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!

 

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.

MTN Hilton Ultra Marathon

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Start grid.

Image credit: Linda Wolhuter

After a weekend off after the SA champs it was back on the program over the past weekend with the next round of the MTN Hilton National Marathon series taking place literally right on my doorstep.

 

It’s crazy to think that as a junior training in and around Pietermaritzburg and fantasizing about taking part in World Cups and travelling the globe was always a dream, and now it has become somewhat of a reality. Whilst I have been privileged to train and race in both Europe and America I would never have thought that I would race a World Championships that would literally come right through my parents farm, only metres away from the wattle forest where my school riding buddies and I crafted single track.

 

The Hilton marathon would see us ride on sections of the World Champs course allowing us to scout the terrain once again before the final showdown this coming weekend. Whilst we would not be racing through our farm this time we would be racing past our front gate twice.

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Early morning traffic.

Image credit: Zoon Cronje

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Racing through ASS MAGIC country again.

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Enjoying some of Hilton’s finest trails.

Image Credits: Zoon Cronje

I also had my team mate Hanco join down from Joburg and it would be great to race together once again. The front group of 12 riders remained intact for the first 20 or so kilometres before it split going up the first major climb to Otto’s Bluff. Hanco was in the front split whilst I was in the second. After a tough battle over relentless terrain for 5 hours Hanco finished the day in a solid 10th position and myself in 13th. A slightly better result than SA champs for me, although I felt like it was a one speed day, but some positives to draw and improvements made. There are still area’s to improve on for future reference.

 

I was fortunate to have my super back up team once again with my sister joining my Mom, Alison and Rob whilst my Dad tackled the 45km race. This in preparation for another event coming up in the near future in which we will be riding together, more on this soon!

 

With the World Championships only a few days away this is an easier week with just a few short sharp efforts. It will be important to be fresh for another brutal race on a course which I have become somewhat more familiar with. It will also mark the end of my first half of my racing season before I take a break to refresh for a busy second half.

 

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Hanco smashing it.

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The tech zone crew keeping up to date via Tweeta!

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All important stretch before the bottle handover.

Image credits: Rob Gee

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Refuled for the final 27km stretch!

Image credits: Rob Gee

Pop’s logging in a couple of miles.

Image credit: Jess Wolhuter