Friday, September 2, 2011

Gravel Travel

Saturday 27 August 2011 - Gravel Travel Ultra Marathon at Diemersfontein in Wellington. What an awesome race! 103.4 km; 8:13:04 with 2,906 meters of climbing. The start was at the Diemersfontein Wine Estate just outside Wellington. The race started a bit late at 07:58 due to the helicopter, which was covering the race. My aim was to enjoy the ride, which I thought I should complete in 7:00 to 7:30! I very quickly found myself cycling at a fair pace at the back of the field, but I was not last! The "race snakes" from the 75 km Marathon, came racing past after about 12 km. By this time I was averaging only 12 kph and have climbed 399m! During the next three hours my tempo increased a little and I managed to average between 14 and 15 kph. My average speed has increased to 14 kph by now. The terrain was also getting a little easier, but we encountered hills with regularity. By this time we were riding around the western side of Groenberg. I was now riding with the rear guard of the 75 km riders. It was interesting how we passed and repassed one another, especially around the water points. The first cut-off point was at 13:30 at the 69 km mark. At this point I still had 30 minutes in hand, so I was confidant of making the 16:00 cut-off at the end. Unfortunately, the "real" climbing only started from here. From km 69 to 78, we climbed 540 meters. That is 60 meters for every one-kilometer traveled. Now that I call serious climbing! Fortunately the gradient was fairly constant and I managed to main a steady pace, not once having to stop and push, although the thought crossed my mind a number of times. I was quite impressed when I reached, what I was sure the last water point, and still found it manned. The guys even asked me how many guys were behind me. I informed them that I was pretty sure I was the last competitor. At about 89 km I still found a lady marshal showing me where I had to turn right. I was quite thankful for this, because if she were not there I would have taken the wrong route! When I reached the 95 km mark, a scrambler came past, telling that there is one hill of 200-300 meters left and from then it is down hill to the end. I enjoyed the last couple of kilometers and was very pleased to see the guy manning the entrance gate to Diemersfontein. I crossed the finish line at 16:11 after riding for 8 hours and 13 minutes. I was a bit disappointed that the timekeepers have packed up at that point, but we were informed that the final cut-off would be at 16:00 and not 9 hours after the start as per the regulations. I also felt that they could have extended the cut-off by the 13 minutes we started late. If that were done, I would have just made it! It was a thoroughly enjoyable event and I never felt that I could not go on, even though my pace was a bit on the slow side. Sometimes it is just nice to go along for the ride!

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