Bouckaert Soenen Pro Classic League Race

After having my wisdom teeth out last week it was a frustrating and sore few days of not being able to ride. This coupled with a disappointing Attakwas (the stomach bug) was not how I envisioned the start to my 2011 season.

I eventually managed to get back onto the trainer first and then onto the road. No mountain biking just yet.

Skinny wheel racing it was to be and I joined up with my Cycle Lab Toyota Team for the 3rd race in the pro Classis Series. Paarl would be the start finish venue for the Boukaert Soenen race over 126km. The elite team would be 3 members strong represented by Ryan Binedale, Matt Wentworth and I.

The race kicked off to a usual fast start with numerous attacks going off the front but the bunch was not letting anything go. Ryan and I represented the team in these moves with Matt saving his legs for later on.

Ultimately near half through the race would be the deciding point with the Botmaskop Climb just out of Riebecks Kasteel. The bunch did split here with a much smaller group forming on the other side. Unfortunately we lost Ryan on the climb and Matt was forced to withdraw due to injury problems.

Fourth from left.

Photo Credit: Ronel Rust – Torque Pics

Heading back in the direction of Paarl there were many moves going off the front until a group of 6 went away and built a lead of up to a minute at one stage. Most of the big teams were represented so were not interested in bringing it back. I decided to help a few of the individual riders and smaller teams in pacing on the front in order to try and bring it back.

A lot off aggressive riding on the Paardeberg circuit almost saw the bunch split again until shortly thereafter everything came together again in anticipation of the finish. Heading into the last ten kilometres a big attack by Darren Lill (DCM) saw a group of 5 riders go clear including Carl Pasio (RSA Web), Alistair Davies (Daiken) and two other riders. The pace was very high in this last part as we covered the remaining 10km’s in 11 minutes. The breakaway just managed to stay away with only 50m in the end with Darren Lill once again taking the win.

I finished safely in the bunch not taking any chances mixing it up in the sprint as I knew if something happened and I bumped my mouth there could potentially be another visit to the hospital and more days off the bike.

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Attakwas National Marathon and Kruger Park

The Attakwas National Ultra marathon is supposedly, the toughest one day mountain bike race in South Africa over a very rough, rocky 135km and 2900m of ascent.

The race can be split into 3 sections. The first 30km of jeep track and dirt roads, the next 40km of riding through the Attakwas Kloof; this is the roughest section of the race and the final 50km with a lot of climbing which really tests you this far into the event.

I went into the race knowing I would not be near my best as I had picked a stomach bug two days before and had not fully recovered yet. Anyway I decided to give it a bash.

The race started off at a steady pace with a big bunch remaining intact. The first hard accelerations proved too much for me and I could feel the power lacking as I tried to push it a bit, I backed off and rode my own race.

Photo Credit: Photo Dynamix 

I started to feel better in the kloof and started to pick up a couple of positions but was still fairly far off the pace as we started to exit the kloof, and then KABOOM I blew! Worst of all was that I had no reserves and thus was stuck in reverse.

A long arduous push took me to the finish, well off the pace but somewhere in the top 50. No fireworks.

I then travelled up country to join family for a 4 day trip into the Kruger Park where we would be doing one of the bush hikes along the Wolhuter Trail; named after my great grandfather Harry Wolhuter. Harry was a ranger in the Kruger Park and killed a Lion with only a knife as it attacked him and his horse. You can read the full story here.

Old Elly Bull

 

Lion skin from the Lion that Harry Wolhuter killed along with the knife he used.

 

A big thank you to the Kleinhans’s and Dawie van Rensburg for having me to stay in George.

Next up for me is the Cape Town Pro Classic Road League next weekend where I will return to racing with my Toyota/Cycle Lab road team.

Till then Ciao

Tour de Lesotho

The Tour de Lesotho didn’t quite work out as planned but it was an adventure nonetheless. Washed away roads halted our adventure but we still got in some good training and got to experience the country in a great way.

Day 1

Christiaan and I departed unsupported from the Lions River Polo Club. Our destination, Sani Pass Backpackers, some 103km and 2600m of vertical ascent stood in our way. We carried back packs filled with what we would need for the evening as the backup car would only meet us the next day. Mixed weather conditions followed us for most of the day with rain plaguing us for a good part of it.

 

Michelin Man Look 

Five and a half hours later we arrived at the backpackers. It was a bit disappointing that the coffee shop was closed and there was nowhere else to get food which was closely available with Underberg being 15km away.

Day 2

Two big obstacles stood in our way on the second morning of our epic journey. The day would see us travel some 75km to Molumong Backpackers lodge which lay deep in the Lesotho Mountains. But first we would have to climb the beast of Sani Pass and then a few kilometres later the Black Mountain pass, which I stand to be corrected but think it is the highest mountain pass in Southern Africa at just over 3200m above sea level. In total this provided us with a total of 2200m of ascent for the day. I had ridden up Sani Pass a few years ago and knew how hard it would be, the hairpins to the top were torturous but reaching the top was awesome. A chicken burger and coke was on the cards at Sani Top Chalets, the highest pub in Africa. We also tried a Maluti beer which was quite pleasant.

South African Border Post 

Black Mountain was next up; the view from the top was amazing. Lesotho; the mountain kingdom… now we know why! Green mountains extended as far as the eye could see with rivers running in the v’s of the valleys below. 20km of awesome sweeping descent greeted us on the other side. It now felt as though we were really in Lesotho. Our overnight stay was at Molumong Lodge which was a lot more comfortable than the previous night’s accommodation. It was great to also have our back up crew of Mike, Murray and Lauren there too; they would also be fly fishing along the way.

Molumong Lodge 

 

Day 3

We were now truly into Lesotho. In addition to the classified mountain passes there were many more climbs of up to 5 km in length which proved to be testing. Menomeng pass which cumulated at just over 3000m above sea level met us early in the day. The rivers had risen over night with the many rain showers, and fishing was not on the cards due to the fast flowing dirty brown water. Unfortunately 55km into our trip that day we met an impassable obstacle. 20km from Mashai Lodge where we were to spend the night the bridge had completely washed away and now 30m of fast flowing rapids stood in between us and the road on the other side. We discussed and consulted maps to try and determine as to what we would do next. We eventually decided on back tracking in the car and staying at Sani Top Chalets that night, this was some 100km away and would take at least 3hours to get there with the conditions of the roads. All was going fine until we reached the foot of Black Mountain where one of the smaller subsidiary rivers had washed the away the road as well.

The bridge that was not there

 

Christiaan and I considered taking back packs and riding to Sani Top as we could cross the river on bikes. We decided on staying together and to try going back to Mokhotlong, fill up with petrol and look for accommodation. Whilst we got petrol the accommodation didn’t capture us and we back tracked a further 15km back to Molumong Lodge where we stayed the night again. After a long day a braai went down well that evening.

Day 4

An awesome sunrise greeted us on our 2nd unplanned morning at Molumong Lodge. Our plan for the day was to ride back to Sani Top Chalets but first we would have to deal with the issue of the washed away road. Christiaan and I set off first and the car met us at the point where the road had washed away. Our new strategy was to cross the river in a different point where the water was a bit shallower. We used rocks to build the level of the river bed up a bit and then Mike would try drive across. After about an hour of this we decided that it was worth a try. After carefully lining up the car Mike went for it, carefully through, he made it! We walked across with the bikes after and we then each set off for Sani Top.

Mike crossing the river.

Once we reached our destination we decided we would continue and ride on to Underberg and stay at Laurens house for the evening. We arrived some 5 and a half hours later and nearly 100km’s.

 

Parts of Sani Pass washed away.

The trip was a great adventure and we got in some good hours at high altitude. It was however very disappointing not being able to do what we had planned but there isn’t much that we could do about it. Maybe next year?

More photos from the trip can be viewed here