FNB Wines2Whales

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Image credit: Hendrik Steytler

 

It has been a little over a week since my 2014 season ended at the FNB Wines2Whales and I am pleased with how it went. It’s always great to finish the year on a high. The motivation from the result carries you well through the base phase of training into the races for next year.

 

This would be my second Wines2Whales and I was looking forward to the iconic event. With the Cape Pioneer just a couple of weeks before hand, there were just a couple of hard sessions to put the ‘icing on the cake’ so to speak and then it was go time.

 

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Joburg boys building bikes.

Image credit: Hendrik Steytler

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Altech Autopage/ASS MAGIC Team Car.

Image credit: Ash Smit

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Single track through the Lourensford Valley on stage 1.

Image credit: Cherie Vale 

 

The talking point of the first day is really the portage up the Gamtou pass, a tough section of the race that can make or break your day. Hanco and I came through it ok, in 5th place just off the RSA Web/Dorma pairing. The work wasn’t all done yet and there were a good couple of tough climbs in the Grabouw valley to still contend with before the line. We finished the first day in 5th place just seconds off RSA Web/Dorma with the Paarl Media boys just seconds off us in 6th.

 

The second stage of the W2W is the ‘play’ stage. With not much climbing and many kilometres of single track it is the reason many come down to the Cape to do the race. With the pace on early the race split up. I felt horrible on the first few climbs; my patient partner was ready to go as soon as I was.

 

 

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Image credit: Cherie Vale

watermarkOak Valley Race Village.

Image credit: Cherie Vale

 

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Tough stage?

Image credit: Cherie Vale

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Stage 2 podium with a couple of hot shot Euro’s. Casual.

Image credit: Cherie Vale

Fortunately the lights came on and with a steady pace we clawed our way back from 6th place to eventually catch the 3rd and 4th place teams of EAI Cycling and RSA Web/Dorma with 10km to go. I was feeling good and the prospect of racing for the final step on the podium excited me. The ginger ninja and I opened up the taps with 5km and rode away from our group up one of the last drags in the stage. We would have to keep the gas on as the technically apt pairs raced to catch us on the single track to the line. We had done enough though and secured our spot on the podium, it was a great result for us and one I truly felt satisfied with. We also moved into 4th on GC with a stage to go.

 

The final stage of the Wines2Whales and my last racing day for the 2014 season would see a 71km stage from Oak Valley to Onrus. The fast start meant that the group remained largely intact until Sauser and Looser along with the Kargo boys rode away. In the second group we had as many as 5 -6 teams at one point. Eventually EAI put the pressure on and take 3rd on the stage. Hanco and I were 5th in a sprint for the line with 4 other teams, more importantly we had finished in the same time as the Groustra and Pfitzenmaier to hang onto our 4th place in the GC.

 

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On the go.

Image credit: Ash Smit


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Finish in Onrus with our super soigneur!

Image credit: Colleen Smit

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Final GC, 4th.

Image credit: Cherie Vale

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Lots of photos and stuff.

Image credit: Cherie Vale

 

Boyd and Thinus from Altech Autopage were also down for the weekend. With their own personal battles to see who could hurt each other the most, as well as purchasing some of the Cape’s prime real estate, they also had a great weekend on the bike. We capped it off with a braai and a spot of wine on Sunday evening in Onrus.

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Tough day on the bike? Better than any day in the office?

Image credit: Hanco Kachelhoffer.

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Fine Stellenbosch restaurants, Basic Bistro.

Image credit: Hendrik Steytler

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Opening up our ‘spot of wine’.

Image credit: Ash Smit

Bridge Cape Pioneer Trek

Whilst I may have seemed to have stopped writing over the past few weeks this has not in fact been the case. If you haven’t seen the social media posts or got an email you wouldn’t have known that I wrote for the MarathonMTB.com website during the recent Bridge Cape Pioneer Trek.

 

If you would like to check it out, here are the links:

 

http://www.marathonmtb.com/2014/10/11/preview-the-bridge-cape-pioneer-trek/

 

http://www.marathonmtb.com/2014/10/13/bulls-score-first-blood-at-cape-pioneer-trek/

 

http://www.marathonmtb.com/2014/10/14/bulls-defend-lead-against-flying-scott/

 

http://www.marathonmtb.com/2014/10/16/scott-factory-extend-lead-at-cape-pioneer-trek/

 

http://www.marathonmtb.com/2014/10/17/bulls-reclaim-the-lead-with-stunning-stage-win/

 

http://www.marathonmtb.com/2014/10/15/beukes-and-buys-take-queen-stage-at-bridge-cape-pioneer-trek/

 

http://www.marathonmtb.com/2014/10/18/scott-factory-take-bulls-by-the-horns/

 

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On the attack on the final stage of the race.

Image credit: Zoon Cronje

Isuzu 3 Towers

After taking much flak from many friends, I will confirm that, yes I did ‘fall’ off the final floating bridge at the Resolution Health Ride the Rhino last weekend, but I did in actual fact ride it out. Whilst I didn’t actually fall, more like my front wheel slipped on the tricky PVC piping. The water was not that deep and I landed on the front wheel, so I could ride it out.

 

I do have photographic evidence; see below, although maybe not fully conclusive I do believe it supports my notion.

 

 

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After the 3 day race in my ‘backyard’ it was back up to the big smoke to join my team mate for the Isuzu 3 Towers. 3 Towers is an iconic South African stage race held just outside Nelspruit at the Mankele Bike Park. The race derives its name from the fact that you ascend to a fire tower, on top of a huge mountain or as I like to call them, Lowveld Bergs each day.

 

The Lowveld Bergs typically appear early on in each stage and come the first hour of stage 1, I felt like a bus trying to reverse up the berg. I could barely hang onto the second group on the mountain, using the down hills and single track to ride back each time. Eventually a glimmer of light as the engine started to switch on, and I could jump aboard the ginger express. Hanco had been very patient with me, and now as I started to come around we rode back from around 15th place to 6th! We missed a marker near the end and lost a place but it had still been a good recovery.

 

The Trek/ Wheeler team had taken honours with the podium being rounded out by Scott Factory Racing and the Kargo Pro Team.

 

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Whilst the river crossing was chamois deep for Hanco, it was knee deep for the rest of us.

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Enjoying the Mankele trails!

 

 

 

With the legs now ‘opened up’ we set off in search of our second tower. The Lowveld Berg still hurt, but at least we ascended it with more panache. We found ourselves in the company of the EAI 2 team, Ben Melt Swanepoel and Willie Smit on the climb and were joined by the RECM pairing of: Kleinhans and Bell over the top.

 

What followed was a: ‘I can ride down here faster than you’ contest and I ultimately ‘lost’ with a small side wall cut. After a quick CO2 bomb and a bit more caution to the wind, we set off on our chase again. Valencia had suffered a similar fate to us and passing them put us in 6th place on the road.

 

There was still work to be done though, after a late charge by the IXU boys the ginger ninja and I stepped on the gas up the final climb and onto the awesome bush tunnels trails. It had been a much better day!

 

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Accomodation wasn’t too lousy this time around.

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Eckhardt, one half of The Syndicate, showing us the best way to push a Santa Cruz up a hill…

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Thinus, the other half of The Syndicate, ensuring he won’t be having any more children.

 

The final day was shorter than the previous two at just 45km (as opposed to approximately 70km each respectively) but still encompassed a solid 1300m of ascent. We were lying in 7th place on the GC battle with small time gaps from us to 5th position we knew we had to go out guns blazing.

 

A battle with the IXU boys again ensued, they impressed as they fought back from each of our attacks. A final technical climb and then single track all the way to the line would see out the final 10km. I was determined to hit this first and fast!

 

We caught the EAI 2 pairing half way down the mountain to move into 5th place, but still had the IXU boys hot on our heels. With the line almost in site we passed the Trek/Wheeler pairing of Reid and Looser as they suffered yet another mechanical and a drag race ensued. While we came out trumps to take 4th on the stage, we had not done enough to move into the top 5. At the end of the day just over a minute separated 5th to 7th.

 

Scott Factory had taken overall honours in the race with Kargo in 2nd and Trek Wheeler rounding out the podium.

 

On the plus side the form is on the up and Hanco and I are very much looking forward to kicking off the Bridge Cape Pioneer Trek in Oudtshoorn on Sunday. It will be a ding dong battle for 7 days through the Karoo, against some of the best marathon mountain bikers in the world.

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Team Altech Autopage in full flight!

 

Resolution Health Zurreal – Ride the Rhino – Stage 1 and 2

Overcast, drizzly and generally quite chilly conditions greeted us for the start of the 3 day Resolution Health Zurreal Ride the Rhino. Our starting point was the Langebaan Country Estate. The first stage would see us traverse the coast line before heading inland towards Darling to our overnight stop. Day 2 presented a 90km loop starting and finishing in Darling with the final day starting in Darling and finishing off at Hillcrest in Durbanville.

 

On the racing front a relatively flat first 50km and a strong headwind, meant a large group of 30 riders stayed together. After turning inland towards the hills, the EAI team heated affairs at the front; the racing was unfortunately short lived. Some confusion with route markers had arisen, and ultimately the day would be neutralised later on. On the plus side the weather had cleared up into a sunny west coast day, with the many daisies in bloom at this time covering the countryside. I was having visions of wet, muddy camping… Not ideal having not brought my gumboots with!

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The peloton leaves the picturesque Langebaan.

Image credit: Chris Hitchcock

 

After some charming local hospitality at the Darling Country Club and the promise of better route marking we set off on the second stage of the Ride the Rhino. A tougher day was on the cards and the early highlight the, Renosterveld Singletrack. The racing split the field up here and I soon found myself on my own, dangling a tantalizingly close 30 seconds off the EAI pair of Rabie and Combrinck. 2 against 1 in the wind isn’t fun, this 30 seconds soon turned into a few minutes.

 

Respite from the wind was brought on by the Dassenberg Donder… Yes the name says it all, it was a b*tch of a climb! The lower slopes being exceptionally rough through the veld and fynbos until we hit the jeep track to take us to the tower on top. My first sighting of the cement strips brought a sense of relief, to enjoy something smoother you know, soon replaced by ah sh!t, this is going to get steep! And it did get steep, 28% steep!

 

A quick dash off the side of the mountain and we arrived at the final water point at Cloof Wine Estate, also the hosts of the Rocking the Daisy’s music festival. The EAI boys had taken a wrong turn and I was now upfront on my own. The South Easter, who I had cursed earlier, was now my friend as the tail wind pushed me back to the finish in Darling. EAI found their way again, and we rode the last 20km into the finish together.  They had won the team category and me the solo category.

 

There won’t be a dash to the finish line tomorrow, an 88km stage with some nasty looking spikes towards the end of the route profile suggests otherwise!

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Good morning Darling!

Image credit: Chris Hitchcock

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Steve being rad in his pink Speedo and Rhino Horn. I believe he has ridden both full stages like this. Maybe he needs some ASS MAGIC?

Image Credit: Chris Hitchcock



Tip Trans Experience

I‘ve been doing a lot more riding as opposed to racing over the past few weeks but last weekend it was back to what I am paid to do, race my bike.

 

It was an early start on Saturday morning to make the journey out to Citrusdal for the Tip Trans Experience. A 115km marathon starting and finishing just outside Citrusdal, we would do a loop in a northerly direction over the Nieuwoodt pass, along the banks of the Clanwilliam Dam and then back to Citrusdal. It really was a very scenic race and I am glad I made the mission out there for the first time.

 

The race started with us following one of the Tip Trans 20 wheeler trucks out of town piloted by the Tip Trans owner, Pieter Visser. A lead group of about 15 riders soon formed and then was whittled down to 6 riders over a frolling climbs before we hit the Nieuwoodt pass 30km into the race.

 

Louis Bressler Knipe set a steady tempo on the front until 2km from the top when Johann Rabie attacked and went clear to win the KOM. Louis and I joined Rabie on the descent and the 3 of us rode together for most of the remainder of the race. On mostly gravel roads it would not have been pleasant to be on your own especially with a building South Easter on the 30k stretch back to the finish.

 

With the last 10km of the race turning off the gravel road onto jeep track this is where the race would be made. Rabie attacked up a rocky climb 5km out, I responded but just couldn’t get onto his wheel and so the furious time trial to the line commenced with Rabie taking honours, myself in 2nd and Louis rounding out the podium.

 

Rabie and I had also both gone under the previous course record of 4.01 set by David George in 2012, Rabie finished in 3.57 with myself just over a minute later.

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Tip Trans Experience podium with Pieter Visser.

 

The next two months are going to be very busy on the racing front and I am glad to have started it off on a positive note.

 

In Joburg Hanco raced on the road at the Dome2Dome Classic where he took a great 3rd place behind the Bonitas duo of Jayde Julius and Herman Fouche. A result made more impressive as he was racing as an individual against all the road domestic pro teams.

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Dome2Dome Classic Podium.

Altech Autopage Jozi2Kozi

A week has passed since I arrived home from the most memorable bike riding trip from Joburg to Kozi Bay. The 3rd edition of the Altech Autopage Jozi2Kozi was a resounding success. With the emphasis very much being that of a ride as opposed to a race, there wasn’t even a timing system; it changed the feel of the event in a very good way

 

We started off riding through the platteland for the first two days, the first night being hosted by the Standerton boat club. Their home brewed mampoer would rather be forgotten by most. It was dangerous.

 

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Leaving the concrete jungle for a week of riding through some remote areas, a stark contrast.

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Welcomed to the start on Day 1, yes I know it says finish on the banner.

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 After our overnight stop at the Standerton Boat Club(Read Mampoer capital of the world), day 2 starts with a boat ride across the dam. You have to jump off the boat into about 30cm of water on the other side and walk to the shore where your bike awaits. Did I mention it was 4C, never mind the wind chill on the boat and the icy water.

 

With the changing countryside and the mountainous terrain appearing on the horizon, the end of the 3rd day saw us ascend and then ride through Udo’s crater. Quite a remarkable experience and something the photos don’t do much justice. Again a memorable evening was in store for us with the German community in the hamlet of Luneburg hosting us.

 

 

From Luneburg we traversed into the rolling hills of Zululand and were now well and truly into Kwa Zulu Natal. Our first evening here was hosted at a cattle kraal, in what felt like was the middle of nowhere. Our journey through Zululand continued through to Lake Sibaya and then onto Kozi Bay on the coast.

 

 

Once in the Zululand region, along with Altech Autopage CFO Thinus, Hanco and I assisted at the school handovers. Altech donated financial resources to uplift schools, as well as gifts for the children, these will go a long way in uplifting their communities. A handover was also done for the anti-poaching unit at the Zululand Rhino Reserve which we had the privilege of riding through

 

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Before our first school handover Thinus found this dog at a water point, he called me aside and said imagine if Hanco was dog, he would be like that one. Small and red… The Ginger Ninja is a good sport and posed for a photo with his fury friend.

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This ‘castle’ in what was another ‘in the middle of nowhere’ moments greeted us as our first water point on day 2.

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Sunrise over Luneburg.

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Fast 30k on the tar to start day 3, helped get through the day a bit quicker.

 

It was really a remarkable 7 days of riding across an area of the country which for me and many others was largely unexplored. I met some awesome people, people who I am sure I will be friends with for years to come.

 

 

ASS MAGIC was also a sponsor of the event and I think it helped a large number of people through the tough 7 days on their ASSES! The feedback was great and the ‘ASS MAGIC ass of the day’ was a daily fun award given to someone who had made an ASS out of themselves.

 

 

I didn’t want to write too much about Jozi2Kozi but rather reflect onsome photos from the week. In their own way, they tell much more of a story, give you the reader a visual insight to the journey.

 

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The Pongola River, beautiful setting, with Crocs and Hippos below the surface. We had to cross this river.

 

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After we had made it safely across the Ginger Ninja went back to help his wife cross. I on the other hand took photos, awesome team mate.

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Riding selfie through the Zululand Rhino Reserve.

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Whilst waiting for some of our group to catch back up I started chatting to these ladies, they couldn’t believe that we were riding our bikes all the way from Joburg to Kozi Bay and were most excited to take a photo. 

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We stopped at a couple of Spaza shops to buy drinks in the Zululand region.

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The wolfpack.

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Finished in Kozi Bay with some hard earned beers.

36ONE Storms River Traverse: The Wrap Up

Going through some great photos taken over the course of the weekend by Oakpics was a cool way in which to reflect on what a great 3 days of riding I had with my Dad at the 36ONE Storms River Traverse. Away from the stresses of racing we could thoroughly enjoy ourselves and tuck into the things I usually wouldn’t.
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Marius from Team Wilde, also one of my Dad’s wine drinking partners.

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Important to always look your best #redlipstick.

 

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Paul Valstar once again kept us entertained.

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Tucking into his fourth koeksister, explains the look of  astonishment of the guy to the right.

Our final day of the Storms River Traverse saw us waking to dreary and rainy conditions. Conditions which had become synonymous with the event in the past, but which we were fortunate to largely avoid this year. The mood was jovial on the start line and the light overnight rain had not put much of a damper on this.

 

 

As we headed off down the Storms River Pass, constructed by the famous Thomas Bain, the ‘race’ was on for the day. It’s interesting to note that the pass was the first that Bain constructed in the series of passes in the Garden Route area and bears many of Bain’s features such as the sweeping bends, high retaining walls and moderate gradient which was ox wagon friendly.

 

 

Back to the mountain biking where more chirping than ‘racing’ was actually done and this helped keep the mood high as the kilometres ticked on by. The forests had been muddied up but fortunately the rain wasn’t so drastic, so as to turn the route into a mud sh!t show.

 

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The views, need I say more?

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Wilde Fruit juices were also good.

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Carel, event organizer extraordinaire and part time photographer.

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 Nookie anyone?

 

My Dad had come to the race fitter than I had expected him to, and as we neared the end of the stage, as we had done on the previous days, a dice amongst our fellow weekend warriors ensued. On completely his own steam, we won the battle against our fellow warrior and crossed the line in a very respectable 8th men’s team on the day and 28th overall.

 

 

It was brilliant to be involved with a Dryland event once again and enjoy their famous hospitality. The 36ONE Storms River Traverse has grown in popularity each year, if you’re new to mountain biking and looking to do your first stage race, then this is it. The stages are not too long, not too technical and it’s a pleasure to have the option to not stay in a tent!  The area also lends itself to some great off the bike activities from the ever popular Segway Rides to the Canopy Tours, and is thus a great reason to being the family along too.

 

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Full time photographer, part time bike rider, safety first.

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Ostrich steak at the water points compliments of Klein Karoo International.

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Darren Lill, AKA Mr Sexy Legs.

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Carel: “Linda do we really have to give out all this champagne?”

Linda:”We could skip out the vets and then take home a couple of bottles each?”

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Mission accomplished!

All images credit: Oakpics

36ONE Storms River Traverse: Day 2

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                                                                                                                                                                           Image credit: Oakpics

 

Another great day dawned on us here in Storms River this morning as we enjoyed our caffeine fix and breakfasts. We had 40km of action on the dirt ahead of us this morning. Admittedly we may have indulged in a couple of glasses of wine last night, so were not so sprightly early on.

 

 

Less than 10km into the stage I came across the Specialized pairing of Bobby Behan and Giniel De Villiers, both accomplished athletes each in their own rights but maybe not the most accomplished mechanics(they’ll tell you the tyre had a really tight bead 😉 ). The overnight race leaders had unluckily cut their side wall, quite severely, so I stopped to help them out. Eventually with a zip lock bag and gel wrapper, we had a tyre boot in place and with a tube in they could set off on their chase of the pointy end of the race.

 

 

My Dad and I had other plans including enjoying the scenery and water points once again. The natural forest and mountains in the area were breath taking. On the bike riding side I was impressed that he managed to ride up the 1.5km, close on 20% average gradient cement strip climb(read: wall) up from the Storms River mouth. It really was a beast of a climb that forced many off their steads.

 

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                                                                                                                                             Breathtaking views

                                                                                                                                                   Image credit: Oakpics

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                                                                                                                                                                         Just cruising

                                                                                                                                                  Image credit: Oakpics

 

After our last refuel and zipping along the deserted golf cart paths of an abandoned golf estate, mid project, we entered the last dash to the line. As we spotted two teams just ahead of us, Pops saw red and the chase was on. With only 1 push from me we outgunned our fellow racers to the line. It was an exciting finish to an action packed day.

 

 

It almost feels like we have just started this fantastic race and tomorrow it’s all over. Nonetheless we have thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and am sure tomorrow won’t disappoint either.

36ONE Storms River Traverse: Stage 1

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With some Fairview La Capra Merlot in us, my Dad and I were ready for stage one of the 36ONE Storms River Traverse. We lined up a couple of rows further back than what I’m used to and were soon on our way to tackle the 60 odd kilometres that lay ahead of us. Anyone remember Koeksister Strategy from Joberg2c? Well we would be employing that today!

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A few rows further back than usual.

 

The race seems to have hit it spot on with their course, aimed at the ‘entry level’ stage racer, 60km may seem daunting at first, but with changing scenery and fast gravel roads and jeep tracks the k’s ticked off quickly. We were even rewarded with a short single track and some fantastic views at each of the water points. Never mind the views; I was trying to make a grazing choice with so many different options available. The koeksisters were there yes, but so were the date balls and Ostrich steak strips. I decided the best would be to sample it all!

 

After 3 hours of mountain biking awesomeness we summited the last ‘berg’ and made the dash for the line. I’m not sure of the results yet but I think we may be in the top half of the pointy side of the field. This meant we were first in line for massages, beers and lunch! My Dad thoroughly enjoyed his ride and whilst the day still has its challenges it is by no means a stage of grand proportions.

 

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                                                                                                                                  Catching up with Adriaan Louw.

 

 

It’s safe to say that we are having a great time down here in Storms River. A destination I would probably have just driven past. It’s really worth the stop and there seems to be some other cool activities to do in the area from Segway Excursions to Canopy Tours. I on the other hand am eyeing out a coffee shop down the road, where I’ll be sure to get my caffeine fix this afternoon!

 

Till tomorrow then, keeping it rubber side down, ciao!

36ONE Storms River Traverse

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With the second half of the season’s racing upon us, I’m keeping it a little different this weekend.

 

Tomorrow morning I’ll be picking my Dad up from Cape Town International and we’ll be heading East, down the coast to Storms River, for the 36ONE Storms River Traverse.

 

The Storms River Traverse is unlike many of the other mountain bike stage races on the calendar and is more geared towards the up and coming mountain bikers, who may feel they’re not quite ready to take on a daunting 80km plus stage.

 

Festivities get started on Friday morning with a 60km stage followed by two 40km stages. My Dad’s training has been going well, only a ride or two missed due to self-induced hangovers 😉 I’m excited and looking forward to a great weekend without the usually rigours and stress that racing can bring.

 

I’m sure we’ll also be tucking into some delicious meals with the Dryland Crew running the show. Report back from stage one to follow soon!