There were thrills and spills aplenty as the Oakley X-Over presented by Seartec kicked off at Impala Ranch with the MTB event.
Overnight rain had turned the trails and tracks into a muddy mess making for difficult conditions. It was always going to be a tight race between SA MTB marathon legend Kevin Evans and Greg Minnaar, who became the winningest downhill rider in history when he won his 18th Downhill World Cup crown in Lenzerheide, Switzerland recently.
It was Evans who put the hammer down early to avoid a repeat of 2014, where Minnaar stuck with him until the end only to out-sprint him for the win. “Ja, I didn’t want Greg to ‘talk’ me out of going hard, as he did last year,” Evans joked afterward, before adding seriously: “My golf’s not great at the moment and who knows what the surfing will hold so I had to capitalise on my strong point.”
Impala Ranch is a bike park outside Jeffreys Bay built on 1000 hectares of pristine countryside that has been a private game farm for the past 20 years. All trails have been built to IMBA standards and have been affiliated with the AMA Rider association with full public liability insurance in place for trail building, events and general riding.
“The route was completely different to last year – it was proper mountain biking,” Evans said. “A little bit on the tough side but I guess these non-mountain bikers have to learn the hard way and toughen up. The course was well-marked and it was a proper challenge, I enjoyed it.”
In third place was a delighted Wihann Kotze, who had gained an entry through the wildcard competition. “I’m so stoked,” he said. “I really didn’t expect to do that well. I was just pushing as hard as I could to stay ahead of the other guys.”
1. Kevin Evans
2. Greg Minnaar
3. Wihann Kotze
Then it was straight into the much-awaited golf tournament at the Links Golf Course in St Francis. The clear weather held out as the competitors headed out on the golf carts for the second leg of the Oakley X-Over.
Some quality shots alongside some excellent golf cart driving on the famous course saw the professional golfer Ruan De Smidt come out on top with no surprises there. In a bit of an upset however, Australian wildcard Tom Whitaker was runner-up, with the defending X-Over champion Butch James in third place.
For others it didn’t go so well. “It went pretty shocking for me,” said Ryan Sandes of his performance on the golf course. “It probably can’t get any worse, although I am a bit nervous for the surfing tomorrow.”
The Oakley X-Over is set to continue tomorrow with the surf event at Lower Point in Jeffreys Bay. The forecast is for a solid swell tomorrow, so the competitors will have their work cut out for them.
“I’m looking forward to the surf event,” said Butch James. “The last time I surfed was at the X-Over last year. The waves were nice and friendly last year, so let’s hope we have similar conditions tomorrow,”
The surfing event will be followed by the prize giving at the Jolly Dolphin in Jeffreys Bay at 7:30pm, followed by an auction.