The Catch Up Post: Part 1

This is part one, in a two part catch up post from the racing over the past few weeks.

It seems as though it has been some time since I’ve last posted on the site again. It seems to have again slipped away. Fortunately since my last post, I’ve encountered a great block of racing and have achieved some results I’m very happy with.

Rewinding a few weeks, following the Gravel and Grape, it was off to Hermanus for a long weekend away. I then heard about a new event, the Walker Bay Urban Extreme Mountain Bike Criterium in town over the weekend and I couldn’t help but take part.

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What is an urban mountain bike criterium I hear you ask? Well, a short course mountain bike event often set within a town encountering urban obstacles as opposed to more natural ones and on a short criterium style lap. The Walker Bay Extreme had cobbles, steps and wooden bridges within the circuit set up in Hermanus by the Old Harbour winding its way through the various bars and restaurants.

It was a great concept and one which I hope grows next year. I managed to take the win on the day, as well as a hotspot on the second lap which totalled to a successful day out. Jarryd Hayley was second and Jürgen’s Uys in 3rd.

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Following the criterium I was called by Andrew Hill to ask if I would be keen to ride the Nedbank Sani2c with him in two weeks’ time. Naturally I jumped at the opportunity.

As a final tune up I headed off to Wellington, a short drive away for the annual Gravel Travel Classic. The Gravel Travel encompasses some of the finest trails in the Welvenpas Valley and is really a great event, unfortunately for me I wasn’t feeling as rad as the trails we were riding are and I called it a day to record my first DNF in some time.

Part 2 will be posted tomorrow.

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Gravel and Grape stage 3: PRO TOUR wannabes

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Fist pumps all round.

Image credit: Ash Smit

After surviving ‘The Beach’, Collin and I were ready for the final stage of the Gravel & Grape. A meandering start along a tar road soon turned into a full on sprint as we turned onto the dirt and realised that we would immediately be entering a single track, positioning was crucial. The white flag had dropped and it was war! Think of something similar to the PRO TOUR gents jostling for position before a section of cobbles at Paris Roubaix. The only difference, we were going a tad slower and were on mountain bikes. I like to convince myself of the similarities, but the differences are probably more glaringly obvious.

Colin was caught behind some traffic and we only re-joined a few kilometres later at the top of the first major climb of the day. With some dirt roads coming up we got the through and off rolling in anticipation of chasing the front group down.

Support at the water points had elevated us to local hero status, we had spent time getting to know the locals in the evenings and as a result we had them shouting for us by name as we raced past. Meeting people in these local communities is always interesting and their passion in hosting a mountain bike event where we ride across many of their farms has been fantastic.

Day-3-profile

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There was more rough rocky single track, some faster dirt roads and the odd tour of an orchard which ticked off the final kilometres of the stage and thus the race. We again finished 4th on the day and also 4th overall. It was a great 3 days of racing alongside Colin and there were many grand moments on and off the bike.

Contego sealed the overall honours with a final stage win, with Uys and Groustra in 2nd on the day and in the same position on the GC. The youngsters Esterhuyse and Best had finished strongly again to land both feet on the final podium in 3rd.

All in all the Gravel & Grape was a great event and one which I would love to return to next year. The concept of the race village being hosted at Goudini Spa was more than convenient, we didn’t have to camp (although you could have if you wanted to). The food hall was within walking distance and the bike wash and mechanics a quick ride away.

The routes were quite tough, we probably enjoyed the first day the most. After chatting to the race organisers we realised how little rain that the region has had in the past few months, this explains ‘The Beach’ and it was evident by the exceptionally low level of dams in the area.

Course marking was really first class with a marker prior to each turn, through the turn and a confirmation marker past it, it takes a lot of time to set something like that up and we appreciated it.

The region is one which many Capetonians have driven through many times on the N1. It really is a beautiful area, probably largely unexplored and one which I would urge you to spend some more time in next time you are going through, in fact even make it your destination.

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Lot’s of hard work into these crafted bridges.

Image credit: Casian Johnson Wright

Gravel & Grape Stage 2: The beach and relearning an old lesson

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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.

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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.

 

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Gravel & Grape 2015 Stage 1: Opening Encounters

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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.

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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.

 

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Liberty Cape Winelands Encounter – Press Release

Chris Wolhuter and Jarryd Haley claimed all three stage WINS en route to overall victory at the inaugural Liberty Cape Winelands MTB Encounter in Wellington on Sunday.

The Altech Autopage duo took the debut honours in the 175km Western Cape race in a combined time of 8:13:41.

Flandria grand masters Eben Espach and Linus van Onselen finished second in the general classification in 8:58:29, with the SDK Legends pairing of Rikus Visser and Divan Koch rounding out the podium in 9:16:29.

Pretoria Box U23 riders Mitchell Eliot and Neil Robinson, who grabbed the runner-up spot on days two and three, had to be content with fourth place overall after technical problems created an insurmountable time gap on day one.

Wynberg-based Wolhuter, who usually rides alongside regular teammate Hanco Kachelhoffer, said his ad hoc partnership with Rocky Mountain’s Haley had worked out well.

“We came in wanting to WIN and managed to do that, so that’s fantastic,” said the 26-year-old.

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“Coming into this event, we heard that it was more of an experience than a race, but the moment the guys put on the number boards, it quickly became one.”

Wolhuter said Eliot and Robinson had shown their intent early on the 67km opening stage from the Lanzerac Wine Estate in Stellenbosch to the Le Franschhoek HOTEL IN Franschhoek.

“We kept the racing together until the base of the first climb and then we broke away and went up there with the Pretoria Box guys.”

Wolhuter said he and Haley had managed to get a gap over the top of the climb and extended it on the Skyfall singletrack that followed on the Bartinney lands.

“There was a headwind all the way to the finish, so we just rode a good tempo that opened up our lead.

“Unfortunately, Mitchell and Neil had a lot of technical problems which ultimately took them out of the running.”

Seeing what could happen, Wolhuter and Haley decided not to take any unnecessary risks and consolidated their lead on the 53km second stage from Franschhoek to Doolhof Wine Estate in Wellington.

The two took advantage of a strong tailwind to cover the first 30km in an hour and give themselves more time on the rockier, tougher mountain trails after the Drakenstein Prison.

“We had quite a nice lead coming into the third stage, which took place on the Welvanpas trails around Doolhof.”

Wolhuter said he and Mowbray resident Haley were both familiar with the 55km circuit near Wellington and knew how to approach it.

“It’s quite technical here, especially in the last 10 kilometres where there are a lot of sharp rocks.

“We rode quite a decent tempo off the start and got away easier than I had anticipated.”

Former downhill racer Haley took the lead into the technical singletrack sections and showed his technical abilities over the climbs, while Wolhuter drove the pace on the flatter stretches to secure an unassailable lead.

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Wolhuter, who raced for the Stan’s NoTubes road team in the United States of America during the 2013/14 season, said he was HAPPY to have found mountain biking success again on home soil.

“We’ve had a slow start to the year, been close to the podium for some of the bigger races but just missed them, so it’s fantastic to WIN again.”

He said the Cape Winelands race had been the right combination of a challenging ride and a five-star experience.

“I think the first edition went off really well, there were some fantastic trails and it’s got the potential to grow very nicely.”

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All images credit: Ewald Sadie

I wrote a couple of blog posts for the event, they can be found on MarathonMTB.com over here

Wine & winning

Some 8 years ago as a first year student at Stellenbosch University I rode the Fine Breede River mountain bike classic for the first time. It was great to be back at well organised event hosted by passionate organisers who were proud to show off their area to us, the Breede Kloof valley is a beautiful one indeed.

 

It was however always a race I wanted to win, the reason? The winner takes home worth your weight in wine! I remember on that cold rainy day a few years ago, I helped a good friend and pro at the time Johnny Kritzinger load his Audi with the boxes and thought: “Man I need to win this race one day!”

 

I managed to make it happen on Saturday, after a couple of early surges from my fellow competitors, I rode off the front early on in the 46km race, it was no walk in the park so to speak. With trails used in the recent Cape Epic and much of the climbing in the first 20km of the race, I pushed hard without really knowing the gap to my competitors racing behind. A recent addition thanks to the Epic is numerous sections of single track which were well crafted and a pleasure to race on.

 

It was great to win again; it has been a few months! Andy Davies managed to take second. This time I got to be that guy, loading the wine into my car to take home. The 66 bottles will keep me busy for a month or two, a bottle a day keeps the doctor away right? 😉

 

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2015 season is a go!

2015 has got off to a cracking start. On the bike Hanco and I have been getting some good miles in, in preparation for the 2015 season. Yes our team goes on this year, thanks largely to the support of Altech Autopage. There will be a more formal announcement shortly with details on the project for the year!

 

Off the bike it feels as though it hasn’t stopped. ASS MAGIC has been busy; I am not complaining and finalising orders for RH77 for the Epic has been manic!

 

After some time at my parents farm over the festive season it was back to the Mother City for a few days to get the year started, and then I was off to George for a week to do a training camp with Hanco. This year we are riding Specialized World Cup Epics… Yes everything you have heard about the bikes is true. They are fantastic machines and I am pleased to be riding one this year.

 

George is a great place to train, there are many dirt roads and awesome trails which allowed us to get in some good time on the mountain bikes. This can sometimes be difficult in Cape Town with you needing to do stretch’s on the tar to link the various mountain biking areas together if you are wanting to do a long ride. A ride out to Knysna on the 7 passes road was also a treat and probably one of my favourite rides along with a stop-over at the Garden Route Trail Park.

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George forests.


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Map of Africa with our new steads.

I was finally back in the Cape Town and before we knew it we were lining up for the first national marathon of the year at Meerendal Wine Estate. Ashburton Investments has come on board as a new sponsor of the series this year and there is a feeling that they have stepped up the game with a kitted out race village at Meerendal.

 

The ULTRA marathon was going to be an exceptionally tough long day. 106km and 2900m of ascent awaited us. The profile was jagged, and meant we were constantly going up or down without much flat roads or exceptionally long climbs.

 

Much of the course took in the famed trails of the Tygerberg mountain bike club’s network and I think that this was certainly right up there in one of the best courses we have done on the national marathon circuit in the last few years.

 

On the results side there weren’t too many fireworks for Hanco or I. We were 17th and 20th respectively. Alban Lakata won the race with Erik Kleinhans in 2nd place.

 

 

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Image credit: Diana Carolin

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Image credit: Zoon Cronje

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New race village.

Image credit: Zoon Cronje

 

Over the past weekend I raced a local classic road race, the 99er. The 108km race has been on the calendar for some years now and has a tough finish to it with the ascent of Vissershok in the final 8km of the race followed by a 1km climb up Odendaal Street to finish the race.

 

With SA road champs on the same day one may have thought that the peloton would not be as strong as usual, this was however not the case with a host of mountain bike professionals and most notably Simon Geschke from the Giant Alpecin PRO TOUR team on the start line.

 

I unfortunately punctured 50km into the race and with no neutral support my race was done for the day. Geschke won the race with the Cannondale Blend duo of Darren Lill and Waylon Woolcock rounding out the podium.

 

Our calendar is as follows:

 

13 – 15 February – DuToit Tankwa Trek, Ceres

21 February – Ashburton Investments Sabie National Ultra UCI, Sabie

27 February – 1 March – Garden Route 300, Knysna

8 March – Cape Town Cycle Tour (Argus), Cape Town

 

Come say howzit if you see us at the races!

 

 

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Bike setup with my team mate and renowned bike fitter Hanco.

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Cafe stop on the 7 Passes road.

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 Knysna Lagoon.

2014 Season Reflection: Part 2

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UCI World Marathon Championships

Image credit: QuickPix

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UCI World Marathon Championships

Image credit: Boogs Photography

The racing continued to go well as I secured a couple more podiums in local races before it was off to Pietermaritzburg for the SA and World Marathon Championships in June. The tough hilly course which I was not suited to, meant more suffering, really any bike racing comes down to who can suffer the hardest for the longest. Despite mechanical issues on the day the World Marathon Champs was a career highlight, especially with a strong start that had me higher up the field that what I felt was possible.

The second half of the season did not start off as well. A crash at Die Burger Marathon triggered an on off knee injury that plagued me for weeks. There was more than one occasion where I thought it was better before realising it was not, many cases of 1 step forward, 2 backwards. Fortunately I eventually got in touch with a physio: Anzel Brink who diagnosed the route of the problem as opposed the actual problem. Eventually back on track there wasn’t much time to train for a big end of season objective, the Cape Pioneer Trek.

Before the big objective at the Cape Pioneer Trek I was able to take part in two events with less of a racing emphasis. First was the Storms River Traverse, a 3 day race which I was able to ride with my Dad and really enjoy. This was followed by the Altech Autopage Jozi2Kozi, a 7 day adventure from Joburg to Kozi Bay as the name suggests. It was a fantastic experience where I met some awesome new people and rode through very remote beautiful areas of our country.

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36ONE Storms River Traverse

Image credits: Oakpics

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Jozi2Kozi Finish

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Hanco & his dog.

Moving into the final build up to Pioneer my crash course of training-racing started off with the 3 day race, Ride the Rhino, followed by another tough 3 days at the Isuzu 3 Towers and then the big one. Under the guidance of my coach Leon and support of my family, girlfriend and friends I arrived at the start line in Oudtshoorn in decent shape. Hanco and I had a decent Pioneer, sneaky moves off the front on the 3rd and 6th stages unfortunately both ended in punctures, but we showed that we could hit it out on the front. Ultimately we finished in 10th place after a week of tough racing against some of South Africa’s and Europe’s best.

The final objective for 2014 was the FNB Wines2Whales. I had good shape coming out of the Pioneer and just needed to put the icing on the cake so to speak. A season highlight was a 3rd on the 2nd stage alongside some hot-shot euro profis and then a 4th overall.

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Isuzu 3 Towers

Image credit: showmenelspruit.co.za

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FNB Wines2Whales

Image credits: Cherie Vale

Hanco meanwhile carried on, on the road, up in Gauteng, rather successfully I might add. An 8th place at the 94.7 Cycle Challenge was a hint of what was to come the following week. At the inaugural Mandela Challenge, Hanco was 2nd in the sprint to world tour rider, Reinhardt Janse van Rensburg. It was a big payday and an even more impressive result when you scan down the results sheet and see the names he had beaten.

With 2015 just around the corner, training is well under way for another season on the racing circuit.

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Mandela Challenge

Image credits: Zoon Cronje

2014 Season Reflection: Part 1

At the end of last year I still clutched at the straws of hoping for a ride on an American pro road team. I had set myself a date where I decided by which if I had not yet got a contract I would look to other opportunities, namely back to mountain bike racing in South Africa.

 

I in no way meant coming back to SA mountain bike racing was a step backwards. It was most definitely not, I had perhaps underestimated the growth in the scene. The knock off positive effects of this meant that it is probably the most healthy it has ever been.

 

As you would know it never happened and I found myself on the start line of the Attakwas marathon almost 10 months ago, well aware that one of the hardest marathons in the country would be my first race back, it was a sharp contrast to racing twilight crits in the USA, although each are exceptionally challenging in their own way.

 

I felt like I found my feet soon and well. With a podium in a local race a month later, to 3rd on the final stage of the Tankwa Trek alongside the formidable Bulls. There was a crit and a road tour on the way, the crit not so successful-I lost a lot of skin and then a late entry into the Epic with my friend Simon Swemmer.

 

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Tankwa Trek.

Image credit: Oakpics

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Tour de Boland with Lights by Linea

Image credit: Capcha Photography

 

The year had started with a whirlwind all whilst I was starting up my own business and taking over the running of the South African operations of a friends business. My own baby, ASS MAGIC has grown over the past year and I have learnt so much along the way. There have been many happy asses along the way! From the Epic, Joberg2c, Cape Pioneer to maybe the ultimate test-The Freedom Challenge. Along with the help of Dr du Plessis we have developed a product which well and truly works. With a trip to Johannesburg last week my distribution network has expanded somewhat and ASS MAGIC is now available in almost 50 stores nationwide.

 

AM Tub 200ml

 

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ASS MAGIC tubs and samples, it took many months to get to this point. Big thanks to Randy Mulder at DC76.com for his patience and expertise!

Image credits: Ashleigh Smit

 

I have also become involved in RH77, customised cycling wear, a passion business started by a good friend of mine and ex-pro cyclist, Rene Haselbacher. With Hasi having grown the business to the point where he needed to be based back in Vienna, closer to our factory, I have taken over the running of the South African operations. Whilst there have been many challenges on the way, seeing the growth and the reward of it has been awesome.

 

On the athletic front progression was also made. I had met Hanco Kachelhoffer at the Tour de Boland and we joined together as a team under the Altech Autopage banner. With Hanco being stronger than me it meant a lot of suffering in the early days especially through the Joberg2c. It wasn’t without reward though, two stage podiums and a 4th overall showed promise and I was beating riders I hadn’t before.

 


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 Various Joberg2c moments.

Part 2 in this post coming tomorrow!