Thursday, 9 May 2013

Final diary from Joberg2c 9 day stage race in South Africa

Sunday 5th May

On Wednesday I woke up with a virus, a fair few people were getting ill mid race, including the race doctor! Team Contego lost 2 hours on stage 4 from the same bug, they had been fighting for a podium GC finish. I forced down a small bowl of breakfast but on the start line for stage 6 I was white like a ghost. I could barely pedal and as riders streamed by I knew this was the end to our general classification ambitions, the mountainous route killed me. After all the hard work I'd put in especially on stage 5 I was gutted and had a little cry behind my sunglasses as we very slowly made our way along the route, eventually we lost around 1 hour 30.

I'd felt like being sick most of the morning and was all achy the rest of the day. To make matters worse I couldn't eat anything and was in bed all afternoon. I managed a small bowl of musli that afternoon before going to sleep just after 6pm.

Having not eaten anything on Wednesday but ridden around 100 km's with over 2000 metres of climbing I was a little worried about Thursday, maybe I could just make it through the day and recover for the final few days of the race?

After the sickness and achyness of Wednesday the 'race' on Thursdays stage 7 was a little better, I felt no pain but still suffered in a different way. My body was empty, the legs looked like sticks, I felt like I'd blown half an hour into the stage and riders began to stream past, first the mixed teams, then the girls teams, then the tandems, then everyone else.... Tim did his best pushing me up the hills and I pedalled on the flat and descents to keep a small bit of momentum going.

I don't remember much from the stage, I'm sure it was an awesome route but I just couldn't enjoy myself. Again we lost about an hour to the top guys, not that it mattered anymore. Coming across the line people were complementing us on how well we were doing, this angered me, I felt humiliated falling from 4th place in the men's classification to hours off the pace but these people weren't to know how well we'd been doing I suppose.

The guys from USN South Africa were very supportive the 2 nights I was ill and did their best to help us out, thanks to Albi and his team of riders.

On stage 8 we rode probably the best singletrack in the whole of South Africa, just 2km from the start line we joined the ribbon of trails which flowed their way towards Jolivet. The 30 kilometre descent should and would have been have made today the best day at Joberg2c but having not digested anything for 2 days my legs were again completely empty. I felt even worse than stage 7, at least then I had energy for the first 30 minutes, today there was nothing from the start line.

As soon as the trails flattened out I started looking for a way out, having descended for over an hour there was no way I could pedal up a hill a similar size to the finish. I was told to pedal on to the first water point at kilometre 40, I knew these last few k's were my last of the race. I passed over the tools I was carrying to Tim and told him to continue on without me, again I shed a little tear, all that effort and success on stages 1 - 5 felt like years ago. After this I felt a little relief, once at the feed I just sat on the ground watching riders pass by, I was gutted to not have made it to the end of stage 8 or the beach in Scottburgh after stage 9.

As I sat in the feed zone waiting for my lift to the finish Cherise Stander and her teammate pulled in for water, these 2 were fighting it out for a podium in the womens pairs category. Earlier this year Cherise lost her husband, the incredibly talented cyclist Burry Stander who's life was taken in a road accident while he was out training. Despite all this Cherise was here riding her bike, the feed zone operation wasn't especially fast and they were loosing time but the smile never disappeared from her face. This put things into perspective, I started thinking back over the last 10 days we'd been in South Africa, its been one amazing trip, each corner you turn the place just amazes you. Then there's the race, Joberg2c is something very special, I did the Cape Epic in 2012 so can now compare the 2, without a doubt which ever one you do you'll have an amazing time but don't get sucked into the buzz around the Epic.

The atmosphere here at Joberg2c is hard to explain but at the final evening presentation after stage 8 it became clearer, the organisers are like one big family and they welcome you into that family, all they want is for you to enjoy every moment whether its during the stage or during the breakfast, afternoon and evening. The routes put together are truly sensational, its amazing that so many land owners want you to ride through their land and build trails for the race.

I've thoroughly enjoyed my time here, thanks to Kelly and Wappo who run the race for all their help when we were planning the trip to SA, its been very special.

Also a massive thanks has to be said to two very special sponsors who stepped up for this trip, Little Knocks in Wokingham who put money towards the cost of bringing Dan our mechanic/ campervan driver out to SA. Also thanks to Itec South Africa who sponsored us for the trip, I hope we can work together again in the future.

Final thank you to Dan who did a sterling job all week cleaning and maintaining the bikes, driving the camper van, and dealing with all our other wants. Thanks mate!

I might not have finished Joberg2c this year but it gives us a great excuse to come back next year! :-) See you there.

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Stage 5 diary from Joberg2c South Africa

1pm Tuesday 30th April

We are now over half way through Joberg2c, today’s stage 5 was meant to be an easy recovery day at just 98 kilometres, there was lots of fast rolling fireroad sections so that groups could work together. What should have been easy turned into a proper suffer fest, the riders in 6th place in the general classification didn’t stop at feed zone 1, Tim did, and so I had to wait. The result was an 18 kilometres smashfest where I sat on the front of the chase group which included the rest of the top riders, no one else was willing to help and they were hating the fact I was ruining their recovery day. For 18 kilometres I sat at 170 bpm plus chasing down these 2 escapees, I chased them all the way to the base of the mountains where we caught them. Having just smashed myself for the last 45 minutes the pro’s rode away from us on the first climbs, luckily the Avis riders who I’d chased down were just as ruined.

After yesterdays solo effort the last thing I needed was another hard day today. Even better is the fact that we have 2500 metres of climbing to do tomorrow in 90 kilometres. Dan our mechanic and campervan driver had a pretty rough day also with the police directing him and others in the convoy the wrong way meaning they got lost.

Despite the suffering we weren’t the only ones, we think team Contego had an issue of some sort and will have dropped way down the general classification so our ride today might have gained us 4th place overall, we won’t know for sure though till dinner tonight when the results will be posted in the dining marquee.

We are all pretty tired right now in camp, I wonder if I’ll wake up tomorrow morning. Think I might just go to bed now and not get up till 5.15 tomorrow morning.

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Joberg2c Stage 4 Diary

3pm Monday 29th April

Is it Monday, yes I think so, the stage racing bubble has well and truly developed around us so not a lot else matters right now apart from eating, racing, and sleeping. The race organisers put the fear into us last night when briefing us about today’s stage and rightfully so. The time gaps today are going to be huge because the route didn’t suit group racing. The climbs were fierce and the descent even more fierce!

We are in the mountains now, within the first couple of kilometres the split occurred as we raced our way up a 20% gradient concrete climb, even before this the legs were stinging thanks to an over eager lead out tractor driver and the Europcar riders pushing the pace right from the start. We were on the wrong side of the split and ended up racing on our own the entire day after escaping on the long 20 kilometre descent near the start. We could see the lead group up ahead for most of the day but us on our own were no match for their pace. We did catch Kevin Evans on the penultimate climb which was a leg breaking 3 kilometre section with gradients up to 25%, it really was awful! This was then followed by the final climb which we assumed after 105 kilometres of riding would be an easy fireroad ascent, nope! A technical rocky very loose singletrack section which must have lasted about half an hour, ouch! It was fun though in a sick kind of way!

The descent made up for all the suffering today though, we might have climbed 1700 metres but we descended 2500 metres! The singletrack descents were probably the best trails I’ve ever ridden! I made sure I led into the first descent which dropped about 800 metres in altitude, it was a proper blast and put a good gap into everyone else apart from a Europcar rider who kept up but had to stop half way down because his hands were hurting so much from hanging onto the bars!

Anyway we had another good day and finished 5th in the men’s category, 6th overall as there was the super quick pro masters team in front of us.

Tomorrow according the race profile we race uphill for 90 kilometres, oh joy.

I ate 8 slices of banana bread at lunch today, the meals here continue to impress!