Ok it wasn’t really the beach, but at times it did feel like it today. To be honest there were a few sense of humour testing moments out there today. A 68km day with 1000m of ascent, on paper and according to a route profile doesn’t sound too drastic.
This brings me onto the first part of my title, relearning an old lesson. What the route profile and distance of the stage doesn’t tell you about is, what the terrain will be like. Never underestimate a race which looks ‘easy’ on paper, an age old mountain biking law. Today it was a tough lesson to learn again. There were a number of kilometres of rough rocky raw single track in the mountains, interconnected with sections of deep sand as we tried to up the pace amongst the vineyards and orchards.
It was a long chase back to the front group for Colin and I today, unfortunately we weren’t able to reel them back in so had to settle for 4th on the stage.
Contego and RSA Web/PSG were the main protagonists on the stage with RSA Web/PSG taking the lead after Contego cut a side wall. Contego were able to re-join the leaders, but it was RSA Web/PSG who won the stage with Contego in second and the youngsters Esterhuyse and Best in 3rd.
The Grape and Gravel is a 3 day stage race hosted from Goudini Spa nestled in the Breedekloof Valley, a valley I had visited just a few weeks ago. Being in its first year the event seems to have started off on the right foot and looks to only improve.
The race attracted some of the stronger riders from the Cape, with some new combinations on the gird namely the Contego boys of Adriaan Louw and Waylon Woolcock. After riding the Cape Epic together Jurgens Uys and Renay Groustra are also back in tandem. Colin Noel from George is my new partner this weekend and we would also see some competition from the youngsters Edward Best and Charl Pierre Esterhuyse.
Flatter open roads, intersected with tougher jeep track sections were the characteristic of the first 30km of the 77km stage. The tougher sections allowed the bunch to be whittled down before it was just Contego and RSA Web/PSG left at the front. Colin had fallen hard in a section of single track and after dusting himself off; we set off on a long chase of the youngsters Best and Esterhuyse.
With the event literally being just down the road from the Breede River Valley Classic a few weeks ago, tougher sections of that event were incorporated as well as some great sections of single track that were also actually used in the recent Cape Epic. Dusty rocky conditions were the order of the day and ultimately showed off typical Karoo riding.
On the road back to the line we eventually caught Best and Esterhuyse and with some roadie guttering we managed to get away from them and get a foot on the last step of the podium for the stage.