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EVANS HUNGRY FOR ANOTHER HOMETOWN WIN

By Bardy the Action Scribe

South African marathon mountain bike champion, Kevin Evans, is back in the country and eager to secure another hometown win at Sunday’s The Talisman Herald Karoo to Coast 100km Challenge, which starts in Uniondale and ends in Knysna.



Evans, who lives in the Harkerville Forest outside Knysna, claimed a long-anticipated first-ever victory at the Weekend Argus Pick ‘n Pay Knysna Classic in July this year and is now focussed on completing a rare Western Cape double by also claiming the honours in the province’s other major single-day mountain bike race this weekend.



Evans spent five weeks racing for South Africa in Europe and has returned with superb racing form. However, in his absence he missed out on two events in the 10-leg Mazda National Marathon Series, which he has led since the first event in January. In a Series that awards a maximum of 4000 points for a race victory, Evans now has a narrow 276-point lead over his Raleigh MTN Energade teammate, Melt Swanepoel, with just two events remaining. The Karoo to Coast doubles as the ninth event in the prestigious series.

Swanepoel won the eighth event in the Series, the Mazda Haenertsburg race, a fortnight ago. He then confirmed his superb form with a stage win in the Selati Africycle Tour, a high-profile road stage race that took place in Mpumalanga last week. Another Raleigh MTN Energade rider, Mannie Heymans, will add some valuable support to Evans and Swanepoel. The Namibian champion has yet to record a win in this year’s Series so will be highly motivated.

“Hopefully I don’t puncture this year,” said Evans on Wednesday. “I’ve been in contention to win the past three years, but punctured last year and in 2004. In 2005 I managed to win so I’m hoping have a smooth race like I did that year.”

The Raleigh MTN Energade riders are likely to find their biggest challengers in the form of John Paul Pearton (Mazda Merida) and Marc Bassingthwaighte (Mr Price GT). Bassingthwaighte, a Nambian citizen, has had a great year so far, winning two of the Series events and confirming his status as one of Africa’s star mountain bike racers. Pearton was runner up at last year’s Karoo to Coast and will in all likelihood be riding his lightweight all-rigid bike on Sunday in an effort to record his first 2007 Series win and give his ranking a boost up from an uncharacteristic ninth place.

Naturally, a strong Western Cape-rider onslaught is expected and will be led by the evergreen Shan Wilson (Adidas William Simpson Trek), who turned 40 this month and is seldom outside the top 10 overall at any race. Other strong local contenders include Oliver Munnik (Adidas William Simpson Trek), leading veteran Doug Brown and top master Linus van Onselen.

According to Evans, the Concordia climb in the Gouna Forest near the finish is expected to play a significant part in determining the final top finishing positions.

“The climb is only about 3km in length, but it is steep and comes after 94km of racing, so the riders will have to tackle it with tired legs,” he explained.

More than 1600 riders have already pre-entered the popular event. Pre-entries are closed but late entries will be taken at registration at the Uniondale Show Grounds hall on Saturday 22 September from 16h00–21h00. No entries will be taken on race day, but late registration will be open on Sunday 23 September from 06h00–06h30.


SPEEDY TAKES AIM AT MAZDA SERIES TITLE

By Bardy the Action Scribe (AKA BBBtBS)

South African champion, Yolande Speedy, will be looking for a victory to boost her chances of winning the 2007 Mazda National Mountain Bike Series when she tackles The Talisman Herald Karoo to Coast from Uniondale to Knysna on Sunday.



A win at Karoo to Coast, which doubles as the ninth event in the prestigious 10-leg Mazda Series, would give Speedy (IMC Mongoose) a 4000-point injection to shoot her from fourth to second in the rankings and within a very realistic shot at the overall Series title, which she narrowly missed out on last year.

Last year’s winner of Karoo to Coast and the Mazda Series, Yolande de Villiers (Mazda Merida) is out of contention for both this year following a serious crash during the Mazda Haenertsburg race two weeks ago. And current Series leader, Tania Raats (Maverick Momentum) is ill with bronchitis so will not be in action on Sunday. Also absent from the starting line-up is Amy Jane Mundy (Jeep Specialized), who is currently lying second in the Series, but has opted to compete at the Sunday Tribune Jeep Hill to Hill event in KwaZulu-Natal.

This gives Speedy outright favourite status for Sunday’s testing 100km haul from the dry and dusty Karoo town of Uniondale to the lush coastal forests at Knysna. Speedy’s busy international racing schedule has allowed her to only compete in four events of the eight held so far. She won three of those and could edge out Raats to win the Series if she records victories in the final two events.

Other riders that could be in contention for a podium place on Sunday include Ellane van Wyk (Fabrinox), Hanlie Booyens (Jeep Specialized), Michelle Lombardi, Jeannie Bomford, Carla Rowley (Raleigh MTN Energade), Ischen Stopforth and Jane Seggie.

With Raats and Mundy absent, Rowley, who currently occupies third place in the Series, will wear the Mazda Series pink leader’s jersey. Speedy will don the Velotex Queen of the Mountains jersey.

More than 1600 riders have already pre-entered the popular event. Pre-entries are closed but late entries will be taken at registration at the Uniondale Show Grounds hall on Saturday 22 September from 16h00–21h00. No entries will be taken on race day, but late registration will be open on Sunday 23 September from 06h00–06h30.