Monday, January 30, 2012

Oak Valley 24 hour race

Saturday 21 January was the date for Dirtopia's 24-hour race at Oak Valley. Having, unexpectantly won this last year, I had no option but to enter again. I had no illusions about winning again, but I would give it my best shop. I decided to employ the same strategy of riding continuously with only taking some "longer" laps during the night. We heard that this year's lap was a little longer than last year.
My brother agreed to take care of the back up again, but as his son, Leon, was also riding, he would look after both of us. He had additional support from my wife, his wife, Leon's wife and their kids. So the Erasmus clan was out in force.
We arrived at 10:10, by which time all the shaded camping areas were taken, but we managed to get a reasonable spot, especially seeing that we had enough gazebos. I collected my number and went back to help with the erecting of tents and assembling my bicycle. The sky was overcast and the temperature was rising.


Race briefing was at 11:45 and then we lined up for the traditional "Le Mans" start. Due to this, I decided to not start with my hydration pack, which also carries all my tools, on my back. Bikes were at the Western end of the rugby field and lined up on the Eastern end. On "Go" we had to run the length of the field, get on our bikes and start the race.
Initially we started along the same route as last year, but after about 2 km we turned left where we turned right last year. Then it was right along some trees, up a small hill and over a dam. This was followed by some nice switchback single track through some trees on the other side of the dam, down a slight hill, through some ferns onto some more switchback single track which end with quite a climb up a farm road to the highest point of the course at 465 m. The down hill started with a ramp with quite a scary down section to some more switch backs with banked curves, more single track at the edge of some trees to the fastest part of the course which led us into another fast single track among some trees which ended with a reasonably difficult uphill ramp onto a level section where we could maintain good speed. This was followed by two short, but monster downhill sections, up a hill over as small ramp which led into another single track amongst the trees which was started with a steep downhill ramp into a sharp right followed by a left and some single track under the tress. Once out of here we were unto a farm road from where we turned right onto some more single, which was part of the course used last year. From here we followed last year's course, but whereas we used the road next to the orchard last year, we now had a new rough single track with many ups and downs, which demanded a lot more effort and concentration. The loop through trees just before the end from last year was not used. The rest of the last bit was the same as last year. Total length was 11.2km against last year's 9km, with only about 2km the same as last year. Total climbing per lap was more than double and technically this year’s course was most definitely more difficult than last year.
Half way through my first lap my number came loose. That was sorted out with some cable ties. Two kilometer into lap two I got a flat. Due to me not using my hydration, I had nothing to inflate my wheel except my pump and a pump on a MTB wheel is a bit of a nightmare. Fortunately a "good Samaritan" stoped and lent me a "bomb" and an inflation valve. On inflation I could hear the air escape. After a few yards I realised that it will be better to go back to the start, where all my back up was, and get my spare wheel. I phoned my wife and asked them to bring the spare wheel to the back of the start area. In the mean time I cycled as best I can with the flat wheel. When I got there I changed the wheels, with the "normal" trouble of struggling to get it in properly due to haste, but I managed and was on my way again. In total I lost about 20 minutes. There after the cycling was pretty uneventful, knocking off the laps in a shade less than 50 minutes at a time. I did have one minor mishap when I took a tumble due to missing a turn on my effort to stay in front of some faster guys. Fortunately nothing was broken, but my upper leg took most of the impact when I landed on tree trunk. My leg was quite sore, but I struggled on. Dusk arrived between 19:00-20:00 and I had to stop to fit my lights. Night riding is quite interesting and different. It normally is cooler, which makes cycling very pleasant, but you have to concentrate harder on where you are going. At 01:40 I had my second minor mishap when I took a head over heels tumble, which was the direct result of lack of concentration and fatigue. I wandered a bit too to the right on one of the single tracks, me front got stuck into the banking and I went flying over the tip. Fortunately I was not going to fast, but the result was a broken rear derailleur cable. These happened about 2 kilometers from the midway point and I now had only one gear to ride. As soon as I put any sort of pressure onto the pedals, I also encountered "chain suck". The result was that I had to push up all the hills, but could ride the down hills. I phoned my brother and asked him to arrange for somebody who could repair my bike. The ride home was fairly uneventful, except for pushing the up hills. On arriving at the start area, I was directed to the on site mobile workshop where they proceeded to replace the broken cable. I also managed to bend the hanger bolt, so the repair took about 30 minutes. Once done, I was on my way again. Two laps on and another problem. The battery of my riding lights gave up the ghost. I tried one lap with my secondary light and made it, but it was like riding with a candle! In the meantime my brother managed to borrow a light. I filled it and was on my way again, being able to at least see where I was going. A this point it was taking me about 90 minutes to do a lap.
Dawn arrived last after 05:00 and the pace started picking up again. Fatigue also started to take it's toll a and it was taking me about an hour to do a lap. With the sun rising the heat also increased. We were fortunate to have some cloud cover and a breeze to cool things down. I had a bacon and egg burger for breakfast and was back in the saddle quickly losing only about 15 minutes. The final laps was rolling off at 60 minutes a time and I was relieved when my last lap started at 11:10, ensuring that I would not get in before 12:00 and having to do another lap. At this point I was so tired that I opted to push some of the steeper sections. I was relieved when I came in just past 12:10 to complete my last lap.
Overall I was pleased with my effort in completing 23 laps and finishing 7th put of 98. Not as good as last year, but good enough. Why do something like this? Because of the sense of achievement when you cross the line after 24 hours and being able to say "I did it"!

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