It felt weird to be cruising to a race on my own again this last weekend after having spent much time with Rene, Phillip, Ishmail and Nizaam travelling to races over the last few months. Hasi is back in Austria, Zaami was sick and so I was flying the Asrin flag solo in Tulbagh.
After an hour and half drive in darkness with the odd patches of rain I arrived to gloomy overcast conditions with rain looking to threaten at any stage. Tulbagh is no stranger to mountain bikers having hosted the Cape Epic last year and a round of the National Marathon series earlier in the year. It was however, my first time out at this little dorpie which is nestled amongst daunting mountains with the Winterhoek Mountains on the northern side of the town topping out at almost 2100m above sea level. I would also be riding on a borrowed bike which I rode for the first time the morning before the race, to make matters interesting the brakes were opposite to how I would usually ride them and I would be rolling with grip shift for the first time in 7 years… But, I did enjoy the bike so thanks very much Ishmail for helping me out while my new baby is being built up(more news on that later in the week).
The start grid had a few of the usual suspects lining up behind the chalk including: Olli Munnik(GT/Go Pro), Nico Pfitzmeir(Robert Daniel Momsen), Dave Morrison(Blend Properties) and Timo Cooper( Rocky Mountain). It was the 5 of us that surged away from the rest of the field some 10km in up one of the first jeep track drags.
Things seemed to stay mostly together with Nico surging slightly off the front and then shortly thereafter Timo unluckily had a chain problem and this forced an early end to his day. I found myself behind Morrison who had been gapped by Ollie on one of the downhills. I came around Dave and pushed to re-join Ollie, after we had joined again Ollie and I set about working well together over the next few kilometres.
After a silly crash a short while later I couldn’t re-join Ollie and was left on my own hanging in between him and Dave just behind me. I decided this would be a good time to also make a quick adjustment to my borrowed bike and dropped the saddle slightly. This is when Dave passed me and I was now lying in 4th place.
As we traversed through the vineyards and up and down mountains I could make out Dave about 30 seconds ahead of me. It stayed this way for much of the next part of the race until about 15km’s to go I decided to put in a big effort as we hit a gravel road section to catch him. I managed to do this as we switched off the road and back onto some jeep track.
We rode together for the next few kilometres until Dave had to stop to sort out a dry chain, I had some Squirt on hand to help him and set off on my own. There was still a longish climb to be negotiated before the finish though, it wasn’t particularly steep but with Dave chasing it made it hard. I could ease off a bit as we got to the top and hit familiar territory for me in the single track back down to the town.
At the finish Nico had taken the win with Ollie in second, myself in third and Dave in 4th. It was a tough day out to say the least with less than 3 minutes separating the top 3.
This week I look forward to tapping off the training a bit ahead of the Knysna Mountain bike marathon and road race this coming weekend.