What a welcome back to the fat tyres. The Fairview Attakwas Extreme Ultra Marathon was in all respects extreme. With the race being one of the hardest one day mountain bike races in the country, I knew that in some twisted way it would be the perfect way back in. After all, if I did the hardest race first, the others would be easier, right?
In all seriousness, the boys came out to play on Saturday morning. I could spend the rest of this post rattling off the names on the start grid and their respective palmeres. I’ll keep it short and sweet though. Team Specialized arrived with Mr Sauser and roadie-mountain biker newcomer, Frantisek Rabon(with something like 10 Grand Tours under his belt), the Bulls with a squad of 5 spear lined by none other than Karl Platt and Urs Huber. A certain Manual Fumic (Cannondale Factory Racing) made the start line but decided some 40km in that it was a bit longer than a XCO race.
The local contingent was also strong; Team RECM, Cannondale Blend and Fedgroup Itec all put strong squads on the grid, along with a host of individual riders, all strong and on their given day could throw a spanner in the works. And then I was there, not quite sure what to expect of what was to come.
The front group set off, followed by a dust cloud and slowly ramped up the speed until there were just 10 left, some 20 clicks in. I had just made an exit from the front group, realising that I would not be able to sustain that pace all day and tried to find a group to make the arduous trek through the Attakwas Kloof with.
I could not write this post without mention of the Monster Truck. The Monster Truck is my girlfriend’s Dad’s spare bike, an aluminium Specialized Epic, about 3 years old with triple chain rings. The Monster Truck has become my temporarily adopted bike over the last few weeks. It is a trusty steed although I was too nervous to weigh her before the race, trying to fool myself into believing she was lighter than she actually is(Come Sunday afternoon at home I found out she topped the scales at 13.2kg!).
Now back to the triple chain rings, some of my compatriots in the Attakwas Kloof section were running the new 1×11 gearing ratio and some the home made 1×10 ratio. I have not yet tried the 1×11 but I can say that I did manage to ride away from them on the steep rocky climbs in the Kloof. The common argument I hear is that if you have to walk (because it is too steep/loose with the 1×11) then you will not be faster riding, if you were to say have a double chain ring (in my case triple). I however rode away from my compatriots while they were run/walking. As I said I have not yet tried it but perhaps for marathon racing it is not perhaps the complete solution, especially if you have not yet figured out your correct gearing ratios.
Anyway, back to the action. I emerged from the Attakwas Kloof at the famous Spur Burger water point, politely declined a burger in exchange for a spray of water and set off on my way again. I was cramping badly and trying to manage efforts so as not to go too deep to set off the cramps again, but also hard enough to hold of my pursuers who I figured may be combing on the dirt roads.
Through the second last water point and after downing a Red Bull (lifesaver), a huge thank you to my girlfriend Ash who was the best seconder on the day! Ash played a big role in ensuring that energy levels were well managed all while maneuvering the car through tight spots, with a trailer on the back! I was yo-yoing off the back off the RECM pair of Luus and Bell and eventually had Adrian Enthoven for company.
I was now in damage control big time with the cramping and could not be of much assistance to Adrian over the last few kilometres. He eventually rode away from me on the second last climb and I managed to pull myself towards the finish holding off the chasing riders to finish 18th, a somewhat respectable result. I am content, knowing where I am in my training and racing against some of the world’s best.
Time to ramp up the efforts and prepare for the next foray onto the dirt.
Images credit: Ash Smit