2 in 1!

Today, for a change, felt more like a road race. With attacks flying off the the front from the gun, and accelerations like a criterium, people blowing spectacularly, and  a lot of confusion it had road race written all over it.

Funny enough this is actually the Argus MTB challenge I am talking about. With a star studded field containing many a big name out here finishing their pre- Epic training, things got really hot out there.

Having not ridden the Gape Escape, which had taken place over the previous days I was somewhat optimistic about my chances at winning the race, especially since I had upgraded my weaponry since last year to a dual suspension for this bumpy ride. Last year saw me lose the wheels on the first 3 riders as I couldn’t get the power down on a bumpy section near the end.

Halfway into the race I found myself on the World marathon Champion’s wheel in 3rd place in a lead bunch that was strung out over a few seconds. Suddenly we were all standing together in an over grown grass single track wondering where the route went. With the race clearly on hold for the moment we soon headed off in what we thought was the right way. Things soon hotted up again and I found myself hanging off the back of the 3 leaders bleeding through my eyeballs!

Eventually my body said “enough is enough” and I limped home to cross the line 5th behind winner Christof Sauser, Matthys Beukes, Philip Buys and Darren Lill.

The drama was not over though, as for some reason only the lead group had gone the wrong way. Erik Kleinhans (RE:CM) crossed the line as the first person to have completed the route in the correct way. The organisers very graciously decided have a double prize giving; one for the riders that went the right way, and one for the riders that did not. Even the lead motorbike went the wrong way! Anyways, neither of this changed the fact that I wasn’t on the podium! Today was a day where I think my bike out performed me, as well as my competition.

This week I’ll be focusing on resting as much as possible ahead of big one, the African Continental Championships (I bet you thought I was going to say Argus Cycle Tour didn’t you!) at Cascades in Pieteraritzburg. All hopes are on a great performance!

Until then,

Keep it runner side down!

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Garden Route 300

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This past weekend some of the top mountain bikers from around the country descended on Sabie for the second round of the National Marathon Series. This year I managed to dodge the brute of a race which saw Charles Keey take the biggest victory of his career and opted to do the Rocky Mountain Garden Route 300, ideal training for the for the Cape Epic as well as the rest of the season.

With the race’s presenting sponsor being my bike sponsor, the natural thing was to represent my sponsors in the best way possible. it also gave me a chance to test out my prospective Cape Epic team mate Daniel Gathof who is down here at the moment for a 3 week training camp.

With the 3 day stage race finishing and starting in Knysna every day, we were guaranteed to ride some of the most beautiful and best trails the country has to offer. With the whole Rocky Mountain crew staying in a big house overlooking the sea in Brenton, spirits were definitely high going into the race.

Unfortunately stage one was a very mixed up affair. After Daniel and I lost our 4 minute lead over the pairing of Adriaan Louw and Timo Cooper due to poor marshaling, we lost out in a sprint finish to the line to take second place. These were the least of our worries though, as half the field, along with us were running for the bathroom every half hour due to something that most likely came from bad food the night before at the event. Unfortunately our other Rocky Mountain team Jarryd Hayley and Dominic Calitz had to call it quits after Jarryd suffered a severe bout of it.

Daniel dishes out some pain!

Daniel dishes out some pain!

Not letting this get us down, we relaxed, ate lots and prepared as best as we could for the 113km king stage of the race the next day. This time wheel turned and the bad luck struck Timo and Adriaan with a cut tyre at the 50km mark. They lost about 4 minutes fixing it, and by the end of the day, after setting a steady tempo we had put a further 5 minutes into them. We were definitely working well as a team! The definite highlight of the stage 2 was racing through the Rasta town just outside on Knysna, and dashing through a cul de sac at the end of a road were serenaded by the local Rasta band, mic’ed up and everything. The organisers really went out of their way to add something “special” to the race.

With the spirits now high we had the shortest of the shortest of the 3 stages left to go, an 80km route that had some of the hardest climbing was still awaiting us.

By now our routine was well organised, and we were able to wash, eat, get massaged, sort our bikes out and relax the rest of the afternoon, and as a result were fresh for the final day 3. A decent size group of us rode away up Phantom pass which stayed together, winding through the indigenous forest in the Homtini area until we hit the old Hydro climb. Timo and Adriaan pushed the pace hard up the hardest climb of the race and succeeded in opening up a small gap which we chased down within 10 minutes, and with the final 20km being mostly downhill we stayed together to the line giving us the overall victory y over 9 minutes.

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Winning a race in such a beautiful familiar setting was fantastic, and making it even more special was winning in front of the whole Rocky Mountain crew from South Africa, Aubrey(Director), Eugene(Brand Manager), Martin(Representative) and Randy(International Sales Manager).

We really hope that this even will set us up for the rest of the season and hopefully give us the leverage to get into the ABSA Cape Epic, as funding has been a little hard to come by!

Next up this weekend is the Argus Mountain Bike race, which will be followed by African Continental Champs in Pietermaritzburg, and then hopefully the Cape Epic.

Until then, keep it rubber side down…

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SA National XCO #1 -Durbanville(AKA mudbath #2)

When the weather report for Saturday’s cross country national said 30% rain predicted, I thought to myself “oh good, the course could do with a little rain.” The course at the previous weekend’s provincial had been, stinking hot, dry and dusty, and all it needed was a little rain to make racing conditions perfect. I swallowed my words big time!

As the rain continued to pour down, hour after hour on race day, my love for it quickly faded into a state of grimness, and before I knew it the whole elite field was standing on the start line, rain still pouring down, with a mud bath of a track awaiting us. The Elite men’s field included some stars such as former Swiss Champion and Olympian Florian Vogal, and former World Marathon and World Eliminator champion Ralph Naf, along with a strong South African field.

The field charged off the start line at world cup speed, and after choosing a bad line I found myself in sitting further back than I would have liked to. Passing on this course is a tough job as passing space is as limited as prime coastal property.

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The race was a long 8 laps in the muddy conditions, and after passing a few riders I pretty much reached a place where I could no longer move forward. I came to realise that all my marathon orientated training was not helping me at all in this highly explosive format of the sport, as I felt slow and impotent at times.  All that was left for me to do was to hang on concentrate, and not make any costly mistakes. It was long and arduous  but thankfully I managed to do this thanks to the cheering of my awesome friends and family who all came out to support me at my home race. If you are reading this, it really made a huge difference!

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After what seemed like an age I crossed the line about 5 minutes behind first place. Philip Buys(Scott) had charged late in the race to take the win ahead of James Reid(Trek/Redbull), with Florian Vogel(Scott/ Aldo) in 3rd, Luke Roberts(BMC) in 4th, Gertt Heyns(Contego 28e) 5th, followed by yours truly in 6th. Not my best day out, but it certainly could have gone worse!

A massive THANK YOU goes out to all of you who were out there in the pouring rain, as well as my awesome sponsors who came out to support. It means the world to me.

Next up on the calender is the Garden Route 300 with my potential German Cape Epic partner Daniel Gathof who rides for the Rocky Mountain Craft team in Germany.

Keep an eye out for my new blog site coming soon….

Until next time, keep it rubber side down!

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Wash, Rinse, Repeat.

So, for the 3rd weekend in a row, my bike an bags were packed. This time I was headed in the direction of Barbeton in Mpumalanga for the first race of the MTN National Marathon Series.

Having raced here almost every year since 2005 I had a good idea of what to expect from the race. Being one of the toughest ultra marathon races in the series it has almost always ended in blood, sweat, tears or a mechanical. This year though I arrived with some new tricks up my sleeve; My Rocky Mountain Element 999 RSL dual suspension, and the decision to pace myself better than I had in the past over the 120km course featuring 2 brutal climbs totaling 3300m ascent.

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To my surprise, the decision to pace myself did not end in me being dropped far off the back of the lead group, and actually managed to catch and ride with them relatively comfortably, until it all split up again after a few accelerations.

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Sticking to my tactics, I survived the rocky river section, and hit the second 1500m ascent climb alone. Opening up the taps I really thought I would catch some riders, but after spending the next hour climbing solo at almost full gas, I had made no dent in the field! Soloing home in 9th position after a taxing 5hours 28minutes, I discovered that I was only 5 minutes behind now 4 time winner Max Knox. The top 10 thus all finishing within 4 minutes of each other!

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After assessing the race it was hard not think what would have happened if I had made the move to follow the group earlier on. I had ridden the second 60km petty much by myself and had kept the gap exactly the same for pretty much the whole race. It was encouraging though to see that, compared to previous years I had brought down the time separating me from the winners, by at least 25 minutes!

Second place went my Wines to Whales partner, and very deservedly so, Matthys Beukes of Team Contego, followed my Charles Keey (Blend-Cannondale), and 4th and 5th to Waylonn Woolcock and Lourens Luus of team RE:CM respectively.

The result is never the less encouraging, as I have only been on the bike for 4 weeks and have not done any intensity training. This week i’ll be putting a big week in on the bike before putting the focus on some quality training heading into some of the bigger races on my season program.

Until then,

Keep it rubber side down!

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Repeat Business

As I get older every year, the racing season seems to get more and more familiar, with very little change. Same races, same routes, and same faces, more or less.

For the 4th time in my career, the trip up for the Attakwas Ultra marathon was still a pleasure. Although not a target race for me this year, I was still keen to see what kind of form I had, but more importantly test out my my new marathon racing machine, the Rocky Mountain Element 999RSL!

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It was my first time racing a dual suspension, and needless to say, on a race like this it did not disappoint! From early on in the race I struggled getting my heart rate up due to a strenuous week leading into the event. Although the front bunch had pretty much left me for dead, I knew that as long as I kept my composure things were bound to change. 120km on a mountain bike over some of the roughest terrain is a long way! Still getting used to the new bike, there were a number of times where I stopped because I thought I had a puncture, only to realise that it was the suspension that was so plush and not a puncture! Amazing.

Anyways. This is where the experience really paid off, and after riding smoothly and consistently thought the Attakwas valley, I had a number of riders in sight. The race, after covering 80km on really rough mountainous terrain from Oudtshoorn, hits the smooth district road and heads towards Mossel Bay for the last 40km. Riders often misjudge this piece as it seems easy, but truth be told there are some monster climbs that really make life difficult!

Still keeping a steady pace, I started picking off riders one by one, and before I knew it I was riding with Darren Lill (Blend Properties) fighting for 5th position. 10km before the end Darren proved a little too strong and I, just like last year rolled across the line in 6th position.

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12 minutes ahead of me Christof Sauser(Specialized) won, followed by Lourens Luus(RE:CM) in 2nd, Erik Kleinhans(RE:CM)in 3rd, Charles Keey (Blend Properties) in 4th, with Darren Lill in 5th.

Literally finished!

Literally finished!

With only 4 weeks of training under the belt I was amazed that I pulled though so well towards the end, and can’t wait to see what the next few races will pull out of me.

Until then….

 

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Burry Stander XCO Memorial Race

It was with a heavy heart that I made the trip up to KZN to kick off the racing season.

No one saw it coming, and it was an incredibly sad occasion attending the memorial service of Burry Stander in Port Shepstone along with many other cyclists, friends and family. It is a day that will never leave me.

The race therefore was held in memory of Burry Stander and carried a UCI Cattegory 1 rating, which meant there were lot’s of world ranking point up for grabs. Being so early in the season, and with only being on the bike for 3 weeks I certainly wasn’t expecting any fireworks but came along to grab some points for my adventures later in the year, but more on that another time!

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Mud tyres: Thick widely spaced knobs and slightly thinner than normal.

 

 

On arrival at the Cascades Bike Park in Pietermaritzburg is was evident that mud tyres would be needed, as we were greeted with steady rain that did not let up until before the race.

I got off to a surprisingly good start, on lap 1, before having to take it easy and nurse my shallow form through rest of the race. The trick to riding a mud race is to keep a steady tempo, and make as few mistakes as possible, touching the brakes on the descents is a no-no! Any unnecessary accelerations will make you pay later in the race. After dropping down to 8th this tactic paid off for me as I clawed my way back to 5th place after some riders started to burn out.

It all fell to pieces however, as on the last lap the sun decided to show it’s face. The net result was that the mud became sticky, clogged up my wheels, and well, if you can’t turn the wheels of you bike you can’t really go forward! I was passed by two riders just 1km from the finish who were riding skinnier tyres. It was a gamble for them that paid off I guess.

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Wheels won’t turn!

It was slightly disappointing to finish as far down as 7th, but in a race like this it is not really a true reflection of ability. Hats off to all those who finished though. Philip Buys(Scott) won the race ahead of Max Knox(Specialized) and Rourke Croeser(Orange Monkey) in 3rd.

Next stop is the Attakwas Ultra marathon. The bike will need a lot of tlc before then!

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Thumbs up!

Keep the thumbs up!

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Wines to Whales Day 3, Oak Valley to Onrus

Photo credit: Jacky Mc Clean, Newsport Media

Photo credit: Jacky Mc Clean, Newsport Media

 

The above photo says it all, Matthys and I managed to hold on to our overall lead and emerged the victors of the 2012 Contego Wines to Whales! We crossed the line after 2 hours 58 minutes in second place for stage 3 behind surprise stage winners Adriaan Louw and Louis Knipe(Contego 28e)

I say surprise because the day was full of ups and downs and unfortunate mechanicals for some teams. The first casualty of the day was second placed team Blend Properties, where Ruan du Toit suffered a bad puncture and lost a big chunk of time. Soon after that it was the turn of Craig Boyes from Team Daiken who trashed his real wheel on a particularly rough downhill.

Leaving Oak Valley Estate

Leaving Oak Valley Estate

The last team to suffer misfortune was team Asrin(Rene Haselbacher and Chris Wolhuter), who after making a bold break away move, took a wrong turn and ended up not completing the race. The first two incidents we all knew about, but not the last one! As a result, the 3 teams out in front for most of the day were Team RECM, Contego 28e, and RSA Web/CangoMTB. No matter how hard we chased, we were very surprised that we could not bring the leaders back into sight, and soon lost all hope of a stage win, as those boys were clearly on fire!

Photo credit: Cherie Vale - Newsport Media

Photo credit: Cherie Vale – Newsport Media

Towards the end the Contego boys made a bold move to try make up their 50 second deficit on RECM, while Matthys and I were quite happy to follow their wheels, stay smooth, and protect our lead. We crossed the line in Onrus after 2 hours 58 minutes just 20 meters behind Contego fully expecting a 3rd place for the day, but surprise, Team Contego had pulled off the stage victory!

Not too phased on missing out on the stage win, Matthys and I were truly happy to pull off an amazing victory at such a special event. What a great way to end off the season! The amount of support we received along the route each day was phenomenal, and we feel truly blessed to have been able to pull off such an amazing victory.

For me, this race marks the end of my racing season, and I look forward to putting the bike aside for a few weeks, putting on some kg’s, growing my leg hair, and working on my summer tan.

I cannot end this post without thanking my amazing sponsors RSA Web for the fantastic support I have received throughout the year, Rocky Mountain Bikes for the flawless bike, and all the other people who have contributed to making this season a success, you know who you are!

You’ll be hearing more from me soon.

Until next time,

God bless.

 

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Wines to Whales Day 2 – Grabouw to Grabouw

I am sitting here on the patio of our quaint self catering cottage in the Elgin Valley with a cup of tea and a fat slice of carrot cake reflecting on a good day of riding.

Why was it a good day of riding you ask? Day two of Wines to Whales must be the feather in the cap of this event. Never in an event have I ridden so much quality singltrack in one day, and that’s coming from a rider who’s finished no less than 4 Sani2C’s.

The day started out on narrow undulating jeep tracks, which meant there were a lot of team all trying to get towards the front and mix things up. Soon though we hit the first singletrack sections and the race was narrowed down to the top 5 teams from the previous day, race leaders RECM, second placed Blend Properties, Team Daiken, Team Contego 28e, and us, team RSA Web, Cango/MTB.

Photo Credit: Cherie Vale - NewSport Media

Photo Credit: Cherie Vale – NewSport Media

Each team took their turn at upping the pace, but it was ultimately a move from Charles Keey of Blend Properties that changed the game. The move made by Charles split up the field, and Matthys and I were right on his wheel. The move proved too bold for his team mate though, and with a little gap we decided to put the hammer down. We soon opened the gap further, accelerating up the climbs, and riding smoothly on the singletrack.

Riding the (in)famous Poffadder bridge

Riding the (in)famous Poffadder bridge

The next 20km passed so quickly as we left Paul Cluver Estate, over to Lebanon, and eventually back to Oak Valley. Time flies when you’re having fun! We crossed the line about 2 minutes ahead of Charles and Ruan, and with Waylon and Neil from RECM about 10 minutes back it meant that we had moved into the overall lead. Awesome stuff!

Tomorrow is the last day, a 75km trek to the finish line in Onrus. I honestly can’t wait to smell the sea air and jump into the ocean at the other side, hopefully the winner of Wines to Whales. No pressure!

 

Will let you know how it goes tomorrow.

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We were greeted ideal weather conditions this morning for our 69km journey from Lourensford to Grabouw. Matthys and I were feeling decent from the start and were at the sharp end of the race for the whole day. The route itself was fantastic, with so many km’s of flowing singletrack that it was hard to get bored.

The race really hotted up with some steep climbing up the to the foot of Sir Lowerey’s pass just before the compulsory portage up the old Voortrekker wagon trail. The time we hit the top of Sir Lowerey’s it was Matthys and myself out in the lead with the RECM duo of Waylon Woolcock and Neil Mc Donald for company.

From there it was a mad dash over mostly very rolling terrain to the finish in Oak Valley. Each team had a dig at other to try get the winning gap, but by the time we hit the trails at Oak Valley it was clear that Matthys and Waylon were both suffering and it was going to be a sprint between them to see which team would take it.

We crossed the line 13 seconds behind first place.

We crossed the line 13 seconds behind first place.

Little did they know the Blend Properties duo of Chalres Keey and Ruan du Toit were sneaking up on them while they were playing games! Ultimately this led to Waylon getting ahead of Matthys, as well as Charles and Ruan sneaking past . We finished in 3rd place for the day, with 10 second separating the top 3 team. Exciting stuff!

Post race TV interview.

Post race TV interview.

Tomorrow will certainly be an interesting day, with much less climbing, but much more singletrack. I am really looking forward to how the race is going to unfold. Will keep you posted.

 

Until then.

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Wines To Whales Warmup

So with less that two days to go the excitement is building ahead of the 2012 edition of the Wines to Whales. Right now our bikes are ready, new tyres fitted, bodies rested and ready to give everything for the last race of the season!

The race, run in a 3 day format, requires riders to ride in two man teams. This year my partner is non other than last years winner Matthys Beukes of Cango Mountain Biking. Matthys, from Oudschoorn is in fantastic form after finishing 3rd in the Cape Pioneer with my Sani2C partner Ben Melt Swanepoel.

Matthys Beukes of Cango MTB

Matthys Beukes of Cango MTB

This is not to say we will have an easy time in our quest for a podium finish. This years edition of the Contego Wines to Whales will be the most competitive ever with Charles Keey and Ruan du Toit(Blend Properties) teaming up, as well as Dominic Calitz(Matthys’ winning partner from last year) riding with Craig Boyes, Louis Knipe and Adriaan Louw(Contego 28e), and Christtiaan Kriek and Jurgens Uys. All of these riders have the potential to take a stage win, which will certainly make for interesting racing!

We both finished strongly at SA Marathon Championships

We both finished strongly at SA Marathon Championships

Day 1’s route on Friday 9th November will take us from Lourensford Estate to Paul Cluver Estate in Grabouw. Stage one covers a distance of 69km, but packs in a hefty 1900m of climbing. The technical nature of the course will make it ideal for teams to test the pace and possibly make a winning move early on.

Day 2 on Saturday the 10th promises to the most entertaining of all. The route basically combines all the best singletrack, the area has to offer and will cover the Elgin Country Club, Groenlandberg, Lebanon, and of course the many km’s of singltrack Paul Cluver has to offer. The 65km distance is sure to seem short, and with on;y 1175m climbing will ensure the racing is tight!

Day 3 covers the most distance of all as we make our way toward the finish line on Onrus, just outside Hermanus. The 75km distance should pass by quickly with only 1300m climbing and still more epic singltrack to tackle!

A more detailed route map and profile can be found here.

So look out for a day by day report of how team RSA Web/ Cango MTB is doing, or follow us on Twitter to find out how the stage went before I can get a post out.

 

Ciao for now!

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