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.
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