The day started out with rain again, so things were not looking great.
First thing in the morning I went to the tech zone to fetch my bike, but due to not having a bike repair package with them my bike was back of the queue, they didn’t get to it. I had to try fix my brakes, so I swapped my brake pads with some spare I had, but the rear breaks still would not work.
In a panic I went back to the tech zone and stood in a queue waiting for help. Eventually with about 10min to spare before the race the mechanic started to bleed my breaks. He told me that it was a 20-30min job, which meant I was definitely starting late. After a first rushed attempt at bleeding my breaks it was a fail and we were forced to swap breaks with another set as a temp solution.
I eventually started my race about 15min late. The start of the rotate was a district road, which meant I had missed out on bunch riding for the first 20km, this would mean I definitely loose time on my competitors. I decided to no fuss about this and just keep riding as strong and fast as I could.
I was motoring leading up to the big climb of Swartberg Pass, it actually helped morale starting further back because I was able to catch people consistently. By the time I hit the massive climb my legs were feeling it somewhat, but I kept going. Compared to my 2012 ride I was feeling much better, I managed to keep a decent speed up to the top. The finish line was actually at the top of the pass, but we still had another 15km to the camp site in Prince Albert. The views were spectacular and I made sure to stop along the way down.
My race had taken 5hrs 30min to the top of the pass and a further 30min to get to the camp site. The first thing I did when I arrived back at the camp site was to book my bike in at the tech zone and get my own breaks put back on my bike. The tech zone guys did a race check and made sure my bike was ready for stage 3.
I needed to be up at 5am to drop my car off at secure parking before 6am. There were shuttles taking us up to the Buffelsdrift for the start of stage 1, so after dropping car a bunch of us piled into a mini-van. There was an interesting cross section of riders in the van, from top sponsored riders to back markers. I always find the banter interesting.
As we got dropped off, everyone had to leave their bags at the baggage truck and we caught a lift up to the start. I had left my bike at the bike park the day before, so I had to check out my bike and make sure everything was still fine with the bike seeing it had rained all night.
While I was waiting for the start of the race I realized that it was definitely going to rain, but unfortunately I had no rain coat with me, mine was in my bag in the baggage truck. The main sponsor Bridge had been giving out rain coats and kit to selected riders, so I managed to wangle myself a new rain jacket just in time for the start.
Just before stage 1 started the rain started pouring down, this meant a tough day of riding and our bikes were going get destroyed. At first the roads seemed fine, but soon we moved off the district roads and onto jeep tracks that we’re predominantly clay. The combination of the clay and rain made for interesting riding or should I say walking. Very quickly riders were forced from riding to cleaning clay off wheels and frame to walking. This stop start process affected the entire field, even the pros were struggling. Bikes were breaking left right and center. I have never in my life seen so many broken hangouts, derailed and chains.
After about 10km of stop start walking riding, we moved onto more rideable terrain and we were able to consistently ride for long stretches. I managed to keep a decent speed up for a while, but then due to constant rain even the district roads became sticky and tiring. This went on for most of the race, the worst was that I started getting chain suck, which forced me to stay in big blade and tired my legs out. Then we hit more clay and were forced to start walking again. I eventually finished in a time of 6hrs 15min.
It’s been a while since my last post and my last adventure. I left Cape Town on Friday 18 October and headed a short distance to my close friend Pieter in Grabouw. It was just the two of us on the farm, so it was the perfect opportunity for. The two of us to catch up as we hadn’t seen each since before my last cycling adventure in Thailand. It was a good way to get my head into gear, braai and catch out, perfect.
In the morning I had to start the drive to Oudtshoorn, it was going to be a 4 hour journey on my own. I am not a fan of driving, even less of a fan of driving alone. I had to focus on the end goal, arriving at Buffelsdrift farm in Oudsthoorn where I would be registering for the Cape Pioneer mountain bike 7day stage race.
As I arrived at Buffelsdrift I immediately got changed into cycling gear and heard over to race registration to get my goodie and race number. After registering I headed off for my first lap of the course, the route was exactly the same as 2012, which meant fast, tight single track and easy to fall. I managed get round the track without incident. On the finishing stretch I had to cross dam wall with branding flags lining the wall, stupidly I got too close and wiped out… Managed to bend my dropout and stuff up my gears, thank goodness the bike mechanic was able to sort out all my issues. I went round for a second lap, but this time pushed much harder on speed, what a load of fun, feeling fit and fast. Hoping that the actual prologue goes well on Sunday.
After my practice laps I headed back into Oudtshoorn town where I was staying at a little back packers called Karoo Soul. I checked in, unpacked and took a shower. Long day, so chilled out did some bloggingand reading. I decided to get an early night and was in bed by 8pm
I only woke up at 8am, so that meant I got a solid 12hour sleep, that’s the first time in a long time that I have slept for so long. My event was only at 10:40am, so I was in no rush to go anywhere. It’s great when you can take your time before an event and the start time isn’t at some obscene time like 5 or 6am. I was able to eat breakfast at respectable time like 9am. I ended up going to Spur for a breakfast special, such a bargain, R35 for bacon, eggs, sausage and a coffee.
I headed up to Buffelsdrift, about 6.5 km out of town, for the start of my prologue. I was feeling good and ready to do a better time than 2012. Lining up for the start of a prologue event is always nerve wracking, there are a bunch of riders lined up and every 30 seconds a rider leaves.
There are two things that always happen, you catch riders ahead of you or somebody catches you. The course provided little or no place for over taking, which made things challenging. I caught 4 riders before the first rider caught me, that helped morale in a big way. The start is fast, my lungs were burning and my heart was pounding at close to my max heart rate, this is not something I find enjoyable and isn’t my strength. My time was looking good nearing the finish, I knew I would beat last year’s time… I finished in a time of 48min, which was about 5-6min faster than last year.
I didn’t feel like sticking around Buffelsdrift, so I headed back to Karoo Soul back packers for a shower and some relaxation. I did some prep for the next day. Once I was done with admin I decided to go to Cango Caves for the first time since childhood.
While driving to the Cango Caves it dawned on me that I was on holiday for the week, despite doing a race for 7 days, I didn’t have to be at the office. The trip to Cango Caves was me being a tourist, when I paid for my ticket I noted that most of the people were foreign, so it really felt like one of my overseas trips. I got in for the last tour of the day, thank goodness I was a part of a small group of cool people. I snapped some wicked picks, the caves were awesome.
After the cave mission I headed back to Oudtshoorn and stopped at Spur again for their other special, Surf and Turf. I don’t mind Spur every now and then, it’s always the same decent meal. I was sitting in the restaurant on my own and missing my wife somewhat, staring out the window looking at the rain pouring down outside.
After my early dinner I headed back to my accommodation to grab an early nights rest. The morning was set to be an early start, so I had to be prepared.