Who is Betsy you may ask? No she is not my new girlfriend, she was our wheels for the week, a Landrover TD5, on our trip down to the Isuzu Trucks PE2Plett. A Landrover you say? Yes I can already see some of you smile, whilst the other half of cringe. We did have our moments with Betsy, but when the times were tough, she came into her own.
It was my first outing at the PE2Plett and I can confirm that it is not called ‘The Tough One’ for nothing. Unfortunately the area received some of it’s highest rainfall in years the week preceding the event. Undoubtedly the rain and mud does up the toughness factor a few notches.
Photo-bombing Greg & Anriette’s start line selfie.
Stage 1 water point, where is the Squirt Lube?
The first stage would take the riders from Wedgewood Golf Estate on the outskirts of PE to the Gamtoos River mouth. A tough stage of about 90km, with the added mud and rain, those toughness factor dial was turned high.
Cyclo Pro, the race mechanics, did some good business that day as more then 150 sets of brake pads had to be replaced that evening! There is no such thing as easy money and it also meant that they had to work through the night.
Notwithstanding the weather conditions I had a solid ride winning the solo category on the stage and placing 3rd overall behind Contego PRO and Team Sponsor Needed. Alan Gordon, my main rival in the solo category finished a handful of seconds behind me as I took a risk on the final descent of the day which paid off.
Day 2 dawned with the sun in the sky, and so a smile on our faces. Betsy proved to be our first challenge of the day as she failed to start for the second time on the trip thus far. Visions of not making the start did cross my mind, they were not pleasant. I had travelled to the race with Team Sponsor Needed, Darren Lill and Waylon Woolcock. By my own admission I am not the most technically apt car person, so I could just follow Waylon’s orders as we tried different tricks before Betsy roared with life and we were finally on our way.
The stage would be the real challenge, at a shade under 100km, unbeknownst to us, there was still a lot of water on the ground in the mountains. The first 30km ticked off quickly as we raced along the gravel roads. When we got down to the business end, sh!t got real quickly. It ultimately turned into a race of attrition. Whilst I struggled on the first major climb and the KOM of the stage, I rode into myself and through the field to eventually win the solo race again and place 3rd overall on the stage. The time gaps were big and I was pleased to have finished it off as I did, believe me there were some major sense of humour failure moments out there.
The road that the race cars and trucks had used to get to the finish at Soloko was a mess after the recent rainfall and many vehicles fell victim to the mud. Betsy, whilst towing a trailer, was a beast and got to the finish with no problems at all. She had made up for her earlier mishap.
Day 2 start, riders in better spirits with the sunshine.
Tough slog up the KOM on day 2.
The road was that bad.
The third stage was changed by the organisers and I believe rightly so. The second stage had been exceptionally hard, granted the weather conditions had made matters tougher. Nonetheless the riders were tired and a slightly shorter, faster stage along mostly gravel, tar and forest roads was a welcome relief to the riders.
I simply did not have great legs on the stage and yo-yo’ed off the back of the front group on the climbs to have to claw myself back on the flats. I was dislodged for the last time on the final climb, Alan saw my weakness and took advantage driving the group to the line, taking back one and a half minutes of my overall lead, it meant that he had cut my overall lead back down to eight minutes.
Although I had a decent gap, I still approached the final stage with vigilance. Betsy had thrown the first curve ball as we had to push start her down the driveway of our guest house before she gently spluttered into life.
The stage started off at a rapid pace again. The first challenge was the Storms River Pass, one which I was familiar with. Contego drove the pace over the top and the lead group settled on the other side with the usual suspects including Contego PRO, Sponsor Needed, Altech Autopage and solo riders myself and Alan Gordon.
The lead group would remain civil until we approached the middle portion of the stage where the jagged stage profile meant the hurt box was approaching. There were the Bloukrans and Natures Valley climbs to negotiate and a major portage through the Salt River Valley. My legs had returned and I managed to win the final stage over Alan again and thus securing the overall title. Waylon and Darren had taken the team win again and in doing so the overall win.
There were some important people who made this trip happen. It was fantastic to be involved with the Asrin Team again, thank you Nizaam and Ishmail. Swift Carbon helped out with a D-Vore, shot Charlie and Marc. Throughout the year I have received some great backing from the likes of Trevor from PowerBar, Rae and Megan at Continental, Steven from Nike Vision, Dewet and the Squirt Lube team, Chris at Sludge and RH77. Thank you all for your support, it is valued.
It was a great week travelling with Darren and Waylon, and of course Betsy! Thanks for having me along for the ride guys.
A few moments later I was chin deep with my bike above my head, no kidding.
The finish line in Plett.
Images credit: Bruce Viaene