Knox and de Villiers win South African season opener

Dramatic start to national marathon series

Twenty-one-year-old Max Knox (DCM Chrome) won the tough first round of the South African MTN National Marathon mountain bike series in Barberton at the weekend.

Clocking a time of 5hr 11min 28sec for the gruelling 120km race, which included almost 4000 metres of ascent, Knox led a Team DCM Chrome 1-2-3 across the finish line, with Jacques Janse van Rensburg finishing second and Brandon Stewart third.

Stewart, however, was later disqualified for an incident involving South African marathon champion Kevin Evans (MTN Energade). Evans crossed the finish line fourth but was promoted to third, with David George (MTN Energade) claiming fourth place and Francois Theron (Garmin Adidas) rounding out the top five.

“It was a pretty brutal race today, but a good one to win,” said Knox. “We had quite a fast pace early on, so it ended up being a matter of who had the most left at the end.”

Knox, Stewart and Janse van Rensburg were in the small select lead group that formed early on, along with defending champion Burry Stander (Mr Price Specialized) and 2007 winner Evans.

Stander, the current Under-23 World Cup cross-country champion, crashed in the muddy conditions just before halfway, sustaining a knee injury. He opted to withdraw, leaving Evans to contend with the DCM Chrome trio on his own.

“There was some heated interaction between Evans and Brandon Stewart, which resulted in Brandon almost crashing and Kevin actually crashing,” said Knox “We waited for him to rejoin us before continuing to race.”

But a weary Evans dropped out of podium contention with 35km remaining, leaving the three DCM Chrome riders to decide the final positions among themselves. Evans lodged a protest at the finish, which resulted in officials disqualifying Stewart.

In the women’s 75km event, Yolande de Villiers (Cycle Lab Supercycling Toyota) made a triumphant return to racing following a disappointing 2008, most of which saw her sidelined while recovering from shoulder surgery.

The 35-year-old former national marathon champion took an early lead and finished in a respectable time of 3hr 43min 20sec, almost 20 minutes ahead of runner-up Ischen Stopforth, who ran her bike across the finish line as a result of a mechanical problem late in the race. Chrissie Viljoen (MTN Energade) completed the podium.

“I was a bit apprehensive about the long, fast downhill, so I pushed hard at the start to try and build up as much of a lead as I could. That way I could be a bit cautious on the downhill,” explained an elated De Villiers.

In the men's 75km marathon, sub-veteran Paul Cordes (IMC Racing) captured the win ahead of rising junior star, Shaun-Nick Bester and veteran Andrew McLean (both of Cycle Lab Supercycling Toyota).

Conditions were cloudy and ranged from humid and sticky in the valleys to cold and misty at the top of the big climbs, while mud, stones and sand created a good variety of challenges over the new race route.

The next event in the series, the MTN National Marathon Chandelier, will take place in Oudtshoorn on Sunday 26 April.

For full results and more information, visit www.cyclesport.co.za.

MTN National Marathon Series: Barberton – brief leading results

Men's 120km

  1. Max Knox – DCM Chrome 5:11:28
  2. Jacques Janse van Rensburg – DCM Chrome 5:12:15
  3. Kevin Evans – MTN Energade 5:29:17
  4. David George – MTN Energade 5:38:32
  5. Francois Theron – Garmin Adidas 5:40:38

Women's 75km

  1. Yolande de Villiers – Cycle Lab Supercycling Toyota 3:43:20
  2. Ischen Stopforth 4:03:00
  3. Chrissie Viljoen – MTN Energade 4:04:05

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