MTN Ultra Marathon, Barberton, 124km, 3020m

The MTN Ultra Marathon series as per usual kicked off over the weekend in Barberton. I’ve always said that this is the race where the new teams and riders come show who’s been doing what over the off-season. It’s usually a good indicator as to who has early season form. With my two trips to the hospital in the off season, and only a month on the bike, I could only but watch the race unfold in front of me, and would have to settle for a good day in the saddle as training and not quite racing.

The team had a fantastic training camp leading up to the race, but the race was never part of our bigger picture in terms of building up towards bigger goals.

Anyhow, back to the race, the guys were clearly in no mood to hold back, and the attacks started already on the first climb, with guys going hard to test each other.I can’t comment, once again, on what happened at the head of affairs, but it sounded fast with new names appearing at the head of affairs. As usual the race was really well organized, well attended and up to the usual standards we’ve come to expect from Advendurance.Neil Macdonald was the best of our team, riding into 7th place, followed by Brandon Stewart in 10th, and youngster and newcomer to the Ultra Marathon step-up, Brad Stroberg in 12th. I managed 13th place, but thoroughly enjoyed my ride and for a change, taking in the beautiful scenery and vistas that we are usually so oblivious too.

Meanwhile Max Knox rode the race that was expected of him and managed to fend off the rest of a good quality field and win his fourth Barberton Ultra.The race was also a perfect testing ground for the team to test out all our new equipment. The Scott Sparks ran like a dream, Syncros wheels and Maxxis tires were put through their paces and came out tops. USN nutrition fueled us all the way, Gaerne shoes and Look pedals providing superb platforms, and Transition lenses allowing for the ever-changing light. All made to look good in our top of the line Decca clothing. And of course, safely driven by KIA. But the big thanks of course goes to Fedgroup-Itec for making the team possible, a great bunch of riders, and a fun start to an action packed year.

Our team will continue with its progressive build up, and keep the main goals for the season in the back of our minds, and take only the positives out of this race.

Next race, Brandon, Bridgette and I will compete at the Herald mountain bike race in Port Elizabeth whilst Brad and Neil will race a Kia sponsored event in Johannesburg.Till then, cheers.

Kevin Evans

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