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