MTN National Ultra Marathon # 8 Hilton Dirt Fest

Ultra marathons are no joke.

 

Sometimes I think I forget how tough an ultra-marathon actually is. I haven’t done one in a while and whilst I had a good race this last weekend, it was still a brutally tough day out.

 

The cool thing about the MTN Ultra Marathon, which took place in Hilton this last weekend, is that it literally took place on the doorstep of where I grew up, and spent my earlier years becoming acquainted with my bike. To give you an idea of how close I’m talking about, the King of the Mountains climb literally goes right past the gate to my parents farm.

Off the start line.

Nearing the top of the KOM and the first feed zone.

 

The race started off at a modest pace and only really started to split up on the first major climb. Not wanting to go too deep too early on, I rode at a hard but manageable pace, and was soon in a group with Brad Stroberg (Fedgroup) and Guylin van den Berg (Bruce Reyneke Cycles). I did for a short stint, ride up to Greig Knox (Private Client Holdings-UCT) but then slipped back into a group with Brad.

 

We rolled well together and tagged onto Marc Bassingthwaite (Merida) as we went over the first KOM.  The top of the KOM was also the first feed zone where my Mom and Ash were on hand to replenish my bottles.

 

After spending much of the race together, Brad dropped off our group as he went through a bad patch. Marc turned off early and then I was solo with Greig, some 30 seconds ahead of me. I put in a big effort before the last feed zone and continued on after it, closing the gap down to some 15 seconds.

 

Unfortunately the old ‘out of sight-out of mind’ conundrum came into play. As we started the last loop with lots of single track, and thus with less vision of the rider up ahead, Greig slipped away from me.

Coming into the finish.

Images Credit: Ashleigh Smit

I came over the line in 10th place. A result I’m very happy with, especially considering the quality of the field on the day.

 

Max Knox (Specialized) took overall honours; edging our Kevin Evans (360 Life) in a tight sprint finish, with Adrien Niyonshuti (MTN Qhubeka) rounding out the podium.

 

Testament of how tough the race is, was the high number of DNF’s I later saw on the results sheet. I was glad to be one of the ‘surivivors’.

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Dashing Wheels and Sprinting like an Amateur…

Thought I’d get a quick out a couple of words out with a news update for the last two weeks.

 

Last week I was very privileged to receive my new Black Spade Racing road machine. I had a custom spray job done and she’s looking very stealth. The Black Spade 60mm deep section wheels give the new beast the added bling factor. Besides their dashing looks, they’re amazing wheels!



I only picked up my bike Friday afternoon I took it for a quick spin, before I was to put her to her first real test the next morning, in the first Western Cape Spring League event. We would be racing on the renowned Paardeberg circuit.

 

Unfortunately the racing was very negative and with no real wind to speak of the circuit wasn’t hard enough to split up the field. When the racing did get hard, on the last climb, of the last circuit I was frustratingly not there… My seat clamp bolt wasn’t tightened properly and this resulted in my seat falling off. I made my way to the finish in my own time but not with the result I wanted.

 

Meanwhile Charlie had taken it upon himself to make it as hard as possible on the climb and in the process rode away from the peloton, to the front break of four riders, and eventually went on to win with Alastair Davies taking second.

 

This began a big 3 day block for me with Charles and I riding back to Cape Town afterwards.

 

Come Wednesday, I lined up for my first Killarney criterium of the season. I love racing Killarney every week and am glad summer is on its way. I had a decent race getting into a few moves but I wanted to have a bit of a crack at the sprint. This was when amateur hour started and I finished in 9th place on the evening.

Image Credit: Ash Smit

 

I then rather excitedly packed my bags and got ready to fly into Durban the next morning. This weekend I am racing the MTN Ultra Hilton Marathon which is effectively my second home race. What makes it more exciting is that I can visit family again; I haven’t really seen my parents for the last 6 months. The race is literally on our door step with the King of the Mountains climb going past our drive way. Just hoping the rain stays away!

 

Till next week.

 

Ciao

Potberg MTB Marathon

The Potberg marathon is an event which I make an effort to attend every year. Riding in, and around, the De Hoop Nature reserve in spring is awesome. Riders are rewarded with some spectacular scenery and whale watching, for a very tough route.

Chatting to an old friend Erik, back from another successful overseas racing campaign.

Rolling off the start line.

Early into the race, a 5 man group formed at the sharp end, including myself, Gert Heyns (MTB Destination), Erik Kleinhans (Contego/28E/Giant), Andreas Studer (Daiken) and Marthinus Esmeyer. We rode in a Northerly direction around the Potberg Mountains, no one was really willing to show their cards so early on in the 75km marathon.

The group rolled together along the Breede River and onto the fast district roads, leaving the holiday retreat. The tail wind we had at this point made things particularly quick. As we turned off onto rougher and slower jeep track, Erik had to stop to attend to a puncture. I thought he would be able to make his way back to the sharp end but with numerous technical problems, that would be the end of his day on the front.

It was shortly after that, up a steep rough jeep track climb, that Heyns was the first to show one of his cards, a hard acceleration up this climb split the group. I rode back onto Gert’s wheel and we dislodged the other two.  Over the top I kept the gas on and pushed on the flatter sections. It wasn’t enough; Andreas rode back to us.

We combined well, but taking the wrong fork in the road – whilst following the lead motor bike – resulted in us having to back track our tyre marks, this allowed Esmeyer to re-join. I was happy to ride on the front here, keeping a steady tempo leading up to the first real challenge of the day; a long, gradually, ascending rough jeep track climb. I decided it was time to play my first hand and increased the tempo. Gert was able to match this and by the top of the climb we had a decent gap. We were rewarded with a fantastic view of the Ocean at the top of this climb, but had to put or racing faces back on shortly thereafter to tackle the technical descnt.

As we had now rounded the mountain – our friend the wind, had now become our foe – we trudged on into a block head wind. About 45km’s into the 75km route is where I unexpectedly played my next card and rode away solo into the lead of the race. I knew where I was, from previous years, and with the knowledge of what was to come, could gauge my effort accordingly. At one point I noticed Andres was closing the gap again so another surge on my side was needed to hold him at bay.

The last loop of the event is tough, and one needs to keep something extra in the tank for it. A steep and short concrete climb welcomes you into the loop, and then a relatively tame descent, before an arduous, terribly rough and rocky gradual climb. There is only really one way to ride this section and that’s to go as hard as you can in order to keep the momentum going as much as possible. Niel had also cut a new section of track in order to avoid the route backtracking on itself. This was tougher than I expected, I was looking forward the to district road which would take us home.

Taking a hard earned win.

Bietjie moeg.

I kept it going as best I could and in the end crossed the line in first, with a solid victory margin of 7minutes over Studer in second, with Heyns rounding out the podium.

After a tough race we could enjoy the rest of the weekend relaxing as we had booked into the De Hoop Nature reserve. The reserve has a fair amount of game and provides some awesome whale watching opportunities ,especially in the calving season. Thank you to the Smit’s for having me, and a lovely weekend, once again.

 

Discussing various aspects of the route.

All Images Credit: Ashleigh Smit