Sunday, November 24, 2013

Eselfontein MTB

As our team captain did not get our entry for the Coronation Double Century, which took place on Saturday 23 November 2013, in on time, resulting in no DC this year, I opted for the Eselfontein MTB in Ceres, which took place on the same day. My friend, Danie Kotze decide to join me and we set course for Ceres at 06:00 on Saturday morning to be in time for the 08:30 start. We arrived at Eselfontein just after 07:00, collected our numbers and had ample time for the start on the race. The weather was glorious with the temperature at 19 degrees Celsius and promising to get hotter as the day progressed.

We got going just after 08:30, heading down from the manor house towards to hills south of the farm. The first couple on kilometers were on farm roads and jeep tracks. After about 5 km we started hitting the famous Eselfontein single tracks, which has been used extensively on the Absa Cape Epic. These were free flowing and mostly on level terrain with some slight down hills. We also had to cross some steams resulting in wet feet, but with the fantastic weather that dried quickly. After about 30 minutes we picked up the splendid singles tracks through the local forest. This lasted for approximately 15-20 minutes with beautiful flowing tracks through the forests on the farm.

After we got out of the forests, we crossed over to the hill north west of the farm and the first serious climb of the day starting at 520 meters and topping out at 777 meters over a distance of 6 kilometers. This was followed by a very technical downhill of 3.5 kilometers descending down to 561 meters, followed by another climb to 737 meters over the next 3 kilometers. What goes up must come down so we went down to 541 meters over the next 8 kilometers. After a short lull 2 kilometers with little climbing, we got to the monster of the day. At 36 kilometers we started a climb from 550 meters to 1,014 meters over a distance of 8 kilometers to the highest point of the day. The scenery from here was truly breathtaking with a view over the whole Ceres valley right up to Mitchell's Pass. This followed by a downhill, which was fairly free flowing, with some technical bits thrown in, down to 555 meters over a distance of 8 kilometers.

We then did the first section where we started out this morning, before the forests, but in reverse. On this section I picked up a rider who seemed familiar. On enquiry in turned to be August Cars tens, fellow Freedom Challenger and adventurer who rode from Kilimanjaro to Pietermaritzburg during May/June 2012. We really had a nice ride and chat for the last 5 kilometers to the finish.

This really was an awesome ride with most of the route made up of purpose built single tracks. A route really worthwhile traveling 305 kilometers for. The average temperature for the day was 30 degrees Celsius with a maximum of 38! It was really hot in the valleys, but we were fortunate to give a cool breeze on the hills.

Total time was 4:22:52 for a distance of 62.97 kilometers and 1,419 meters of climbing and 1.412 meters of elevation loss.   

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Wine2Whales Day 3

I decided to set my alarm for 05:30 to ensure I get an opportunity to use the FNB VIP toilets again, but the campsite lighting went on ay 05:00 with the result that I woke up at 05:00. As we went to bed quite early, it was easy to also get up early. Breakfast was the same as the day before. We once again got prompted and were moved up to group C, with a starting time of 07:20.

The day’s route was generally downhill, starting at 293 meters through some local fruit plantations and past Paul Cluver, but not through the amphitheater again and ending at sea level at Onrus Caravan Park. The first 40 kilometers included some more single tracks and the old Houwhoek Pass down to Botriver. The single track leading to the pass was sublime! Unfortunately we ended up behind some guys who were less proficient on the technical sections, resulting in a lot of stop/start cycling as these guys were struggling to negotiate the single tracks.  We reached Botriver covering the 26-kilometer in 1:30.

As we reached the old pass, I started noticing a very ominous sound coming from my bike’s bottom bracket. Every now and then it sounded as though I was grinding ball bearings. The only re-assuring thing was that the noise was not constant, so the hope remained that it will hold out until the end and not seize before then! It also had not apparent effect on the performance of my bike.

After Botriver we dissented the Botriver, which went down to 7 meters above sea level at a distance of 40 kilometers. We had 35 kilometers left, but now the big climbing of the day started. We still had to negotiate three major hills before we reached the top of Rotary Way from where it was 10 kilometer down hill to the end. We went up a jeep track and around a hill on a contour path through some quite beautiful scenery of fields of purple flowers, into a single track through some blue gum trees. This took us the Heel en Aarde Valley and the Hamilton Russel Vineyards where we had our last water point. Just before we reached Hamilton Russel we went down a hill past some vineyards. Some guys came racing past us and one on them miss judged a contour water furrow, lost his balance and careered head first into a support pole. We stopped to see if he was OK, but as he was attended to by one of his mates, we left them. We are not sure what the outcome of this was, but we did not get any bad reports, so we presumed that he was fine.

After stopping at the water point we went up Rotary Way, a 135-meter climb over a distance of 2.5 kilometers. This took us onto a district road past the Hermanus Hang Glider launch pad, with breath taking views over the bay, onto a single track down to the Hemel en Aarde tar road. The next stretch was a magnificent single track down the valley to the Hemel en Aarde shopping complex on the Onrus/Hermanus road. Was crossed this road under a culvert and sprinted the last kilometer to the end at the finish line. Total riding time 4:40 and finishing 171 out of 507 teams and moving up to 148th overall. and13th in the Master category for 50+ year olds. Not bad for two old buddies with a combined age of 127!

Wine2Whales Day 2

I set my alarm for 06:00, but it went off at 05:00! That turned out pretty well as I found the FNB VIP toilets and was able to brush my teeth and put my contact lenses in relative comfort compared to the confined space of the porta toilets, which was provided for tenet crowd. Breakfast was served from 06:30 and once again was excellent! Muesli, Weetbix, bacon, scrambled eggs, boerewors,, toast, juice, coffee – eat your heart out! I settled for muesli with yoghurt, some fruit juice and coffee.

Our result from day one got us promoted from group F to group D, so we started at 07:30. The first 3 kilometers was uphill again, but we only gained 100 meters, which was not that bad. There after the route was very much a case of regular of ups and downs. We encountered some magnificent singles tracks and the ground condition was quite reasonable considering all the rain we had the day before. We also got an opportunity to negotiate the wonderful Paul Cluver Amphitheater, which will only be opened to the public during December. This consisted of some wonderful single tracks, bridges and various similar challenges over a distance of 6 kilometers.

This led us to some forest tracks, which was very muddy and also quite tricky. The mud got into the drive train again and this led to chainsuck, which sucks! We were fortunate again in that the terrain was such that I could get away with negotiating most hills in the big chain ring. We maintained a good pace and completed the 68 km in 4:54, finishing 151 out of 537 teams and moving up to 159th overall.

The campsite was in a much better condition, although there were still quite a few soggy patches. Supper consisted of roast lamb, mussels, roast vegetable, savory rice and salad. This was rounded off with chocolate mouse and flavoured milk!

Wine2Whales Day 1

The long awaited Wine2Whales have arrived. Unfortunately the weather was true to form. For those who do not know, the third day of the Wine2Whales rained out a couple of years ago. It was so bad, they cancelled the third day! This year we started in the rain. 

We (my partner Mike Smit and myself) arrived at Lourensford, Somerset West at 07:00, with ample time until our 07:50 starting slot to hand in our bags and get down to the start area. The weather was very overcast, but no serious rain. On our way there we had a couple of light showers, but nothing too serious. As we approached the start area, a light drizzle started falling. We stared in seeded groups at 10-minute intervals. 

The route kicked up from the beginning. In the first 5.4 km we climbed 328 meters. That is 60.74 meters for very kilometer! The next 19 kilometers was downhill, even though it did not feel that way. We were cycling on the contour of the hills around Lourensford estate. The scenery was quite careened, but the constant drizzle made riding quite a challenge, especially going some of the slippery downhills! Every now and then the clouds lifted enough to allow us a peak over False Bay, but just as we thought that it is about to clear, some more clouds and mist covered us with more rain. The rain was not too bad and the temperature was reasonable at around 12-14 degrees Centigrade. The real problem was that the rain created more than a fair share of mud and mud and mountain biking do not go together too well. The mud tends to clog up the drive train, which result in gears not working properly. We were very fortunate in that we had no technical problems during the first 55 kilometers of first stage. 

After going downhill up to water point one, the route continued over some hills in the Somerset West area, which I did not know, existed! I always thought it was all downhill from the top of Lourensford to The bottom of Sir Lowry's Pass. Now I knew differently! In the next 12 kilometers we climbed 140 meters and had a descent of the same magnitude. 

There after we started the climb up the lower slops of Sir Lowry's Pass leading onto Gantouw Pass and water point 2, about two kilometers to the bottom of the pass. Gantouw Pass is about two kilometers north east of the top of Sir Lowry's Pass. This is the routes which was used in the eighteen hundreds for moving cargo inland. There is a distance of 3 kilometers where we were not allowed to cycle, as it is a heritage area. There are actual marks in the rocks showing where the ex wagon went across the mountain. It is incredible to think that people with ox wagons and goods went over that mountain! It was so steep that some of us carried our bikes up the hill as this was easier than manhandling a bike over the rough terrain. Once over the top, we were allowed to get back onto our bikes and got riding again.

The terrain here was sandier, which made for good riding in the wet conditions. After doing about nine kilometers, we encountered our first technical problem. A screw worked loose on the gearshift of mike's bike and he had to do the rest of the day in one gear. Fortunately it got stuck in a reasonable gear for the terrain and we managed to maintain a good pace. We tried to get it fixed at the next water point, but to no avail. We also moved away from the sandy areas into mud again and I started encountering "chain suck" problem. That is when your chain gets jammed due to all the mud and muck, which the drive train picked up due to the wet conditions. Fortunately this also only happens when one uses the from small chairing, so I just continue in the big chairing, having to push some of the steeper hills as the gears available was too big. We went down some awesome single tracks through some pine forest, which carried on and on and on! It really made for some really magnificent riding. The last couple of kilometers went through some of the fruit tree plantations around Grabouw and we finished off with some of Oak Valley's legendary single tracks.

It was a long day in the saddle. We took 6:11:50 over the 75 kilometers and finished 168 out of 595 teams. 

This event included meals and accommodation and those who elected to use the accommodation was allocated a tent on the local sports field. This was fine, except for the fact that with all the rain, the walking areas were getting very soggy! Supper was excellent and consisted of very well grilled steaks, a chicken dish, vegetables and salads provided by Food Lovers Market. This was complemented by various juices and flavoured milk provided by Fair Cape Dairies. 

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Trans Baviaans 2013

The 2013 Trans Baviaans took place on Saturday 17 August. Danie Kotze, Pierre van der Merwe and myself entered a team again and we had my brother as backup driver. 

I left Bloubergstrand at 09:30 on Friday morning, picked Danie up in Sunning Dale and Pierre and my brother in Goodwood. We left Goodwood just after 10:00 and headed off to Willowmore. We arrived there at 16:00, registered and left for my cousin's guest farm where we stayed over for the night. In total they accommodated 27 participants on their farm on Friday night. We were treated to an excellent supper of Kudu steaks, chops, sosaties, sausage, veggies, salads and freshly baked bread! 

After a 07:00 breakfast, we headed off to Willowmore for the start of the race at 10:00. During the night we had a gale force wind and as we lined up for the start, a few drops of rain started falling. 

The race got under way at 10:00, by which time the rain stopped. The rout was the same as last year and we headed out of town past the golf course over some gravel tracks. The initial going was at a very sedate pace as over taking was quite difficult.
Once we joined the main gravel road to the Baviaanskloof, the pace started picking up. We were also fortunate to have the wind on our backs. We made good time and really enjoyed the beauty of the Nuwekloof Pass and passing through the awesome sight of high cliffs on both sides of the road. We made good time and reached the first water point at Vero's Restaurant after 2:09, where we were treated to "roosterkoek". We had a bit of misfortune as Pierre informed us that his rear gear cable has broken. After we had some refreshments, we set about replacing the cable. We were fortunate in that Danie had a spare cable. We set about the task and managed to get it right first time. Total stopping time was 17 minutes. 

The section to water point 2 was all downhill and covered the next 52 km at an average  speed of 28 kph with a maximum of 68. Due to the lack of rain, the river crossings was a breeze. All of them were rideable. We managed to maintain our good pace and reached Geelhoubos after a further 1:50, 10 minutes quicker than last year. We had a good recovery stop and got going again after 16 minutes.

The next section to Smitskraal included the climb of Grassnek Pass. Not to steep, but steep enough and a relentless grind to get to the top. Initially to road is fairly flat with a number of water crossings and then comes Grassnek. A climb of 200 meters followed by a descent of 257 meters. It took us 1:04 to cover the 20 km from Geelhoutbos to Smitskraal. Here we stopped for sosaties, wors and potatoes. Total stoppage time was 22 minutes.

The next section to Bergplaas included the "Fangs" and Holgat Pass. It took us 1:33 to cover the next 17 km. the slowest section of the day, but also the most number of climbs and highest ascent between any two water points. 671 meters of climbing. There is only one option under these circumstances. Put your head down and turn the pedals over! We arrived at Bergplaas at 17:55. Here we had the option of hot soup and coffee or tea plus various other items to eat. We also had a container with clean cycling gear shipped here. I initially decided not to use any if that gear, but realised after a while that my fleece vest and cycling pants was wet from sweat. I then decided to change everything for dry clothes, including two cycling tops, for warmth and my shower proof jacket over the whole lot. The dry thermal socks and gloves were perfect for the weather. When we left, after 28 minutes, the temperature was five degrees Celsius. 

Now it was downhill all the way go the Gamtoos River crossing. It was still light, so the going down Combrinck Pass was easier than last year. By the time we got to the Grootrivierpoort, it was dark and we could not really appreciate the beauty of the Poort. Water point 5 was moved 5 km back from the Hadley packing shed to the Komdomo campsite. We arrived here at 19:15 and were treated with a chip roll and chocolate flavoured milk. We recuperated, gathered some strength  and got going again after 21 minutes. 

The next 7 km to the Gamtoos River crossing was flat and then the climb up the Never Ender started. During the next 18 km we climbed 288 meters and it took us 1:17. By this tome a light rain was falling. We arrived at Zuurbron at 21:36. The end was on sight, so we only stopped for 10 minutes. 

The route from here to the Jeffreys Bays turnoff was along jeep tracks and did include some minor climbs. We were also fortunate to initially have a strong wind in on our backs, but then we headed SW and into the wind. We had a miner reprieve behind a hill, which was pretty steep, but when we got to the plateau it was grinding time against the wind. A steady rain was also falling by now. We caught up with two girls and for a while the five of us cycled together up the Jeffreys Bay tar road. We put our heads down and pulled away from the girls, which was a mistake! The finish was moved from last year, but the directions were not very clear. Both Danie and myself had some problems downloading the GPS tracks, so when we got to the Jeffreys Bay turn off, we turned left while we should have hone straight. Fortunately somebody in a vehicle, who new the correct route, saw us, chased us down and told us turn around. We lost about 5 minutes. The last 6 km was a steady climb to the finish in contrast to last year where it was mostly flat or downhill! There also were route guides at the circles we encountered and we reached the end after 13:03, 4 minutes behind the two girls! We an elevation gain of 3,203 meters and elevation loss of 3,949 meters. Total distance travelled was 226.42 km.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Die Burger MTB

Saturday 3 August 2013 is time for the Burger Mountain Bike Challenge in Stellenbosch. The weather was awesome, the scenecry was out of this world and the challenge was great!

The starting time for our group was 08:15. A reasonable hour considering we had to drive through from Bloubergstrand. We arrived at the start at 07:30 and had some time to enjoy a cup of coffee before we got going. The weather was excellent with the sun out, no clouds, and no wind and not too cold. The temperature at the start was 8 degrees Celsius.

The first part of this race is a struggle. During the first 2 hours 16 minutes (136 minutes) we climbed 1,260 meters. That is nearly 10 meters of climbing for every kilometer travelled. It took me 2 hours to do the first 30 kilometers. We first scaled the “koppies” behind Coetzenburg and then had to go up Bothmaskop to the top of Helshoogte. We then had a bit of a downhill along the Old Helshoogte Pass, crossing below a reservoir above Idas Valley and onto Rustenburg. There we headed up again, but also traversed some nice single tracks, which took us past Delheim and onto Kanonkop. By this time I had been in the saddle for 2 hours 32 minutes and covered 39 kilometers. The route took us through vineyards, blue gum trees and more vineyards. The view was exquisite and from the highest point we had a beautiful view of False Bay. Unfortunately we were not here for the view and the legs had to do the work. We crossed the R44 by going underneath by way of a culvert. At this stage the majority of the climbing was behind us as we started heading back home. A couple of minor bumps until we got to Kayamandi and Papagaaiberg. These climbs were much easier than the ones we encountered during the first half of the race. Then past the Stellenbosch Cemetry and the historic Oude Libertas and onto the finish at the Stellenbosch Primary School.

Total distance was 59.54 km; total riding time, excluding stops was 3:33, with 4 minutes added for stops. We climbed 1,540 meters in total. A really pleasant day with a well organised event. It was good training for the up coming Trans Baviaans on 17 August!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Race to Rhodes - Day 6

We got up early, got into the car and drove back to Tenahead, where we left our bicycles and started our descent at 06:06. It all went smoothly and we arrived in Rhodes at 08:15. Forth best finishing time from the 14 people who finished Race to Rhodes. Not bad for a 64 year old!

Here we were informed that our actions should result in disqualification. Fortunately sanity prevailed, and we were all penalised with an official arrival time off 18:00 rather than our actual time of 08:15. My two riding buddies had to sit the day out and were only allowed to continue after 18:00. They decided that they would rather get some sleep and leave on Sunday morning at 04:00. As far as I was concerned, I was demoted as provisional leader of the Race to Rhodes to just a finisher, for which I am thankful under the circumstances.

What a wonderful experience! I still am in awe at the "racing snakes" that are doing the full 2,300 km to Cape Town in less than 15 days and in every woman who actually take this on! Words cannot describe to effort that goes into an experience like this, the memories that remain and awesome people you meet along the way.


After two days I thought that my backside would not last. After four days I had no problems in that area any longer.

My bike's front brakes and rear wheel bearings started giving problems on the last day, so the finish came just in time.

It is incredible what punishment one can subject your body to and its ability to recover.

I never would gave been able to do this if it was not for the prayer support from my family and friends at home.

I thank Jesus Christ for the incredible strength He gave me to do this and for the opportunity to experience His creation in this intensity!

Lam 3:25 The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him.

This the "trophy"I received for my efforts!

Race to Rhodes - Day 5

The decision was made the previous evening that we do one and a half support stations again and push through to Rhodes.

We left at 05:08 and very quickly encountered navigational problems in the dark. After doing a full circle and losing about 20 minutes, we managed to find a route via some tracks between houses and through the veld to a public road we had to get on. My riding buddies new this part of the route and by now the sun was up so we moved along quickly. First along the road and then down a mountain on a good track onto another public road. This took us to the entrance of the Vuvu valley. The Vuvu valley is about 20 km long with a river running along it and a number of tributaries flowing it.
There was some cattle tracks, but most of the way one just have to find your  way up the valley through some grasslands and follow the general glow of the river with a number of river crossings. Pushing your bike through while stepping on partly submerged rocks and not getting your shoes wet above your ankles could do all of these. This journey took us about two hours and led us go the foot of Vuvu. To get to Vuvu we had to ascent about 220 meters over a distance of 300 meters. A very large portion of this involved carrying our bikes.
We reached Vuvu at 11:55 had lunch and pressed on to Rhodes, but to get there we had to scale the notorious Lehana! It took us about an hour to get to the start of Lehana, an ascent of 1,000 meters over a distance of 9 km to a container, used but the shepherds right at the top of the mountain.  After 2 km we realised we were going up the wrong valley and had to turn back, losing about 40 minutes. We continued our ascent but then realised we were to far down the right hand slope. To get to the high ground we had to hall our bikes up the side if the mountain. We then proceeded along the spine of the ridge, but even though the narrative said keep right we stayed left to ensure that we keep the container in sight. This made life a little more difficult as the angle was more severe than on the right. Progress was very slow and we were losing daylight, but were getting there. We were very tired by this time, which also impeded our progress. We had about one km to go when darkness overtook us. This entire time we also had to deal with a strong wind. Once darkness arrived, the temperature and the wind-chill factor set in.  By the time we were level with the container, we very, very tired and cold. The last couple of meters to the container involved a virtual vertical ascent again, but there was a longer, but "kinder" rout around the left, which we decided to take. This was a mistake. The wind was worse on the left and when we got to the top we could not find the container or the path down the other side. After walking around in circles and just about freezing, we stumbled upon the path and started cycling. I looked at my compass and saw that we were going NW while we should be going SE! We stopped and turned around. After about 5 minutes of cycling we saw the container in front if us! (The top of the mountain is similar to Table mountain with a cliff front but flattop). We decided to see if we couldn’t get into the container and wait the night out there. This has happened before;  as recently as last year. To our surprise there people in it and some very potent "grass" fumes were coming from it. We enquired the way down, got directions and were on our way. We were going very slowly due to the wind and fatigue. To our surprise we heard voices behind us. The "container guys" were going to escort us down the mountain on foot and they started walking down the mountain with us in tow. This continued for about 4 km. We bid them farewell, two Angels who guided us, and cycled the last km to Tenahead Lodge, where we were sure we could find accommodation for the night. It was only 39 to Rhodes, mostly downhill, but we were just too cold and tired. We were very well received and offered a hot drink, but to our dismay the place was fully booked. We considered the options. Somebody suggested that we phone the race office and find out if it is allowed to get a lift to Rhodes, sleep there and come back the next morning and continued the ride. This was an option as my brother was waiting for me in Rhodes with my car. At this stage we were so tired and cold that the race rules did not even enter our mind! We phoned, were incorrectly informed that it will be fine and arranged to be fetched. As the road is not on a very good condition, we had to wait an hour for my brother to arrive and another hour to get down to Rhodes finally arriving there at 22:30. On arrival we were informed that the fact we received outside assistance, may create a problem. That was the next day's problem. We had supper and went to bed having done 53 km while climbing well over 2,500 meter and being on the road for 15 hours.

Race to Rhodes - Day 4

It was an early start again. The start out of Masakala us quite easy and we were onto the Kinera Planes in no time. Navigation through was also easy and we stopped at Queens Mercy, where we bought the last three cool drinks in the shop. From there we made our way past the Maria Linden Mission and School to Mphrane hill.
The view from this hill is magnificent. It was a 360-degree view of the whole countryside. The way was marked by one of the famous Freedom Challenge bokkies. Two years ago I saw this bokkie but decided that it was too steep. This year I experienced what is possible! We clocked in at Malekonyane just before 11:00 and were out of there just after 11:30 pushing onto the interim support station at Tinana Mission. Two years ago I spent 33 hours at this support station. This year it was 33 minutes!
We lost about 30 minutes finding our way to Ongeluksnek, but got there in good time. We also managed quite well past the brickmakers to the top of Taba Chitja.
The descent down the other side was even more scary than the Mhprane earlier in the day, descending 156 meters over a distance of 880 meters followed by an ascent of 274 meters over a distance of 2.98 km. up the other side towards Black Fountain. Here we once again had an issue or two with the navigation and lost probably another half an hour. This loss was to come and haunt us later. From Black Fountain down to Tinana mountain we were suppose to keep right generally. Unfortunately we did not stick to this rule and went left at one point. Luckily we realised this very quickly and found our way back, picking up some bicycling tracks and following them. It was getting late and we had to push to get to the top of the mountain as getting down in the dark was an issue. After a while we once again realised that we were going in the wrong direction! We went further to the right but could not pick up the right track. By now it was dark and the short route down the mountain was not an option anymore. We had no alternative but to take the long route down the left side. Here luck was on our side as this was the route I took two years ago and sort of knew my way. It all worked out well, even though we had our doubts and we clocked in at the Tinana Mission interim support station at 20:30 covering 94 km with an ascent of 1,929 meters in a time of 15:18 of which at least 3 hours was due to navigational problems. Once again we found out how difficult it was finding your way in the dark.

Race to Rhodes - Day 3

We got going at 05:07. Navigation in the dark is always a problem and we lost our way to a certain extend, but found our way out and through to Glen Edward, where had the customary soup and other refreshments.
 We were out of there by 10:30 and onto Taylerville via some reasonably good gravel roads.
Here took a left turn again and after a short while went onto some cattle tracks and through wattle plantations and another shallow river crossing. We were making good progress and arrived at the foot of another little hill we had to scale. Fortunately this one was not too long and led us onto a district road.
After a short while we turned of onto some tracks to find our way through a kloof and onto the Prospect School. Here we took a quick left and right and down a foot path through Heilbron, over some flood planes via cattle tracks into Masakala, our over night stop. 93 km; 1,812 meter climbing; 11:03 on the road with actual riding time of 8:09.

Race to Rhodes -Day 2

We (Gavin, Henry and myself), left Allendale at 05:12. The first section was fairly difficult, but we had some old hands in our group and found our way to the Donnybrook forests without too much difficulty. We stopped for some water in Donnybrook and continued through to Centacow. We did turn a little early, but that turned out to be a little short cut!
Here we were treated to some soup again and quickly set off. The initial section involved a climb and some undulations up to the next turnoff. We then started a climb of 355 meters over a distance of 4.72 km.
Once over the top we descended down to a river, which we managed to cross without getting too wet. From here the rout took us through a blue gum forest and over the next hill, which was "easy" compared to what we have gone over before. Down the otherside and onto another " monster" climb. 3.56 km with 376 meter ascent. This took us 49 minutes. Once over the top, we had to negotiate the Ntsikeni northern fence. This consisted of going over a three-meter high fence with a home made "ladder" made from tree branches. Now it was a relatively short distance to the over night lodge,or so we thought! We still had to cover a distance of 12 km and it took us  71 minutes. We arrived at our destination after covering 98 km with 2,621 meter of climbing and taking us 11:58! Total actual riding time was 8:56. The three hours variation was due to stops and pushing!

Race to Rhodes - Day 1

I woke up at 04:00 for breakfast at 04:45. We left for the town hall at 05:15. Everybody gathered there and the "race" got going at 06:00.

We were escorted through to Bisley Nature Reserve. I teamed up with Gavin Robinson and Henry Fengove. They were going through to Cape Town. In the end we stayed together up to Rhodes. The first section through the Reserve went pretty easy up to 8 km. We then took a farm road through the cane fields to the Richmond road. We then proceeded down to Baynesfield. After 14 km we turned left onto a forestry road and the first climb. This took us through some plantations onto Cunningham Castle, a distance of 5.28 km and 290 meter accent. After a short descent we were at Minerva where we were treated to some hot soup and drinks. We then descended down into Byrne and through to the Umkomaas Valley, which included a crazy descent down a concrete road at an angle of up to 30%!
We had the option of crossing the river, which was about thigh high or along the bushes on the left bank. We felt that it would be better to stay dry and therefore tackled the bushes and crossing via the road bridge. This led us onto Hela Hela. An ascent of 607 meters over a distance of 5.71 km, taking us about 68 minutes.  
From the top it was a short hall to Allendale and our first support station. Total distance 109 km; 2,609 meter ascent; time 10:12.

Race to Rhodes - Getting there

My brother and I left Cape Town on Saturday 8 June at 06:00. The plan was to drive to where we get and sleep there. We opted for the N1 and from Bloemfontein onto Pietermaritzburg. We had supper at Bethlehem at about 18:00 and pushed on. The GPS directed us to a Caravan park in Ladysmith, which we found, but it was in a terrible state and very noisy, so we gave it a miss. Next stop was Escourt, which was good and we got to sleep at about 23:30.

Next morning we took the R103 through to Pietermaritzburg. We had breakfast along the way and lunch at my cousin's place in Kloof. He dropped me off at Aintree Lodge at 16:00. I collected my race number and prepared my kit for the ride. Supper and race briefing was at 18:30.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Six days to go

Six days to the start of my Ride to Rhodes. We will be leaving Cape Town on Saturday morning driving to somewhere in the Free State, where we will sleep. Sunday through to Pietermaritzburg for a fairly early arrival so that I can have a nice and relaxing Sunday evening. Monday morning 06:00 the action starts! The weather is looking good for the Ride to Rhodes.

Monday, May 27, 2013

AMA Rider 100 miler

Saturday 25 May 2013 and it is time for the AMA Rider 100 miler in the Malmesbury area.

Preparations for this have gone well with the 36ONE and a number 100 km plus rides in anticipation of the 100 miler. Three of us planned to travel together to the start at Swartland Cellars in Malmesbury and we arrived in good time for the start, which was scheduled for 07:30.

As is custom with most races these days, we got going promptly at 07:30. The first 8 km was through some farmlands and jeep tracks east of Malmesbury and included a number of small sharp climbs. We then hit the local district roads passing on the eastern side of Paardeberg to the first water point at 32 km. This included a stretch of 4.2 km where we climbed 162 meters. We left the district roads for a while and had to negotiate some farm tracks leading onto the short stretch of tar road to cross the R45 running from Wellington to Malmesbury. This took us onto a good district road again before we had the turn off to the “breakfast” stop. After the breakfast stop we encountered our first serious climb of the day. 130 meters over a distance of 2.23 km followed by a 150 meter descent in 2.43 km, which led us back onto district roads, with the exception of crossing the R46 leading from Hermon to Riebeek-Kasteel. This was negotiated through some farmlands and using the bank of the Berg River where the road bridge for the R46 crosses it at 70 km. During this stretch we formed a nice group, which was working together well and managed to maintain a good pace. The next water point was at 82 km. Total time to here was about 3:50, which meant I was on for completing the course in less than 8 hours. I ate a couple of slices of banana bread, had a couple of glasses of Coke, stuffed my pocket with jelly babies and had my chain oiled. After the water point we formed another group, with most of the previous people, and cracked on the pace. We got onto one of the local large district roads, but due to the fact that it one of more regularly used roads, the corrugations were very bad. It was virtually impossible to find a piece of road that was smooth. We really were pleased when we were guided to left onto a lesser road, which was narrower, but with a much better surface.

The lunch stop came at 110 km. By this time I have spent 5:53 in the saddle. We were treated to some pasta salad and a cup of soup. After I ate and had my water bottle filled, I was on my way again. This time I left on my own. There were three guys a bout a kilometer in front of me, but I was not making any impression in catching them. I therefore decided to continue a pace that was comfortable for me. We turned right onto  the R311 running from Riebeek-Kasteel to Moorreesburg and continued on this road for one km before turning left onto gravel again. I was not catching anybody, but nobody was catching me either.  This continued for about 11 km, when I heard wheels grinding on the ground behind me. I tried to latch onto the guy as he came past, but gave up very quickly. The pace was just too high. We covered 30 km from the lunch stop, climbing 110 meters in the process. Nothing serious, but a nice energy sapping grind not giving an opportunity to rest. After 15 km we turned left again. We now had a stretch of 5 km during which we climbed 87 meters to the final water point.

After a short climb we had a descent of 3 km before the final big climb of the day. 191 meters over a distance of 4.84 km. I passed one guy on this stretch, but he caught up with me at the next climb. I managed to drop him during one of the number of ups and downs before we hit the final, mostly downhill, stretch to the finish. Here somebody caught up with me again and we worked nicely together to the finish. We once again used one of Meurant Botha’s signature under passes to cross the R45 with some single tracks through the local cow grazing area to the finish, which I reached in 7:55:43 after 163.25 km and 2,276 meters of climbing. Actual riding tome came to 7:40:21, which meant I spent 15 minutes at the various water points. I managed 96 from 215 finishers, 10th from 35 in the 50+ category, which was won by a 60 year old in a time of 6:16:55. He is a real machine!

Sunday, April 21, 2013


The 36ONE mountain bike race from 19-21 April was scheduled for this weekend. I felt that this would be a good training ride for the Rough Ride to Rhodes. I got Sue to agree to join me for the weekend and we left Bloubergstrand on Thursday mid morning to sleep over, as I felt it would not be a good idea to drive 400 km and then start a 360 km race at 19:00 in the evening. I booked us in at Aristata Cottages in Seweweekspoort. We arrived there at 14:30. Beautiful surroundings no cell reception, no TV, no electricity! What a blessing. We walked around a bit, had a braai, hot shower (water warmed by a ”donkey”, which was taken care of by the guy looking after the cottages) and an early night.

Left the next morning at 09:00 and arrived in Oudthoorn at 11:30, which was too early for registration or check-in. Had some coffee and drove around a bit. Registered at 12:30 and checked-in at the guesthouse. Had a late lunch, showered and went to race briefing at 17:30. I decided to put my leg warms on, even though it was not that cold. This tuned out to be a blessing during the night! Returned for the race at 18:30.

Before the start I decided to put my light rain jacket on as protection from the cold. The race started at 19:00. There was a 500-meter neutral zone to get us out of town. Racing started at a reasonably sedate pace, considering we had 361 km to do! I saw a guy in a Cycles Direct top and rode up to him for a chat. It transpired that Tim van Coller, who has completed two Freedom Challenges, was his dad and that they were doing the race together. It was great to meet old acquaintances!

The field spread out pretty quickly with some guys riding together, others on their own and the odd group of “unknowns” just riding together. We went through the dwelling of Shoemanshoek and joined up with the Oudtshoorn/Cango Caves tar road after 15 km. There were some drops of rain in the air, but not enough to make us wet. After 22 km we took a turn off to Oude Muragie and De Rust. This included the first climb and the high point of the race at 830 meters above sea level. We climbed 366 meters over a distance of 15 km with a maximum climb of 229m in 2.84 km. From the top it was pretty much downhill to the Oudtshoorn/De Rust tar road were we turned right on the tar road. After 54 km we were directed off the tar onto gravel and then onto some very obscure farm tracks. This lasted for 4 km when we joined a good gravel road, which led us past the outskirts of Dyseldorp into Checkpoint 1 at 68 km after 3:06 of riding. Here we were treated to warm soup and some eats, while water bottles could be refilled. After a stop of about 4 minutes, I was on my way again.

We were on a slope, which turned out to be a hill, with a very gradual incline, but it lasted for 9 km! I ended riding with two other guys at a reasonable pace. Everybody concentrating on riding and not much talking. After a while I decided that the pace is a little too fast for my liking this early in the race and let them go. I reached water point 2 after 102 km at about 24:00, averaging just on 20 kph. Here I refilled my water bottle and had a cup of hot chocolate and some light eats. I also put on my windbreaker and changed my riding gloves for my warm winter gloves. The road out of this water point headed upwards again, but fortunately leveled out after a while. We then reached a sort of a plateau where a good tempo could be maintained. On our right was a beautiful half moon, showing its face through some cloud cover! Beautiful!! We reached the Oudtshoorn/George tar road and were routed underneath it and next to the railway line and onto some farm/jeep tracks, some of which were very faint, but there were people to direct us at all the turns. This led us to water point 3. Here I filled my water bottle with a different flavour of Energade and was treated to a cup of Milo! From here to water point 4 (check point 2) was mostly level or downhill. We were treated to the most beautiful moon disappearing over the horizon behind some clouds. I wished for a good camera and an opportunity to take a photo, but with only an iPhone and a race to complete, I had to be satisfied with “fixing” it to my memory. During this period I though to myself that a ride like this is an interesting experience, which should be tackled once in a lifetime! I reached checkpoint 2 at Volmoed at 04:09. 183 km in 9:09. An average speed of just on 20 kph. Had some lasagne, some more hot chocolate and a BarOne. Also sat down and rested for a while. At this point I felt that this was a bit much! My neck was acing and by seat was very tender! The thought crossed my mind that if I was a "quiter", I should seriously considered quiting at the next check point, but sanity would prevailed!

The rout from here started fairly level and then went into a 165 meter climb over a distance of 3.91 km. Not the nicest thing to do after 190 km and more than 9 hours in the saddle! This was followed by a 27 km stretch were we descended 447 meters into the riverbed of the Gouritz River. Day was also breaking on our backs. From the time I lost the guys on the way to water point 2, I was mostly riding on my own. Now and again I would pass somebody or somebody would pass me, but I just never teamed up with someone else. Everybody preferring to ride there own pace. The next 21 km was a steady climb, which made it difficult to maintain a good average speed. This was also quite tiring as it just went on and on even though there were no serious inclines up to water point 5. Some more hot chocolate and a banana. I also decided to change to my normal riding gloves and got rid of my windbreaker and getting rid of the mud, from a mudpool I just went through. At this point I wondered where I would get the energy from to do another 120 km to the end! The dreaded Rooiberg Pass started shortly after this water point. 499 meters of climbing in 6.74 km, an average of 74.04 meters every kilometer. What made it worse, was the number of “false” tops. There must have been at least 5 to 7 of these occasions when I was sure that this would be the top, just to see that there was more climbing to come. It was a real “hallelujah” moment when I finally reached the summit. The downhill was equally dramatic! Descending 574 meters in 12 km on a road that is very rough and uneven and difficult to maintain a good average speed. The run in to Calitzdorp was a steady incline, but I managed to maintain a reasonable pace, reaching Boplaas and checkpoint 3 at 10:39 after 280 km and 15:39 hours of riding. All the climbing and the fatigue have brought my average speed down to 17.87 kph. I had an Ostrich sosatie, rooster koek and a koek sister. My water bottle was also refilled and had some lube put onto my bike’s chain. Had a good rest and then tackled the last stretch.

Over the next 26 km we climbed 438 meters. The rout was taking us along the foothills of the Swartberge. The scenery here was quite beautiful with lots of trees and lush green undergrowth. We also crossed a number of streams. This took us to water point 8 at Kruisriver. I refilled my water bottle again and had two cups of Coke. I also took off my light raincoat, as it was getting hot. Off I went. This is were things went a bit wrong for me. I do know where my mind was, but I missed a turn off to the left. After a while I got to a fork in the road with no markings! I first took the right hand fork, but decided after about 500 meters that this was leading me back to Ladismith. Back at the fork I tried to phone, but there was no reception. I took the left fork and cycled to the top of the hill. There I found reception and phoned. The guy who answered sounded not sure, but said I must continue on the road I was on. It transpired that he was unsure, because I was on the wrong road and he was not sure where I was! After about 20 km I reached the R62 form Calitzdorp to Oudtshoorn. I immediately realised that I was on the wrong road. To turn back was not an option because that would have increased my distance to about 390 km. All I could do was cycle towards Oudtshoorn. The first distance marker I saw indicated 22km and I thought I was 22 km from Oudthoorn. The next one was 23 and I then realised I was 27 km from Oudtshoorn. I did some sums and worked out that my total distance would be 359 km at the finish. I also knew that this road do join up with the last 7 km of the correct rout. I therefore decided that I would turn left where the correct rout joined this road and cycle for 1 km in the wrong direction, make a u-turn and then cycle the direction I should have, as this would give me the full 361 km. As I got to the intersection, the guides were waving me on to Oudtshoorn, but I ignored them and turned left to do my 1 km against the ”rout”.  I wonder what the guy, whom I crossed, thought when he saw this guy cycling in the wrong direction! On reaching the intersection, I was greeted by a lady telling that they were looking for me all over the place and that they tried to phone me. Unfortunately or maybe fortunately, I did not hear my phone. If I did and answered it, they most probably would have told me to go back to where I missed the turn! At least now I was on the right road again! On turning into Oudtshoorn, my odometer indicated 359 and it stayed there forever. I was afraid that my distance would be less than 361 when I reach the finish line! My joy was great when it finally indicated 361 km just as I made the final right turn with about 400 meters to the finish. It really was a great feeling to reach the finish line after 361.86 km, 20 hours 43 minutes 29 seconds; 5,004 meters climbing and actual riding time of 19:31:37. I therefore spent about 1 hour and 12 at the various water/check points. I did try to speak to the organisers at the finish, but they were all still out on the course. I then sent an email to them immediately when I got to the guesthouse.

Price giving was at 09:00 on Sunday morning. We got there at 08:45 and I immediately went to the organizers to inform them that I was the guy who went off course. They confirmed that it was fine and that I will not be disqualified. What a relieve! At the price giving all the 60-year and older finishers were asked to go forward and I had an opportunity to share my “mishap” with everybody. The eldest guy that finished the race was 69. The organizers also felt that everybody 65 and older should get a free entry next year. I will qualify for that next year!

I will be uploading some more photo's later during the week once I see what Oakpics took of me.