Knox, the defending MTN Ultra champion, and Charles Keey (Cannondale/Blend Properties) are neck and neck at the moment. Both riders have won two races in the series so far. Apart from winning at MTN Clarens, Knox was also victorious at MTN Barberton, whereas Keey won at MTN Sabie and MTN Tulbagh.

Both riders also came third once, Knox in Sabie and Keey in Barberton.

Keey did not race at Clarens because he was competing in the Joburg2C. On Saturday (11 May) they will resume their battle in the MTN Gravel Travel ultra-race that is scheduled to take place in and around Wellington.

It will certainly require a special effort from Knox to win again on Saturday in the Cape. Nobody can remember when, if ever, any rider was able to win races in the MTN National MTB Series on two consecutive weekends.

On Saturday it may well turn out to be a case of ‘two dogs fighting over a bone and the third racing away with it’. Nico Bell (Westvaal/Bell Cycles) is certainly next in line to win a big one. Bell is currently in the lead on the series standings thanks to being the only rider to have completed all the events in the Series so far. He could well upset Keey and Knox this coming weekend and retain his top spot.

Bell finished second this weekend, only seconds behind the winner, in both the MTN UCI World Series Races, Sabie and Clarens.

On Saturday it could be a case of third time lucky for Bell. Knox already predicted earlier that Bell could eventually be the overall winner. “Nico is a much better rider than what people give him credit for,” were the words Knox used in an interview.

During the MTN Clarens race Bell purposely started off conservatively. “I have been battling a virus over the past 14 days. I only realized that something was wrong when my heart beat sky-rocketed and cramped quite badly during the MTN Tulbagh event. During the Mzansi Tour it became even worse and I had to withdraw after stage three." Bell told reporters.

“The doctor whom I consulted advised me to take a complete break from cycling for at least two weeks. So I had no expectations for MTN Clarens. I was thinking along the lines of just riding to support my teammate, Gawie Combrinck. But I surprised even myself." Bell added.

Bell commented after the race that he felt like a new person. "When I was still riding in the front with Gawie, Max (Knox) and Stefan Sahm (Germany), I realized that I was in with a chance to win. Unfortunately for me, Max rode the near perfect race, doing exactly the right things at the right moment. This enabled him to open up a small gap on the last climb."

“I was hoping to catch up with him on the tricky descent, but I could not.”

This was the second time in two years that Knox won at MTN Clarens. “It is always special to defend a title. It is exciting to race at MTN Clarens because the organizers keep on changing the route. This was the fifth time that I have raced at MTN Clarens and every time there were one or two surprises. I suppose it is their way of continuing to level the playing field.”

Sahm, who eventually finished third, was full of praise for the route. “I cannot remember when last I rode on single track for so many kilometres. It was fantastic, and the scenery along the route was amazing. I thoroughly enjoyed myself,” said the three-time winner of the Absa Cape Epic.

By finishing third, Sahm has become the new leader of the UCI World Series. Bell could be second overall and Knox is also among the top-five riders of the series.

Germany's Steffen Thum certainly deserves a special mention. The saddle of his mountain bike broke off and he had no other option but to continue pedalling in a standing position for approximately 10km. He was then able to duct tape his water bottle onto his seat post to serve as a saddle for another 20km, before he could fix it properly. Despite this setback he still managed to finish 6th.

Mens UCI MTN Ultra Marathon 100 km results

1. Max Knox (RSA) 04:18'17''

2. Nico Bell (RSA) + 0'32''

3. Stefan Sahm (GER) +1'51''

4.Gawie Combrinck (RSA)

5. Matthys Beukes (RSA)

6. Steffen Thum (GER)

7. Tom Ettlich (GER)

8. Guylin van den Berg (RSA)

9. Timothy Hammond (RSA)

10. Ben Melt Swanepoel (RSA)

Womens Marathon results

1. Samantha Sanders (RSA) 03:14'51''

2. Christine Jansen van Rensburg (RSA) + 2'17''

3. Amy Mcdougall (RSA) +6'14''

4. Kendall Ryan (USA)

5. Ashleigh Parker-Moffatt (RSA)

Jersey leaders after MTN Clarens driven by Nissan:

MTN Ultra Marathon:

Leaders Jersey - Nico Bell - (Westvaal Columbia)

KOM Jersey - Darren Lill

MTN Marathon:

Leaders Jersey - Ariene Kleinhans - Re-CM

QOM Jersey - Robyn De groot (To let)

u23 Men - Declan Sidey - (ASG)

u23 Women - Kendall Ryan - (TEAM Jeep)

Nissan Half - Marathon:

Leader Jersey - Raymond Wagener - (blank)

Ladies Leader - Marie-Christin Kempf - (KARGO)