Bridgestone Route 69 Mountain Bike Experience

The Bridgestone Route 69 Mountain bike Experience is a 3 day mountain bike stage race held in the Magaliesburg region of Gauteng. This meant rocks and lots of them! It was a race Sean and I had won last year so naturally we were keen to defend our title.


Day 1 start, trying to look serious.

Photo Credit: Deon – Waterpoint

Day one would start at Valverde Hotel and finish some 80km’s and 1200m of ascent later at Van Gaalens cheese farm. There was a bit more competition this year in the form of the Exxaro teams also using this race as preparation for the ABSA Cape Epic as we were and a couple of teams from Cycle Lab/Toyota. A relatively cruisey pace saw us entering the first single tracks not long into the race. Unfortunately Sean burped his tyre and we had to stop to bomb it quickly. Our chase back to the front end was slow as it was difficult to pass teams in the many single tracks. Credit must be given to course designer Eric as these were in much better condition than last year.

Our bad luck continued just after re-joining the front end of the race I managed to bend my chain and in the process the front derailleur somehow?! We soon managed to fix this and set off in chase of the front group once again. We got a bit too caught up in our chase and by our own mistake missed a turn and rode some 3km’s down the road before realising our mistake. It was still early in the day and; there was still a good two and a half days of riding ahead; so we again tried to make our way back.

Our chase resumed until an ambiguous route marking saw us get lost again. We realised our mistake when summiting a koppie and reaching a complete dead end… I’ve had enough of writing about our misfortunes now so something a bit more positive. 🙂

Trying to make back time.

Image Credit: Deon – Waterpoint

We kept a constant pace through the rest of the day, not taking too many risks on the downhill’s with the many sharp rocks and eventually finished the day in 7th place and some 12minutes down on the first team. Not an ideal platform for the rest of the race but it wasn’t game over yet.

Our second day was resoundingly more successful! I had noticed some of the other teams were struggling in the technical single track on the previous day and with the first 5km of the stage being single track I made a decision in the first 30 seconds of the stage to just bang it and see what happened. Our move paid dividends and we emerged onto the dirt road with one of the solo riders and almost a minute gap. We worked well together on the gravel roads and would guess we opened this up to almost two minutes at the foot of the first climb, a torturous ascent up cement strips and very rocky jeep track. With Sean on the gas we managed to ride away from the solo rider here and soldiered on encountering some amazing single track down the other side of the mountain.

Just cruising.

Image Credit: Deon – Waterpoint

With things were getting a bit hot at the front end I took an unplanned swim in through one of the river crossings with my front wheel washing out on the slippery algae. It actually was quite refreshing and no damage was done to bike or body.

Sean and I pushed on with the chasers closing the gap at one stage but we managed to consolidate and again open our gap up the second major climb along a rough, tufty, grassy trail up a mountain. To say that this climb was tough would be an understatement but I knew if it was hard for us it would be hard for everyone.

We kept things going trying to be consistent as possible and fought a big battle missioning up the last climb. We knew it was hard from last year but one forgets how never ending it feels. After pushing through we eventually crossed the line to take a very hard fought but satisfying win.

With some uncertainty on how much time we had made back and what the GC looked like Sean and I pretty much hit it out from the gun again. Day 3 was 60km in length with 800m of ascent. I remembered from last year it was a particularly fast day with the winning time a shade over two hours.

The beginning of the stage encompassed quite a lot of rough terrain and a few hard rolling hills through the veld. Sean and I stayed in the front and kept the pressure on which resulted in the other riders gradually falling off the bunch until it was just us and one of the solo riders left at the sharp end 15km in.

We backed off on the rocky single track and pushed on the dirt roads and climbs not wanting to risk a silly puncture. Our tactic worked and we built up a steady lead of up to nearly four minutes at one stage. It felt pretty rock start with the TV chopper following us for most of the dayJ

You know how they say it’s not over until the fat lady sings… Well it really wasn’t. With around 10km to go, most of which was on tar and a four minute lead it seemed as though things were finally starting to go our way until disaster struck… I was in front with the solo rider in between Sean and I. We were pushing along the tar at about 40km.h and I only noticed a left hand marker into the single track at the last moment. There was no pre marker which was unfortunate especially considering the pace one would expect the top teams to be going along the tar at. I shouted to the other two “Left”, started slowing down and when I realised we wouldn’t make it got off the brakes. Personally I don’t feel as though I braked hard and having done a good deal of road racing know how to ride in a bunch. I think the solo rider perhaps braked too hard as I heard his tyres lock up and this resulted in Sean going into the back of them and their bikes tangling. I glanced under my shoulder and saw Sean crash exceptionally well in that he got into a good roll position and barely came off with a few scratches. His bike however was not so fortunate. Additionally the way in which he had crashed had caused a puncture with so many holes which needed to be plugged the next best option was to put a tube in. This we did after trying to bomb the tyre twice.

Approaching one of the drop off’s.

Image Credit: Deon – Waterpoint

It was heart breaking to see teams passing us while we fixed the puncture so close to the finish after so much hard work. Sean had ridden so well and we had made up a good deal of time potentially putting us in the position to win the race. Unfortunately that’s bike racing and we had given it our best shot. We have to put this disappointment behind us and focus on the rest of our build up going into the ABSA Cape Epic going forward.

For me it’s back to Durban where I will be racing the Momentum Health UCI XCO races over the next two weekends at Karlkloof and then Cascades.

If you’re still reading this hope you’ve enjoyed reading probably one of the longest blog’s I’ve ever typed… whew… need another cup of coffee.

Adios folks

Final Results:

Fanie Venter & Johan Venter
Ben Mwanje & Daniel Alikisente
Sean Williams & Chris Wolhuter
Justice Makhale & Prince Maseko
Werner Roux & Shaun MacKenzie
8:59:18
8:59:35
9:00:43
9:01:43
9:08:58
1

2


3


4


5

Team Finkel & Koljander
Team Cycle Lab JHB
Team Live Life
Team Exxaro MTB Academy 1
Team My Gas

Squirt Lube News

Things have been happening in the world of Squirt Chain Lube! A few of the latest ongoings include:

Squirt Chain Lube was used at the Kids MTB Camp 2011

Image Credit: Jess Wolhuter

Bart Brentjens just chose Squirt lube for his team, Milka Superior, saying it is the only lube that works for them in all conditions, from the deserts of Australia winning the Crocodile Trophy, in the dust and heat of the Cape Epic, to a silver medal in the mud of Champery at XC World Champs. Check out this link  http://www.mountainbikeracingteam.com/en/squirt

The Legend: Bart Brentjens

Image Credit: cyclingnews.com

Also have a look at this article on proper chain lubrication, in Mountain Bike Action (the leading mtb magazine in the US and the world), where they say Squirt is their secret weapon for smooth and fast drivetrains:

http://mbaction.com/Main/News/Tech_Tip_Proper_Chain_Lubrication_5035.aspx

Momentum Health UCI XCO International and Battery Centre Midmar Nott’s Road Race

Finally it feels as though things are starting to click into gear racing wise for 2012. I’ve been hitting good numbers on the power meter in training but feel this hasn’t reflected in my racing this year thus far.

This past weekend it was back down to KZN for the Momentum Health UCI XCO International on Saturday and then a spot of road racing at the Battery Centre Midmar Nott’s on Sunday, one of the first road races I ever did as a junior.

The Momentum XC race was held at Giba Gorge on the outskirts of Durban. It’s a venue I am familiar with having raced and trained there before. The course set out for us was some 5.3km long with approximately 150m of ascent a lap. Course designer Nic Floros had once again outdone himself and set out a lap consisting of well-manicured open single track, a few rock gardens and some tricky switchback climbs. I spent two days getting to know the course, one of them with Andrew Warr who is a local in the area and he showed me a couple of cool lines.

Fighting through the mud.

Image Credit: Bruce Frost

Popping through one of the rock gardens.

Image Credit: Quick Pix – Gavin Ryan

Come race day things were a bit different with Giba having had overnight rain and rain on the start line. I managed to get off the line well, something I learnt in Belgium, and held my own until slowly backing off into a pace which was more comfortable for me. It resulted in a few lost positions on the first lap but this was not a one lap affair.

Through laps two and three I found a good rhythm and slowly caught and passed: Jedson Tooms, Stuart Marais and finally Paul Beales (Orange Monkey Cannondale). From there on to the end I battled through the race on my own.

Pushing down one of the single tracks after just passing Paul Beales.

Image Credit: Quick Pix – Gavin Ryan

The rain did stop for the last few laps but contrary to what one might think this actually made conditions worse as the mud became even stickier. I soldiered on to the end and finished 13th in the Pro Elite group and 5th in the Elite Category which I’m quite happy with. It presents a good platform for me to work off.

Following the race I needed to do whatever possible to recover as best as possible for the road race the next day. I guzzled down some PVM Re-Ignite and a Sesame Chicken and Avo Wrap from Dulce Café! Go try one, they’re amazing!

Race video, I get my few seconds of glory 34 seconds in, you may not recognise the muddy kit.

A big thank you to my Mom and Dad who were my back up crew on the day, to Frosty for lending me a rear wheel and all my friends on the course for all your support.

The next morning I had to wake up bright and early and get to Midmar dam for the Battery Centre Midmar Notts road race. I had a good warm up and was feeling ready to attack and pace whenever possible and ride myself into the ground! It was good to see some competition on the line from fellow mountain biker Rourke Croeser (Orange Monkey Cannondale) and Brad Stroberg had brought down team mates from his CSA Toyota U23 team

This hard efforts started soon into the race as I countered the first move of the day and went solo off the front. No-one seemed to be interested in coming across to me and I was swallowed up by the bunch on the base of the Happy Hill climb. The pace wasn’t particularly hard on the climb and no moves seemed to really stick until Louis Mentis (CSA Toyota) went off the front with two other riders and was later joined by his team mate Kallen Watson. They dropped their breakaway compatriots and then it was up to the non-represented teams in the drastically reduced main bunch of some 15 riders to chase them back.

Rourke and I along with a Fego Café/Lassen and Mr Price rider tried to get the chase organised. We seemed to be starting to make inroads when the commissure called the race off. Unbeknown to us there had been an accident on the way out when Trevor from Cycle Lab in Pietermaritzburg was hit by a taxi. It was a huge shock to us but I hear Trevor is now stable and should make a good recovery. Please keep him in your thoughts through this difficult time.

All in all a good weekend’s racing for me. I am now in Johannesburg for the Bridgestone Route 69 three day stage race this weekend where Sean and I will be racing to defend the title we won last year.

SA National XCO Cup #1 – Durbanville

The first round of the 2012 SA National XCO Cup series was held at the Slammer Track in Durbanville. A fairly short but very tough and technical track awaited us. There was one particularly long climb but for me the cumulated hit of all the short steep climbs took their toll. Technically speaking I really enjoyed the track with a good mix of rocks, berms, single track and drop offs to fully test a riders abilities.

Racing got underway at 12 mid-day on Saturday with the elites and U23’s starting together. There was a bit of debate amongst the riders and the commissure on the start line discussing matters regarding the race which in my opinion looked highly unprofessional; especially in front of what would be considered to be a fairly large crowd for a South African race. In the end the commissure put her foot down and made the decision which I thought was for the best.

I had a decent start but then struggled through the two laps following this. I was having trouble following a wheel up the climbs but making up a place or two on the descents.

Pushing through the first rock section followed by Renay G.

Image Credit: Ehlers Smit

Through laps 3 and 4, I managed to find more of a rhythm and got going. It was difficult to establish where I was lying in the elite field with u23, juniors and youths all on the course at the same time.

The cumulated hit of the power climbs started to take their toll on me towards the end and it became a race of attrition to hold on to the end. I managed to catch and pass Stuart Marais (who is making a return to mountain bike racing) in the last lap to finish 9th in the elite race albeit 1 lap down. Mr Stander showed once again why he is one of the best in the world and took a convincing win followed by Phillip Buys and Marc Bassinghtwaite.

Down the drop.

Image Credit: Damian Patterson Photography

On paper my race may not sound too bad but I feel there is still a lot I can and need to improve on especially over the next few weeks with the upcoming Momentum UCI XCO international races in KZN.

I must say a big thank you to all my friends for their incredible support on the day. Especially to my sister and Sean for their help in the feed zone and to Damian for coming out to snap a few photo’s.

Final Results Elite Men

  1. Burry Stander
  2. Phillip Buys
  3. Marc Bassinthwaite
  4. Matthys Beukes
  5. Renay Groustra
  6. Louis Bressler Knipe
  7. Oliver Munnik
  8. Andrew Warr
  9. Chris Wolhuter
  10. Stuart Marais

This pretty much sums up how I felt through the race.

Image Credit: Damian Patterson Photography

Image Credit: mirra photography

Double Race Weekend

As it was in 2011 the Francehoek Lions/Porcupine Ridge mountain bike classic was my first mountain bike of 2012. With the Herald mountain bike race almost being flooded out I was grateful that we had sunny skies on the day. A competitive field lined up including riders from Future Life, Contego/Giant, Nedbank 360 Life, Smith and Associate/ O-bike Maties to name but a few.

A rather rapid pace off the start line resembled something out of a XCO race! Not far down the road I was caught behind a crash and was unable to ride back to the front group of 6 riders following this. To be quite honest I struggled up the first loose and rocky climb and just couldn’t find a rhythm on the day. I felt something like a truck stuck in reverse with everyone zooming past in their Ferrari’s!

I managed to pull myself together a bit on the other side of the mountain and caught 1 or 2 riders along the way. I found a bit more of a rhythm up the last climb and then hung it out a bit on the technical rocky downhill to the finish and have a bit of fun. I lost a bit of air in my rear wheel after bumping it a bit hard on a rock but after bombing it the Sludge did what it does best and I was on my way again to finish just inside the top 10.

Sunny skies in Francehoek.

The following morning was another early wake up and I was now back on the tar for the Roller Coaster Aca Joe Pro Classic Series League race. As the name suggests we had a couple of climbs to contend with including Ou Kaapse Weg from both sides.

The first ascent of Ou Kaapse Weg saw a break of 6 riders move clear including current SA road champion Darren Lill(Bonitas), Stefen Infledt, David Garrett, Lance Muller. I was hanging onto the tail end of the front group with my legs feeling the effects of the mountain bike race the day before and a heavy training week.

Fortunately as the kilometres ticked over my legs got warm and ‘rode into the race’. I handled the climbs on Black Hill, Smitswinkel and Slangkop much better and felt ready for the last ascent of Ou Kaapse Weg. The front 6 had maintained their advantage hovering just over a minute in front of our group and this is how it stayed until the climb. My luck on the day came to an end about a kilometre into the climb I as ‘switched’ by a development rider and paid the tar a quick visit. I banged up my knee a bit and added a few fresh roasties to my new healed ones.

On the whole a not very successful weekend of racing but onwards and upwards, and I’m hoping for better things to come.

Aca Joe Pro Classic Series-Bouckaert Soenen

After my initial set back training got well under way and I lined up on the tar for my first race of the season, the Bouckaert Soenen Aca Joe Pro Classic Series League race. The race would start and finish in Paarl whilst traversing some 125km through the Boland and over the Kasteelberg pass in Riebeck Kasteel.

 

I had decided to sit a bit more in than usual and save my legs for the end of the race and have a bit of a go at the sprint. All was going well until about 15km from the foot of the pass where I got a rear wheel puncture. Fortunately an old team of mine, Smith and Associate/ O-bike Maties, were kind enough to give me a wheel and I was easily able to re-join the race, thanks very much Andrew and Luke!

 

Going up the climb the race split up a bit but seeing as that the climb is so far from the finish the race joined up again as expected. From here on through the rolling hills of the Paardeberg circuit a move went off the front, in my opinion it did seem as though the bigger teams who weren’t represented left the chase a bit too late. This ultimately resulted in the break staying just clear of a rapidly charging peleton coming into the finish.

 

For myself I found what I thought was a good wheel to follow into the finish, unfortunately the wheel I had borrowed from Maties resulted in me being a bit under geared as we came into the downhill sprint. I wasn’t able to do much but watch as I spun out as everyone accelerated around me. I finished in 14th on the day and around 10th in the bunch kick.

 

Trying to mix it up with the sprinters.

Image Credit: Aca Joe Pro Classic Series

Attakwas and Team Training Camp

 Unfortunately after Sean and I’s Cape Epic Training camp in Joburg just over 2 weeks ago I left my lap top charger cable behind, hence the lack of posts on the site… My sincere apologies.

 

As I mentioned in a previous blog the Attakwas was supposed to be Sean and I’s season opener but due to my sickness it was recommended by the doctor for me to just do the half marathon at a fairly chilled training ride pace. Sean did the full race and finished solidly in the top 30; this indicates that his Epic preparations are well on track. Our goal for this year’s Cape Epic is a top 30 and with good training and support I am quietly confident we can pull it off.

 

The weekend following the Attakwas I headed up to join Sean for a 3 day training camp in Joburg. We did some great riding up there including a 130km day out to Buffelsport on the mountain bikes and a day at the Kings Kloof trail park. The 30km loop of this park is made up of close to 20km of quite technical single track! It was an awesome day out on the bike and great to work on our technical skills a bit.

Renay leading the Attakwas through the first feed where I was a spectator this time around.

Sean on our way past Haartebeespoort dam.

The mean machine taking a breather on route to Buffelspoort.

 

Taking in the views at Kings Kloof trail park.