ABSA Cape Epic Brief Wrap: Stages 2-5

Yoh the epic is tough this year. That’s my excuse for not blogging as I said I would try do J For the last few days we’ve been hitting out 100km + days with all but one of them over 2000m of ascent. It’s no walk in the park.

 

The much anticipated long day of stage 3 brought 143km and almost 3km’s of climbing. I’m not going to go on about how long and hard it was but it was really a tough day out on the bike.

 

This was followed up by another hit yesterday. The climb up to Charlies heaven was a beast with 4 false peaks, a real mental challenge. Mother Nature threw us another curve ball with the wind. I didn’t mind it too much; it felt like we were back in BelgiumJ

 

After two 6hr plus days today was another monster. To make matters tougher the heavens opened and we trudged through mud for almost 7 hours. The main thing is we’re safely here and have had relatively little mechanical difficulties so far.

 

It has been awesome being on the Epic again despite how hard it is.

 

The support along the route has increased significantly with farmers coming out and setting up camps in what feels like the like the middle of nowhere and cheering us on. It’s amazing and I can see how this will increase further over the next few years into a Tour de France sort of vibe.

 

The water points and the volunteers manning them have been great once again. I feel like a kid when I arrive at them and zone in on the jelly sweets. Yum! Luckily most of them time they’re out of my reach and I can only get hold of the potatoes J they’re good too though.

 

Chilling at dinner in the evening chatting with friends has been memorable, swapping war stories about how tough each of our days were. It’s all part of what makes this event such an awesome experience and I’ve loved it despite questioning what I was doing out there at times.

 

Its two days to Lourensford, the shorter days are deceptive and there is some serious climbing to be done

 

Ill blog about the race properly next week I promise. Thanks for checking in though.

ABSA Cape Epic Prologue and Stage 1

Yoh the epic is well and truly here.  Stage one was a beast of a day out there as expected, 115km and 2350m of ascent.  What the numbers don’t tell you is how rough and rocky it was out there. The climbs were so steep and loose many were hike a bike sections. All in all it was a good day for us and we finished 41st on GC and 31st in the men’s category.

Let’s rewind the clock a bit. On Saturday the registration was held at the V and A waterfront.  Here we picked up all our race goodies and then grabbed a coffee with the Rene’s, Rene Hasselbacher and Renay Groustra, pretty confusing being around them getting two replies every time you call one of them. We then packed up the last of our goodies into camper and were all set to go.

Registration at the Waterfront.

Pre race coffee with the Rene’s discussing how we going to trash them 😉

The prologue was held yesterday, it’s a shorter stage ridden in a time trial format which gives batches you for the start on stage one. The 27km were tough with over 900m of ascent, if you weren’t going up you were going down, one of those days. Anyway we had a good day and finished up in 58th overall. We were quite content especially considering we didn’t push ourselves too deep.

I’m going to try blog after every stage, this is a promise I don’t want to set in concrete yet as I don’t know how stuffed we will be after each stage yet. I also don’t want to post a typical race report every day and will try bring a bit more ‘behind the scenes’ look into what we do each day to get through this race.

I also want to say a big thank you to our super support crew: Tash and Mike for all their help running around us and helping with everything.

Until tomorrow, adios!

The finishers jersey

Rocky Roads UCI World Cup Pietermaritzburg

It took me a while to think what to write about for this blog. The World Cup was a major objective on my calendar for the racing season and something I looked forward to for a long time. It did however look like I wouldn’t be able to ride it at one stage due to a misunderstanding of how the UCI points system worked and thus not having enough points to qualify. I and some of the other athletes in a similar predicament were thrown a lifeline by Cycling South Africa in riding for the National Federation Team for the World Cup. So it was game on.

In the weeks leading up to the big day I had some good and some not so good races. I was getting out some good numbers on the power tap. I had spent some time on the World Cup Course, in hindsight not enough. I had two particularly heavy crashes on the drop and the log chute. I didn’t give myself enough time to build my confidence again and get them dialled, a term a lot of mountain biker’s use when referring to riding a particularly technical piece of a track well. I was however good on the rock gardens and being on the Cube AMS fully again helped a bit here. I was staying with my parents in Hilton so I was at the correct altitude and not coming up from sea level to race. All in all more pro’s than con’s.

When approaching a world cup particularly at the level I am riding at and most of the other South Africans too one needs to change their racing strategy. Starting at the back means it will be a fight from the beginning. The race becomes a somewhat less tactical one and rather one in which you push yourself physically and mentally for as hard and long as possible to avoid being pulled with the dreaded 80% rule. My goal for the race was to be able to do a minimum of 4 of the 6 laps before being pulled. Some may say this is a negative mind set but you also need to be somewhat realistic of yourself and the given conditions. At a minimum that result would give me a platform to work off, to work towards achieving better things in the future and moving to be able to finishing a world cup at elite level in the not too distant future.

All this said my race was effectively over a lot quicker than I anticipated it to be. In the congestion which formed as we hit the first single track someone bumped my derailuer resulting in the hanger bending and my gears slipping in most gear selections with any form of pressure being applied to the pedals. I tried to push through the first lap trying to find some gears which would work but often the gear was either way too hard or too easy. This resulted in me having to run quite a few climbs and I knew I would not last long with the 80% rule in the back of my mind.

The Chaos at the start, I’m on the far left.

Image Credit: C-Sharp Photography

I’d rather not go into the details but a bumped handle bar later in the first lap and stopping more than once to straighten it also loosened my headset to an extent which required me to run the last part of the course to the tech zone to tighten it.

I was now so far off the pace with riders whom I usually convincingly beat way ahead of me. My day came to an end at the end of the second lap. I was bitterly disappointed. At this level everything needs to go right on race day. Sometimes certain things are beyond your own control and I’ve learnt than you shouldn’t get too worked up or worried about these things because as I said they’re simply beyond your control.

Negotiating a rock garden

Image Credit: Quick Pix – Gavin Ryan

Pushing

Image Credit: Mike Smith

Besides this there are some positives to draw from the day. It was awesome to be able to ride in the national team kit at an event of this stature and I felt proud to be able to represent my country, albeit for the federation team. I think my Mom was possibly prouder though 😉 The support around the track was phenomenal, to have so many family and friends supporting was great and even people just shouting “Go South Africa!”

It’s onwards and upwards now though. The start of the Cape Epic is mere days away. Watching the 360 Life documentary, An Epic Tale, the other evening has inspired me even more for the Epic. I’ll try my best to blog daily next week with blow by blow accounts of the action.

Momentum Health UCI XCO International #3 Cascades

Traditionally the weekend before the Pietermaritzburg UCI World Cup a sort of mini world cup is held on the same track we are to race on the next weekend with many of the world’s best already in town.

The Cascades track is one of Nic Floro’s masterpieces, for the rider this means that it is one of the toughest circuits they will race on this year. It compromises 230m of ascent per lap and includes numerous technical sections including the famous rock garden, a new vertical drop and the log chute.

Getting ready for the start call up.

Image Credit: Mike Wolhuter

The home straight.

Image Credit: Mike Wolhuter

With not many UCI points to my name I had to start near the back of the 75 rider field. This said I did have a relatively good start. On the whole however the race wasn’t my best to date; I perhaps started a bit too slow, something which isn’t an option when racing against the likes of Nino Schurter, Burry Stander and Florian Vogel. Something I’ll have to work on for this coming weekend as with the 80% rule it is a battle to survive as many laps on the course as possible.

I had also had two quite big crashes on the course in the weeks leading up to the race. A crash on the log chute required x-rays, fortunately these were clear and a spill coming off the drop resulted in added cuts and roasties to my already impressive collection. The drop is something I will have to ride this coming weekend as I am losing 15-20 seconds a lap riding the B line.

The elite men’s race kicks off at 2pm on Saturday; come down to Cascades to watch some of the best XCO mountain bikers in the world. Tickets can be bought at the gate.

Single track climb.

Image Credit: Mike Smith

Single track down to the rock garden.

Image Credit: Gavin Ryan – Quick Pix

Video Credit: Mike Smith

SA Federation Team Selection

I received a mail last week with very exciting news. I have been selected to ride for the South African National Federation team to ride in the first round of the Rocky Roads UCI World Cup which will take place in Pietermaritzburg next weekend.

 

For those of you who don’t know the UCI World Cup Series is the one of the most prestigious events a XCO (Cross Country Olympic) mountain biker can take part in. The series encompasses 7 events which take place all over the globe from South Africa to the USA, Belgium, France and Italy.

 

In a nutshell Cross Country racing is a form of mountain bike racing which takes place on a course of approximately 4-8km in length with the participants doing as many laps as their age group determines. The races are not very long but high intensity, very technical and very spectator friendly.

 

If you’re in KZN on the weekend of the 16-18th of March be sure to come and check it out, a programme of events and tickets can be found here: http://www.mtbworldcupsa.co.za/

 

Momentum Health UCI XCO International # 2

The majestic Karlkloof falls played host to the second round of the Momentum Health UCI XCO series this last weekend.  We were fortunate enough that our race was on Saturday and we managed to avoid the rain which seemed to be a knock on effect of Cyclone Irina.

The Venue

The Start

Both Images Credit: Mike Wolhuter

A somewhat more competitive field lined up with the Orange Monkey Cannondale team once again lining up alongside the GT Skoda team from France and Ultra Sports Rose team from Germany. This complimented a strong field of South African riders all eager to prove a point. This they ultimately did with Buys and Reid securing the first two positions on the day.

I unfortunately had a terrible start with my chain slipping but managed to fight my way back a bit through the first lap.

Coming into the feed zone.

Image Credit: Mike Wolhuter

Fun North Shore Section

Image Credit: Gavin Ryan – Quick Pix

Race Video – Very Cool, check it out.

The legs were unfortunately not completely there on the day and I perhaps went a bit too deep through the first 3 laps. This was a mistake I paid for later in the race when I was unable to latch onto a charging Justin Porteous who came through strong towards the end of our dual. I finished somewhere in the top 20, not the result I had hoped for. So it’s back to the drawing board this week with a few final tweaks for the upcoming Momentum UCI XCO race at Cascades this coming weekend and the world cup the next.

I was fortunate enough to be on the Cube AMS HPC 100 full suspension carbon racing machine which Cube have managed to organise for me to use for the upcoming ABSA Cape Epic. I have started using it already to get comfortable on it and make a few final tweaks. It was awesome to be on a dually again especially through the rock gardens where the bike is exceptionally forgiving and allows you to get away with making the odd mistake.

Rock Gardens and North Shore Bridges

Images Credit: Gavin Ryan – Quick Pix

Approaching the last single track into the finish.

Image credit: Mike Wolhuter

Huge thanks to Gavin and my Dad for all the images from the race, to my Mom for her help in the feed zone, to Max and his team for another superb event and all my awesome sponsors for helping me to be on the start line at every race.