats finished in 3:08:55 with Mundy rounding out the podium in 3:15:35.

The Velotex King and Queen of the Mountains prime came after just 8km up a near vertical ascent on a wide piece of singletrack. Wearing the jerseys that denoted them the leaders in the Series mountains competition, Stander and Mundy didn’t disappoint and led the men and women respectively over the summit of the tough ascent.

After three events in the 10-leg Mazda Series, Evans and Raats still lead the men and women’s categories respectively. Both have had one first and two second places. The fourth event in the Series, the Big Induna at Hazyview, is on 16 June and doubles as the 2007 South African marathon championships.

Mazda Forest to Falls, 70km
Graskop, Mpumalanga
Saturday 5 May 2007
Leading results:

Overall men
1 Burry Stander (Mr Price GT) 2hrs36min46sec
2 Kevin Evans (Raleigh MTN Energade) 2:36:47
3 Johan van Zyl (Mr Price GT) 2:36:51
4 Mannie Heymans (Raleigh MTN Energade) 2:37:05
5 Shan Wilson (Adidas William Simpson) 2:38:06
6 John Paul Pearton (Mazda Merida) 2:39:33
7 Jacques Janse van Rensburg (Exel Specialized) 2:39:55
8 Jaco Venter (Exel Specialized) 2:40:16
9 Melt Swanepoel (Raleigh MTN Energade) 2:40:23
10 Francois Theron (Mazda Merida) 2:42:10

Senior men
1 Burry Stander (Mr Price GT) 2hrs36min46sec
2 Kevin Evans (Raleigh MTN Energade) 2:36:47
3 Johan van Zyl (Mr Price GT) 2:36:51

Sub-veteran men
1 Mannie Heymans (Raleigh MTN Energade) 2:37:05
2 Melt Swanepoel (Raleigh MTN Energade) 2:40:23
3 Shaun MacKenzie 2:52:49

Veteran men
1 Shan Wilson (Adidas William Simpson) 2:38:06
2 Damian Booth 2:52:39
3 Bryan Strauss 2:58:04

Master men
1 Tim James 3:11:47
2 Robbie McIntosh 3:22:49
3 Barend Bester 3:25:25

Overall women
1 Yolande Speedy (IMC Mongoose) 3:05:31
2 Tania Raats (Maverick Momentum) 3:08:55
3 Amy Jane Mundy (Jeep) 3:15:35
4 Marissa van der Merwe (Proline) 3:15:50
5 Carla Rowley (Raleigh MTN Energade) 3:23:30
6 Ellane van Wyk 3:26:21
7 Petruschka Constancon 3:34:43
8 Alma Bester 3:34:49
9 Carla Freysen 3:50:30
10 Adele Drake 4:01:17

Sub-veteran women
1 Yolande Speedy (IMC Mongoose) 3:05:31
2 Tania Raats (Maverick Momentum) 3:08:55
3 Carla Rowley (Raleigh MTN Energade) 3:23:30

Veteran women
1 Petruschka Constancon 3:34:43
2 Alma Bester 3:34:49
3 Louise Jacobs 4:19:23

Master women
1 Sally Mawson 4:29:26