Monday, August 20, 2012

Trans Baviaans 2012

Everything is ready for the Trans Baviaans this coming weekend, Saturday 18 August. According to reports it is all systems go for the use of the route through the Baviaans, although the water crossings is bound to be about knee high. With enough luck we should be able to cycle through without getting too wet.

We, Danie Kotze, Pierre van der Merwe and myself, had a meeting on 7 August to sort out the logistics for our adventure. Pierre informed us that he has a "deadline" for a job on which the Navy must sign off on Friday 17 August! All we could do was to hope that things would work out. I did phone the organisers and confirmed that we may change to a two-man team at registration, should Pierre not be able to make it. We kept the option open for Pierre to drive through on his own if he cannot get away on time. 

Pierre confirmed on Wednesday evening that it seems as though he will be able to get away on Friday, but he will not be able to get away before 10:00. Our plan was to leave between 09:00 and 10:00. On Thursday evening Pierre phoned to confirm that he is bring his bicyle to me so that we can load it. He confirmed that his meeting is scheduled for 08:30 and he should be able to get away by 10:00. We decided that we will travel with one vehicle, proved we can get away before 13:00. We also decided that we will meet Pierre in Goodwood at my brother's house, as that would reduce travelling time by between 30 and 45 minutes.

I picked Danie up at 09:40 on friday morning and we set off to my brothers place. There we waited patiently for Pierre to arrive. He phoned at about 10:45 to let us know that he was on his way. We managed to get going at 11:20. Due to the heavy rains and floading in Montagu the previous week, and also because it is a bout 40 km shorter to Willowmore via Prince Albert to use that route rather than the route via Oudtshoorn. We made good time and really enjoyed the beatiful scenery of the Hex River Valley and prince Albert Valley with beautiful snow capped mountains. We arrived in Willowmore just after 17:30. Registration went off without a hitch, we collected our three containers for checkpoint 2, 3 and 4 and we set off to the Marlu Geuast farm, where we were going to stay the night. Supper was at 19:00. In total there were 19 guests, who were either going to ride the Trans baviaans or support the riders. Supper was a feast. We got to bed at about 22:00, except for my brother and the host, who enjoyed a delightful evening over some bottles of wine discussing anything and everything, except politics! We all decided to put some dry clothes into the container for checkpoint 4 packed them before we went to bed. 

We had breakfeast at 07:00 and arrived in town in good time to deliver our containers, pick up our timing tokens and the listen to the rider's briefing at 09:45. The race got going promptly at 10:00.

The 50 km to the first control point included 573 meters on climbing and a total decent of 663 meter, which was mostly down Nuwekloof Pass and took us 2:07:05. 

We also encountered our first water crossing, although these were no more than a couple of centimeters deep. The  scenery through the Nuwekloof was breath taking!. The distance to control point two at vero's restaurant, a dostance of 52 km, took us 2:01:15. Climbing was limited to 216 meters but we descended another 656 meters. The water crossings became more frequent and also a little deeper. Initially we decicded that it is safer to walk through the deaper crossings, but after a while we realised that we can ride through as most of the water levels were only up to about bottom bracket level. Danie usually was the last one through the water hazards, but as we sent along he became more "bould" and started to take the lead. That was until we got to a fairly short stream, which had quite a serious "flow" towards the middle. Pierre was about to worn Danie about the possible "fource" of the waves of the flow, when Danie's wheels were taken out bay the water and he and bicycle started flowing down stream! Fortunately he regained his balance quickly and managed to catch his bicycle, not everything was wet! On the otherside of the steam he took out his cell phone to dry it as quickly as possible. He also took his top of off and dried that. As cycle gear dries quite quickly and it was still fairly hot, his clothes dried out within the next 15-20 minutes.
The scenery was still something to behold and the adventure of the last water crossing was forgotten quickly as we continued towards the next checkpoint at 122 km, which came a climb of 150 meters over a distance of 5 km. Theer we were treated with sosaties, wors, potatoes and some drinks. After a stop of about 15 minutes, we were on our way again, ready for one of the big water crossings after which came the Mother of all Climbs.

The water crossing was about 100-150 meters, with no fast flowing steams, but about thigh high deap, which meant walking in the water with shoes on and carrying your bike. I was wearing water tight Sealskin socks, which are good for keep water out, but once the water is in. it stays in! I therefore had to stop, take them off and dry them out as much as possible. After a 5-10 minute delay to do that we were on our way again. Next came the two Fangs. These were two short hills with about 50-70 meters of climbing in a kilometer each.There after came the Mother of all Climbs and the biggest climb of the Trans Baviaans really started. 481 meters of climbing over a distance of 10 kilometers. Danie was really going strong and left me and Pierre in his wake. At this stage Pierre was also managing a good pace with me bring up the rear. The road has been repaired with the bad patches filled up with cement. It definately was in a better state than two years ago when we came through with a vehicle. I think fatigue was setting because along the way my front wheel went off the cement strip and the loose gravel on the side caused me to make experiance a close encounter with mother earth. The only damage was a scratch on my finger and a dent in my ego! I was up in a flash and got going quickly again. Pierre was feeling the feeling the strain of the kilos done and desided to take a break. As I got to him he got going again and we carried on to the top. Shortly after reaching the top, we arrived at Bergplaas, checkpoint 4 where dry clothes awaited us. We first helped ourselves to something to eat, including some very welcome soup. We then put dry tops and socks. This was quite a lengthy stop and we got going again after about 20-30 minutes.

By now it was dark and the descent down Combrinck Pass was tackled with dew care. Most of the serious climbing was out of the way and we settled into a good rhythm as the  kilometers ticked by. The starts were out and it was not to cold. Road conditions were good, which made the riding pleasant. It was a bit of a shame that we could not see the beauty of the Grootriver Poort as we were cycling through it. Just befoer Hadleigh and the 5th checkpoint we were treated to some tarmack. We arrived at Hadleigh at about 20:20 where we were welcomed my some friendly people who gave us a chip roll and Steri Stumpies. Our stop lasted for about 20 minutes. On our way out Danie realised that he still had some dry socks in the backup vehicle, which added some extra time to our stop over.

Now there was still one serious water crossing and the "Never ending hill" between us and the end. We got to the water crossing, which was about 150 meters long, after about 15 minutes. As this was the last water crossing, we took the decision to take our shoes and socks off and walk trough bare foot. That was a good idea for staying dry, but not so good for soft bare feet over rocks and cement with stones. It probably took us 5 minutes cross plus another 5 minutes to take shoes off and put them on again. This was followed by a hill, which I though msut be the "Never ending hill" because it did not seem to end, but I did remember that there was another hill before the real long one! When we finally got to the famous "Never ending hill", I realised very quickly where the name came from. It never seems to end and it is not one long hill. Every so often there was a small down hill, just to head up hill again! In total the hill was 12 kilometer long with a total ascent of 490 meters. The unmaned checkpoint 6, where we had to check in on our own was at 196 kilometers and the final checkpoint at 203 kilometers. Refreshments consisted of mince filled jaffels and some drinks. At this point my GPS indicted that the battery was low. At this point I had no other option but to hope that it would last to the end.

The end was in sight and and we set off without much of a delay. But this time Danie was smelling the end and really started motoring. The route took a obviously hastely made detour to utilse and small bridge to cross under the Humansdorp/Kabeljauws River road, which gave us a tast of the only single track on the route. On the otherside we linked up with a gravel jeep track. The dreaning on this was not too good, with the result that we encountered some seriuos mud patches. Pierre had the unfortunate experience of a guy knocking him of his bike! The mus patches was not too serious and we quickly got into a goos rhythm. Jeffreys Bay's strated flashing in the distance, but we still had to get over a couple of smaller hills. Even though my energy level was not on par wuth my partners, I was able to peddle up all of them, passing some guys who opted to walk. The kilometers ticked by and it was not long before we turned right on tar, which was the old National road linking Cape Town and Port Elizabeth. With the help of my two team mates, who were setting the pace, we managed to real in a number of teams on our way to the finish. At 23:58 we stil had about 5 kilometers to go, so breaking 14 hours was out of the question. We were glad to see the second last right turn, a short up hill, turn left, a short down hill, right into the school grounds and another 200 meters to the end where we were met by some cheering ladies and a Spur finish hoop. My GPS finally stopped working about 400 meters before the end!

Toatal distance 226.96; total time 14:07:16; total riding time 11:23:56; 2,627 meter acsent; 3,432 meters descent; maximum speed 70.2 k.p.h; minimum tempreture 6 degrees Celcuis and maximum of 31. We finised 109 out of the 246 mens teams which completed the race and 137 out of 315 for all comers.

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