Monday, November 26, 2012
The 2012 Double Century was scheduled for 24 November. After the labour unrest in the Western Cape since early November, the running of the event was in question, but fortunately sanity prevailed and things quieten down sufficiently by end November for the event to go ahead. The event was also "challenged" by the local weather when a section of road got washed away during October. But in spite of these challenges it was all systems go and on 23 November we all headed out go Swellendam for the early start on Saturday.
Our pre race training went will with 6 new people and the return of 1 "old hand". 10 people turned up for the second training ride, which is a record!
The team pre-race meeting took place at the Swellengrebel Hotel on Friday evening at 19:00. We agreed that we were going to try and finish in 8 hours as a complete team this year and qualify for the special medal. The weather forecast for the race was not very promising with a 70% change of rain and a 20-30kph NW wind. During Friday night the wind picked up and when we woke up on Saturday morning was blowing at a frisk pace, but we had the luxury of starting with the wind on our backs. The sky was clear with no clouds about, so the prospect of a dry race was good.
We were off at 05:45 and made good time to Tradouw Pass with the help of the wind. Once we got into the kloof, there was very little wind. We reached the first water point, where we received our free bottle of water, at the top of the pass after an hour and twenty minutes of cycling.
The sky was still clear and there was still no real wind on the other side and on the road from Barrydale to Op de Tradouw.
Support was changed this year with no support vehicles allowed from the start up to Ashton and also on the last section from where the road was washed away to the end. A free water bottle was provided at the top of Tradouw Pass and we were allowed to fill a bag with water/race drinks and some eats for the top of Op de Tradouw.
As soon as we left the "feeding station" at Op de Tradouw, we started to encounter bad weather. It started with a light drizzle, which then turned into a heavy down pour. The rain was hurting us as we cycled downhill. To make matters worse, we picked up our first puncture! Fortunately the rain stopped and the sun started to break through the clouds. Unfortunately that brought the wind, which, at this point, was blowing diagonally across us from the left. This did slow us down and tiered us out and slowed our progress. We reached the first support station at 110 km after 5:11! That is about an hour longer than what we aimed for! The new rules also allowed us to spend 30 minutes in the "transition area". We used 27 minutes.
When we hit the road to Robertson, which is only about 15 km, we encountered a strong NW straight into our faces. In previous years we easily maintain 26-28 kph on this section. We were now averaging 13-15 kph! It took us 45 minutes to do the 14 km to the turn-off!
We were all very relieved on turning left at Roberston and getting the wind onto our backs. Our speed immediately climbed to 30 kph. We had a quick stop at the Bonnievale turn-off to the red bridge for some refreshments and s comfort break for Andre, who had some stomach problems. On the next section of about 20 km we had two more punctures. A heavy rainstorm also greeted us at the Bonnievale Kelder turn. At the second puncture, the slower guys continued on, while three of us helped to fix the wheel.
Some of the guys waited for us at the Drew water point, while we caught up to the rest on our way to the first of the lady three hills into Swellendam.
The sky was not looking to good, but we hoped that we would be able to get by before the rain hit us. By the top of the second hill we were all together again. Just after the top we got to the compulsory portage section where the road was washed away. We were just getting into our rhythm, when the first raindrops hit us. At least it was down hill and we had the wind on our backs. Over the last hill a heading home. All together and racing for the end. 5 to go! Our time is 9:02. Deducting the 27 minutes at the feeding station, hive us 20 minutes to break 9 hours. 3 km to go! Hold it, Jaco picked up a puncture! He some slime in the tube and as it is only 3 km to go, we "bom" some air in and get going. That worked until we get to the top of the hill just before the end with 500 meters to go it is completely flat and we have to stop again to put in a new tube! The rain is now coming down in buckets and we are freezing! We cross the timing mat in 9:28! It was raining all the way to the finishing area. We even encounter problems with our breaks due to all the water! Most of us miss the ladies handing out finisher medals in the rain and have to turn back to get it. We all are very thankful for the meal and drink voucher. Some wanted a hot shower first and some wanted to fill their tummies. I decided to go for the latter and was pleasantly surprised by the warmness inside the hall. The pasta meal and drink went down very well. We were all glad in completing as a group and enjoyed the "camaraderie"!
When I got to my tent, I found that the wind and rain has caused havoc! It is lying flat, there were a number of small pools inside the tent and most of my close has some degree of wetness! Fortunately there were enough dry clothes and my towel was still useable!
What a grand experience. Thanks to all the guys and to our support crew. Our official time was 9:01:58 and we finished 188 out of 216 teams which completed the race.