Sunday, 28 April 2013

South Africa Diary - Joberg2c stage 2

11.30am Friday 26 April 2013

Its 11.30, we’ve finished racing stage 2, we’re showered clean, Dan the mechanic has cleaned, degreased and applied the Fenwicks lube, and now were chilling out in the shade waiting for lunch. All we have to do now for the rest of the day is relax and recover which is good news because today’s 91 kilometres of racing was hard work and tomorrow we have 130 kilometres to do.

Tim and me got separated somewhere within the first 10km’s as puddle terror took hold of the peloton. Puddle terror is something we see at most races, everyone slam on the brakes in an effort to avoid getting wet feet, it’s pretty funny really but can be quite dangerous when you’re riding in a tight bunch. As we got separated Tim ended up on the wrong side of the split as a lead group developed and pulled away, after a few kilometres I had to drop back to assist my team mate.

A puncture later on Tim’s front wheel dropped us from the 2nd group and left us with work to do. Just before the final feed around the 60km mark we bridged the gap to the 2nd group again and we then just tried to limit our losses to the leading group. We lost 5 minutes in the end but still finished 8th overall and 6th in category so pretty good considering. Just outside the money! We were the top Itec Connect sponsored team so it feels good to pay back some of their commitment to us.

There was some awesome singletrack today, the last 10 kilometres was all singletrack, it was just a shame we were too tired to really enjoy it. I’m glad I’ve got the Scott Spark full suss to ride, the trails and even the fireroads are really bumpy, Tim’s riding his hardtail and I’m sure he’s going to fatigue much quicker because of it.

Tomorrow hopefully we’ll have a smoother ride, I do wonder though how my legs will cope after today’s huge efforts. Anyway off to lunch now, the meals here at Joberg2c are amazing, we are being spoilt and really did have the best steak EVER last night. The race briefing last night was also good entertainment, the organisers really do just want you to have as much fun as possible.

Saturday, 27 April 2013

South Africa Diary Day 3 and 4 (Joberg2c Stage 1)

8pm Thursday 25th April 2013

Busy day today, we ventured back into Johannesburg for sign on, the journey itself was pretty interesting, Tim didn’t particularly enjoy negotiating the chaotic rush hour traffic in our palatial campervan. Once we arrived at the Fire & Ice Hotel we did several laps of the block trying to find a suitably big parking space, eventually we gave up and resorted to pleading with the security guard outside the hotel to let us park up right in front of the entrance, VIP parking, sweet!

Registration was in full swing with the 5* hotel full of eager cyclists and bikes were propped up all around the reception area. Registration complete, freebie bag collected, Dan’s and the campervans accreditation collected. It was then time to drive to the race start to rekey the start of day 1. On arrival though we thought best not to leave the campervan in the middle of a field next to a busy main road unattended in a slightly dodgy area.

We drove back to the campsite to find a herd of dears vacating our parking space, they quickly fled though as we got closer. We ended up riding from the campsite, we found a good route to start with along gravel roads but couldn’t turn it into a loop so had to ride back along the way we’d ridden out on. All the same 22 degrees, no clouds in the sky, it was a fun ride and opened up the legs before we start stage 1 of Joberg2c tomorrow.

A couple of days ago we found a little kitten meowing in a bush close to where we’d parked at the campsite, this afternoon the kitten visited us. The words “what harm can it do” when Dan asked Tim whether they should give the kitten some milk turns now ring in our ears. Well let me tell you this little cutie turned out to be a right pain! It rejected the milk but made us its best friend, constant meowing quickly turned into an annoyance and as this evening approached we realised we’d have to vacate our camping space! This wasn’t so easy though when the kitten had crept inside the campervans wheel rim and was ready to hold on like a hamster in a hamster wheel! We tried everything we could but it wouldn’t budge so the next step was to roll the van down the hill, a quarter rotation of the wheel and this thing was still hanging on, we were in fits of laughter. We didn’t want to hard the little kitten but couldn’t leave it in there as it was going to keep us awake all night. Eventually we did escape from the crazy meowing kitten, don’t worry though the kitten will be fine without us.

Last night we heard a pack of wolves howling nearby, I wonder what animals we’ll hear tonight, hopefully not the little meowing kitten.


1.30pm Friday 26 April 2013 - Stage 1

Stage 1 done and dusted, today was neutralised so we just cruised around the 116kms sitting in the lead group, enjoying the awesome feed zones, looking out for animals, and admiring the stunning scenery. A 5.30am start was required to down breakfast and make the journey to the start venue, Dan our mechanic particularly enjoyed the early wake up, something he’ll have to get used to unfortunately as each stage now starts at 7am. On the start line the television helicopter pilot showed us his skills flying sideways at speed just above the start line arch.

The opening singletrack trail was a good taste of what will follow in the next few days, the trail was loose and rocky, there were 2 line choices which split and the top and didn’t rejoin until the bottom of the hill 4 kilometres later! The rest of the day was flat fireroads or double track trails through nature reserves and around the Vaal Dam.

The feed zones out on course were pretty amusing, everything from tasty pastries and pancakes, to meat cooked on the bbq! Today there was time to enjoy these sweet treats, tomorrow I doubt the lead group will be so sociable. We met plenty of people today out on the course, everyone was really friendly and there was always someone to have a chat with. The organisers are great as well, Wappo and Kelly are really making us feel welcome.

After about 70kms we had to cross a big river so rather than taking us across a bridge we had to dismount our bikes and climb aboard dragon boats, once 3 dragon boats were full with roughly 15 participants in each we had a little race across the river which was pretty good fun.

We ended up leaving the final feed zone earlier that most and ended up in a group of 6 at the front, although today doesn’t count towards the overall classification it was pretty special to roll into the finish town with the locals lining the road and cheering, the TV helicopter hovering over us, and the commentator announcing our names. Hopefully we can repeat or get somewhere close to this in the next 8 days of real racing.

More scrumptious food followed at lunch time in the huge food hall, apparently for dinner we are getting the best steak we’ve ever eaten, sounds good to me!

Itec Connect who’ve sponsored us for this race have been awesome so far, really helpful and supper motivating, hopefully we can pay them back with some good racing.

Thursday, 25 April 2013

South Africa Diary Day 1 and 2

7am Tuesday 23rd April 2013
We are currently travelling hundreds of miles per hour, no we aren’t in our new Vauxhall team van but we are sat on a plane travelling high over South Africa (about an hour north of our destination Johannesburg, another adventure is about to begin, we are racing the 9 day stage race Joberg2c. We being Tim my 2013 teammate who I’m racing with as this is another pair’s event, and my good friend Dan who’s here to generally look after us and create some extra banter!

Much like the speed of this plane the race season seems to be flying by, the year really began back in November but now the racing is in full swing each week passes by quicker than you expect. The start of the season started dry but cold at the final Brass Monkey race where I began with a win and the first round of the Gorrick Series where I finished 2nd.

Super motivated by my training we headed out to Spain to race the 6 day Andalucia Bike race, expected sunshine we and the organised were left a little surprised when snow storms swept through areas which hadn’t seen snow in 30 years! It certainly made the mountain top trails a little more testing. It was awesome to see fellow Brits Rich Rothwell and Ant White winning the Veterans category, they spent multiple days in the leaders jerseys and in my opinion are now ‘legends’ of the sport! Seb and Hamish Batchelor also put in a storming ride, bad luck on the first stage all but destroyed any chance of them achieving a decent general classification position but they weren’t deterred and finished top 10 numerous times over the remainder of the week, that’s one fast family! Our race didn’t go entirely to plan with mechanics and illness ruining what was one of my big aims of the year.
I used the disappointment to boost my training and turned up to the first National XC with strong legs; I finished 10th Brit but was still left thinking I hadn’t done as well as I could have done. The National was in fact the 4th or 5th race weekend in a row we’d seen snow, crazy! Another couple of weeks later and we made the hop back into marathon racing for the first European round of the World Marathon Series, top 20 qualified for World Champs so I was super happy to finish 17th despite having crippling stomach problems mid race, all the hard work was paying off. Jumping between race distances is a challenge but something I’m enjoying, a second place at the Southern XC against tough competition proved this.

So now we find ourselves about to land at South African turf, let the fun continue.

4pm Wednesday 24th April 2013
Since landing we’ve been swept up the South African experience which I’m glad about as we didn’t get a chance to do much touristy type stuff when I was here racing last year. Staying in the campervan is definitely the way to travel; the 3 of us are having great fun. After picking up the camper we drove down to our campsite an hour south of Johannesburg and parked up in the bush camp. It’s an awesome place with our own private swimming pool and animals like zebras (stripy horses), antelopes, ostriches, peacocks and wild kitten which we saw on a little 30 minute spin around camp.

We ate our meal of chicken risotto outside at the kids table which we’d been provided with the campervan! After dinner we climbed up to the top of the hillside to watch the sunset, we were a little late but it was worth the hike.

We were pretty knackered after a restless night on the plane so we were all tucked up in our beds by 8pm! Tim bought his Exposure Diablo light to use as a torch, 1500 lumens is a bit excessive though to make your way out of the camper and woke me up a couple of times, also heard some animals outside the camper. Otherwise it was a good night’s sleep, we all slept until about 9am, over 12 hours sleep!!  

Today we went to rides some mtb trails, it turned out there weren’t many trails to ride at the game park we’d been recommended but the 2 hour road loop was a good laugh and we saw loads of monkeys so Dan found some new friends! We also saw more zebras, wilderbeast, impala and loads of birds. The actual riding was a big loop through the game park so we only saw 1 car and the scenery was stunning.

The supermarkets we’ve visited so far have had pretty impressive bakeries but we’ve resisted the urge to sample some of the cakes, that must wait until after the race! We have discussed whether we are aloud puddings when the race starts, the decision was that we can if we finish higher than a certain placing each day. Dan thinks we’re mad! Possibly, probably!