Swartland Mountain Bike Classic

My first race back in the Cape, after my two month racing stint in Belgium and racing up in Joburg last week, was the Swartland Mountain bike Classic.

It was a pretty long drive out to the Org de Rac Wine Estate which hosted the event. A fairly competitive field lined up with most noticeably Charles Keey of MTN Qhubeka there, along with 3 Daiken Gu riders, Neil Bradford (Toyota/Cycle Lab) and a few other lads.

The race stayed together for the first twenty kilometres until we hit Koringberg for the first time, a tough rocky, steep and loose climb. A split of three including Craig Boyes, Greef Moolman and myself chased Charles who had managed to get away until I lost the other two as I had to stop to sort out technical issues.

I managed to chase back on the flats only to have further problems and lose the chase group again which now had six riders present. I was given a bit of a “get out of jail free card” when the group took a wrong turn and then suddenly came back up behind me again.

An old race photo from SA XC Championships earlier in the year.

Image Credit: Hanno Lategan

As we ascended Koringberg again, but now from another angle, I attacked on the steepest section of the climb. This gave me a gap and I didn’t look back. A thorn got stuck in my front wheel towards the top but the Sludge sealed the hole quickly so no problems there.  After a technical downhill I had about 15km of rolling terrain to the finish. This became quite hard as I started cramping and some of the climbs, although not particularly long, were steep.

I held onto 2nd with Charles taking a solid win and Craig finishing up in 3rd. I was quite happy with my ride considering my legs weren’t feeling too rock star on the day

Advertisements

Kargo Magalies Adventure

The Kargo Magalies Adventure was a race that Sean and I had set out as one of our major goals for the year as Sean had won the event last year and wanted to defend his title. As has become the norm for a stage race the racing is done in teams of two riders in the same way as something like the Epic.

 

The first of three stages was a 25km night stage which saw us setting off at dusk and then finishing in the dark. The racing started from the gun with the team from Trinity Cycles and us breaking clear early on in the stage. We managed to get a gap on Trinity Cycles near the top of the main climb only to be reeled in again as I started having problems with my bike lights. We rode together for the next 5km until I was struggling to keep up in the technical single track with limited lighting as the night grew darker. We came in second on the stage 30 seconds down but knew that the next day’s stage would most likely be the race decider.

 

Following the second placed team from Trinity Cycles

Image Credit: http://www.waterpoint.co.za

 

The second stage of some 75km was the queen stage of the race. With just 1200m of ascent it didn’t sound terribly hard but one should not judge a stage’s toughness on just the numbers. The course was incredibly rough and rocky and it took its toll on our bodies especially towards the end of the day. We managed to ride away early into the stage with Trinity Cycles until the first main climb which was very loose and rocky on the lower slopes and ended with steep concrete strips at the top. This is where we managed to shake off the Trinity Cycles pair. Following this we rode some awesome single track in a river bed complete with purpose built bridges and cool drop offs, it was super fun riding! I had a bit of a mechanical towards the end of the stage with a broken chain but we fixed it quickly and had a good cushion on the second team to take the stage by almost 9 minutes.

 

With a nice cushion over the second placed team of Trinity Cycles going into the third day we still wanted to win the stage and it was a mountain bike race after all so anything could happen. A steep rocky loose climb 10km into the stage allowed us to get a gap on Trinity Cycles again and from here we rode a good tempo until 10km from the finish where we hit the fun single track at Van Gaalens Cheese farm. Sean and I tapped off here and enjoyed the single track keeping a check that Trinity Cycles weren’t going to catch us. It was awesome to take another stage win and to have Darryl and Paul from Cube Bikes at the finish too.

Crossing the line on Day 3

Image Credit: Cube Bikes South Africa

Happy Campers!

Image Credit: Karen Peter Martin

Prize Giving

Image Credit: Cube Bikes South Africa

Sean and I were stoked to take the win for 2011 and I guess we’ll have to be back next year to defend our title. 🙂

Last Week in Belgium

My last week in Belgium was a bitter sweet one for me. I had just come back from an awesome trip to France and Italy and had just over a week before I went home. I had three races lined up, two kermesse’s and one cross country race. I had loved my time in Belgium and was sad to leave but on the other hand it would be great to go home and see friends and family again.

 

The first kermesse I had lined up was the Buggenhout 1.12 race. Buggenhout is about 20km from Leuven so I took a spin there before the race to warm up. A huge field of 150 riders lined up, somewhat surprising considering there was a big tour taking place at the same time as well as a few other one day races. The course was tough with a climb of just over a kilometre long and a tough gutter section along rough cement slabs. This thinned the field out somewhat but still saw about a 100 riders coming to the line on the last of 11 laps. A crash 5km from the line spelled the end of the race from me; I had to shift down to my small chain ring and in the process my chain dropped. I couldn’t ‘pick’ it up again by shifting it up again so had to jump off. Anyway a ride home helped spin the legs out for the race the next day.

 

 

Photo Credit: Jean Bollaerts


Photo Credit: Jean Bollaerts


Image Credit: Maryne Poppe


Image Credit: Maryne Poppe

The following day I was on my mountain bike again for the Flanders Cup race in Hechter Eksel. In total I had spent almost five hours on my bike the day before so the legs were quite tired. A pan flat 4.5km course was one of the most fun I had raced on in Belgium with it being almost entirely on fast flowing forest single track. I started quite well but after breaking a spoke I had to take it easy into the tech zone and lost a couple of places. With a new wheel I was off again but started to fade in the last two laps with heavy legs and many accelerations. I finished in 17th place in the elite men race.

Image Credit: Ludo van der Put

I took a day’s rest and then Gerry and I took a road trip up to Baal for another kermesse. It was my last day in Belgium and I wanted to make it count! Despite the very flat course it was a tough race with hard accelerations as usual. After helping close the gap to a very threatening break I found myself near the back on the group when a split happened that I didn’t notice at first. It was a bit too late and the gap too big to close and unfortunately it meant that was that.

 

It was unfortunately a disappointing end to my trip; but one that I will look back on fondly. I really enjoyed it and learnt so much about myself and bike racing. I would love to go back again next year after having sussed out how the whole scene works.

Le Tour de France


1km to the top of Alpe du Huez

 

Well what an experience it was watching the tour! I met up with Brad and Colin Stroberg and joined their tour group, Bike Style Tours, for the day to ride from Grenoble up to Alpe du Huez.

 

Crowds on Alpe du Huez

Alberto “I ate contaminated meat-ya right” Contador

We set off quite early in the morning and the closer we got to the foot of the climb the more the campers, spectators, cars and cyclists piled up. It was crazy to think so many people had come to watch this.

The climb of Alpe du Huez is 13.8 kilometres long and has 21 switchbacks. I would say it is one of the top 3 all-time famous Tour de France climbs if not the most famous.

As we set up, many other cyclists clearly had the same idea as us and it was awesome to be a part of it all. Highlights on the way up included the Schleck and Dutch corner. When Brad and I got to the top we got some food and headed down the climb a bit to find a good spot to watch the race.

It was quite a long wait until the leaders came through but the junior race and tour caravan helped pass the time and add to the whole experience which makes the tour what it is.

The Tour CaravanDamiano Cunego – The Little Prince

The Gruppeto-World Champion Thor Hushovd far right

Awesome Single track down the side of Alpe du Huez

Crazy Dutch Corner

More of the Tour Caravan

 

After the GC men, and finally the grupetto had come past we started to make our way down. Ever been in a bike jam before? It took us an hour to ride down the climb; it was quite scary with many cyclo tourists who didn’t have much idea of the others around them swerving in and out of groups.

Anyway we made it down safely and started the ride back to Grenoble.

All in all it was a great day and experience I will never forget.

Vive Le Tour

It has always been a dream of mine to watch the Tour de France. This week that dream came true.

After an interesting start to the day leading into a full on sprint with a heavy back pack and bike bag, no easy feat let me tell you, I just made my first train on my trip from my Belgian Homestay, Leuven, to Grenoble in France. I managed to organise a reservation on a faster train in Lille and this saw me arriving in Grenoble at 2.30pm as opposed to the original planned 9pm.

 

The Cube Litening Super HPC Pro is an amazing multi functional bike!

I set off and managed to find my camp site quite easily. A rather small one at that with my fellow campers just metres away on either side.

I lie here now typing this on my Blackberry.

A big thanks to Gerry for lending me the two second tent, check it out on Youtube if you haven’t seen one before, and a sleeping bag. I opted against taking the blow up mattress due to weight but I must say my bike bag is rather comfy 😉 living the dream… Still got a smile on my face!

 

Dinner! Real French Baguettes are amazing!

 

  Tram Stop in Grenoble

 

Tomorrow Ill ride up Alpe du Huez with a friend from Pietermaritzburg, Brad Stroberg and then later watch the GC men battle it out!