Pietermaritzburg – South Africa’s most experienced international marathon mountain biker, Kevin Evans, has urged the host nation’s largest contingent ever to take on the UCI MTB Marathon World Championships to adopt a team mentality and race together in the search of obtaining the best possible result for the country when the 2014 edition is staged in Pietermaritzburg on Sunday 29 June.
Outside of the late Burry Stander’s podium finish in 2010, Evans’ eighth in Austria in 2009 is South Africa’s best ever result at the global marathon showpiece and the FedGroup ITEC rider believes 2014 presents the Rainbow Nation with its best ever chance to repeat Stander’s remarkable feat with both the number of riders as well as home turf working in the local lads’ favour.
“I’m sure the selectors will put together the strongest possible team to represent South Africa and will always pick guys who are currently in top form,” said Evans.
“It’s also great that even though some of our top guys might not be selected for the SA team, they will still be able to compete because they’ve earned enough UCI points or achieved certain results at the World Marathon Series events.
“With so many of us South Africans likely to be on the start line this year, this is definitely our best chance to see a South African on the podium provided everyone, especially those selected for the official SA team, can look to put their individual ambitions aside a little and work together for one, maybe two, riders,” he added.
Despite his vast experience on the international circuit, Evans however doesn’t expect the help to automatically come his way should the team tactics option become a reality.
“If the team assessed things and said ‘you’re the strongest, we’ll race for you’ then that would be great and I’d give it my all. If it was determined that the best candidate to lead the team was someone else then I’d be just as happy to support them as well,” said the FedGroup ITEC rider.
“It’s all about getting the best possible result for South Africa!”
“This year’s Worlds is also very different to all previous Worlds. Usually we’re the ones having to travel which means you’re taken right out of your comfort zone, you don’t have the support and the infrastructure like you do when you’re racing back here at home and there are much fewer of us racing than there will be in Maritzburg this year.
“This usually means the guys look to try and do as well as they possibly can individually and be the best-placed South African but to be honest whether you finish fifteenth or thirtieth, it’s all the same really. A top ten, top five or even podium is what it’s really all about and this year is our best chance we’ve had to achieve those sorts of results!”
Evans believes local track knowledge is a further aid in the South African’s bid, particularly after this past weekend’s SA National MTB Marathon Championships were staged on exactly the same course as will be used at Worlds. This coupled with the travel requirement for all other competitors may also play into the local riders’ hands.
“You won’t get a better opportunity to see the course, particularly at race pace, as we got at SA Champs,” said Evans.
“The fact that the Europeans have to travel may also help us a little because now instead of being ten or twelve strong per nation, the European teams may well only have six or seven riders each.”
On a personal note, Evans was slightly disappointed with how SA Champs, won by Trek SA’s James Reid with Evans finishing third, panned out but is happy with how his preparations have gone thus far.
“I had a couple of little mechanical issues at SA’s so that was a little frustrating but the form is good at the moment and SA’s were the perfect chance to see where I am and where I need to focus in the final couple of weeks.
“It’s now not a question of distance but more just about working on the technical side of things but overall I’m happy with where I am so far.
“With Worlds being on home turf this year, there also definitely isn’t any lack of motivation to do well either! I got a top ten before and now it’s all about trying to match or, ideally, better that.
“If I could get a top five, that would be fantastic and a podium would obviously be a dream goal for me!
The UCI MTB Marathon World Championships takes place at the Cascades MTB Park in Pietermaritzburg on 29 June 2014. More information can be found at www.mtbworldchamps.co.za
Source: Gameplan Media