Thursday, February 28, 2013

The Grape Escape Day 1

The Grape Escape is taking place from 28 February until 2 March and the Argus MTB Challenge follows that on Sunday 3 March. I have committed to all four days, so it should be good preparation for the Ride to Rhodes in June.

My friends Mike Smit and Danie Kotze were also scheduled to ride and we agreed to pool travelling to and from the race. On Wednesday evening we loaded all three bikes onto Mike’s car and agreed to leave at 05:15 on Thursday morning for the start at Riebeek Kasteel.

We managed to get going by 05:20 and arrived in Riebeek Kasteel just after 05:25, in good time to unload the bikes and grab some eats for the breakfast that was available.

The race got going promptly at 07:00. The first kilometer was supposed to be a neutral zone, but the pace was anything but “neutral”. By the time we hit the gravel. Mike was gone, I was in the middle of the pack and Danie was towards the back. At 19 kilometers I had to stop to pick up my water bottle when I missed the bottle cage after taking a drink. To make matters worse, somebody rode over it and it, the top popped off and it was empty. Fortunately I had enough water in my backpack. The first 23 kilometers was on district and good farm roads with no major ups or downs, but then we took a right turn and the road suddenly started climbing! The first 3 kilometers was a gentle climb and then we started some serious elevation changes and most of it was going up! During the next 19 kilometers we climbed 554 meters and descended 558 meters. The most difficult ones was a climb of 143 meters in one kilometer and 116 meter in half a kilometer.

The next 14 kilometers were mostly district roads again and then we hit the slops of Groenberg, climbing from 94 to 360 over a distance of 11 kilometer. This also included some nice single tracks, some of it amongst blue gum trees. From then on it was downhill to the finish line, which I crossed after 4:39:51 and 78.47 kilometer and 1,556 meters of elevation gain. Mike finished in a time of 4:28:28 and Danie in 4:55:10. Mike was 3rd and I was 4th in our age group.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Tulbagh-Bloubergstrand (The last leg of Freedom Challenge's Bokkeveld route)

As part of my training for this year's Ride to Rhodes I decided to do the Tulbagh - Bloubergstrand leg of the Freedom Challenge's Bokkeveld route. I packed my bag on Saturday evening and arranged with my son to drop me in Tulbagh at 07:00 on Sunday morning.

My ride started at 06:59 at the Montpellier gate. The track up to the nek, being the beginning of the Oukloof Pass has been done over with excellent cement paving up to the radio masts. At the nek the Oukloof Pass goes off to the right and down the other side. It is obvious that the pass is not really being used anymore with the result that it is becoming quite overgrown and in some places just about non exsistent with lots of loose stones from erosion. In the first 5 km I gained 233 meters in altitude. This together with the bad state of the pass down towards the canal resulted in an average speed of less than 10 k.p.h.

Down in the valley I crossed the canal and cycled through La Bonne Esperanza and on to the Gouda/Piketberg tar road. From there it is down to Moredou and then parallel to the Berg Rivier to link up with a large public road to cross the Berg River.

While cycling, I suddenly heard something, which sounded like bicycles. I looked around and saw two other cyclist. We started chatting and it transpired that they also came from Tulbagh, but took the road through Nuwekloof Pass and were doing a circle route back to Tulbach for a distance of about 100 km for the day as part of there training for the Trans Karoo. They were maintaining a good pace and I upped my pace to stay with them. We cycled together for about 10 km when they went straight and I had to follow the narrative and turn right en route to the PPC factory at Riebeek West. At this point my average speed has increased to 16.2 k.p.h.

From there the route went around the right hand side of Kasteelberg down the Riebeecks River road towards Malmesbury, but half way down the Riebeek Kasteel/Malmesbury road, the route went left through some local public roads towards Perdeberg over another little nek onto the Welgemeend dairy farm. At the farm I had to go left, but once again passing right of Paardenberg. After the Wyngaadt farmstead I lost my way a little, but did get to the R304, but missed the part of the R302. From the maps I saw that I got onto the R304 too early and had to cycle an extra couple of kilometers on the tar road up to the Droevlei turnoff. At this stage was feeling pretty tired and my average speed dropped to 14.2 k.p.h. I forgot my gloves at home, with the result that my hands was taking a hammering. From there it was mostly public gravel roads through Wintervogel on to Bonnie Doon down some farm tracks and even a sheep track, over the Klipheuwel/Philadephia road, over some more wheat fields onto Adderley Road, incorrectly named the Malanshoogte road in the narratives. Just after the farm Altona the route went right into the farm Alexandria, over the Diep River and past Frederickskraal farmstead onto the Old Malmesbury road. I did pick up some problems finding the right route at the Alexandria farmstead and the crossing of the Diep River, but after doubling back twice, I got it right. In the meantime I recharged with some GU scatches.

The rest of the route was straight forward as it was all down roads I have ridden before. I was a little concerned about the wind because according to the direction of the grass it was South West, which meant that the last twenty kilometers would be against the wind! At this point my Garmin also indicated "low battery". Fortunately I was prepared for this. I stopped, took out my Power Monkey, connected this to my Garmin and "viola" it was charging. Once I crossed the N7, my pace increased. This was probably due to the GU scatches kicking in. I was pleasantly surprised when I reached Duynefonteinto find that the wind was a North Westerly, I therefore managed an excellent pace for the last stretch onto Bloubergstrand, increasing my average to 15.9 k.p.h.

Total distance for the day 152.71 km; total time 11:53:41; total riding time 9:34:34, which means that I spent 1 hours 20  minutes taking photos, sending SMS's, tweeting and studying the narratives and maps!