Sunday, March 3, 2013

Argus MTB Challenge

I decided to treat my wife to a “night out” after the Grape Escape and before the Argus MTB Challenge, which was due to be run on the Sunday. We managed to find place at Val d’Or, so after the third stage of the Grape Escape, we booked in there.

I worked out that it would take me about 35 minutes to cycle to the start, so I left at 06:10, arriving at the start at 06:40, meeting to fellow competitors along the way.

The race got going at 07:05 and the pace was hectic from the start, with the result that I was about last after 10 minutes of riding! After 24 minutes the first guys from AB, who started 5 minutes later, passed me. I decided to just carry on at my own pace and enjoy the day.

We had a number of loops through the vineyards and over the grounds of Plaisir de Merle, where we encountered the first water point after 22 kilometers and 1 hour 3 minutes of riding. Shortly after this we started the first big climbs of the day, 204 meters in 6 kilometers. At this point I came across Fred van Zyl, one of the former winning of my age category on the Attakwas. It was not long before I felt that familiar feeling of a rear tyre going flat again. This was confirmed by one of the riders who passed me. So I pulled over at administered the “bomb treatment” again. At the next water point I pumped it again with a foot pump, hoping the leak will heal by itself with the Stans Notubes tyre sealant. The serious climbs of the day was now in progress! This climb lasted for 5 kilometers with a total ascent of 228 meters. Just after going over the top, the feeling of a rear tyre going flat re-appeared. I stopped and decided to try using my pump, only to discover that it was in my other bag, which was at home, so I had to use my last bomb. While using this, I noticed that the value was coming apart and that that was why I had a leak. There was nothing I could do, but to continue riding and hope for the best. After a while I saw a pump lying in the road. I quickly pulled over and retrieved it. At least now I could pump the wheel next time it went flat, which was shortly afterwards. As I was undoing the top of the value, the whole front part came out and disappeared into the under growth. Now I had only one option left. Use a tube. Before I could put the tube in, I had to ensure that there were no thorns stuck in the tyre. I inspected the tyre and found two. After removing them, I put the tube in, the tyre on and started pumping. It was working and after a delay of 12 minutes, I was on my way again. This happened after 38 kilometers and 2 hours 28 minutes of racing.

One of the benefits of having problems is the joy of passing all the slow guys who pasted you while you were sorting out the problem. I was now “flying” past some of the slower guys. This was  areal problem some of the singles tracks we encountered. The course was also mostly down hill now. This was until we went past Boschendal and onto the last loop, when the course started going more up than down again. With 10 kilometer to go, we went into the new area added for this year. The temperature was now reaching 37 degrees Centigrade and we climbed 128 meters over a distance of 4 kilometers. A number of guys were finding this very difficult, stopping and just resting or pushing their bikes very slowly. Fred van Zyl, who came past me while I had my tyre problem, was one of them! I was maintaining momentum and managed to cycle most of the ascent. The down hill towards the 5 kilometer to go water point was very rough, but there after the road surface improved steadily. I absolutely “raced” through the last river crossing, nearly giving the cameraman a free shower and onto the finish. 

Total time was 4:21:20 for the 65.84 kilometers with a total ascent of 1,144 meters. My actual riding time was 3:51:24

The Grape Escape Day 3

Danie was responsible for transport and collected me at 05:15. We arrived in Wellington at 06:20 and collected our bikes. 

The race started once again at 07:00 sharp. The first 4 kilometers was a neutral zone, so racing only started there after. By this time we were among the vineyards again and the topography was very much ascending and descending with regular intervals. After 12 kilometers we started the climb past Beulah, which lasted for 4.5 kilometers with 326 meters climbing. Towards the top of this climb I noticed that my rear tyre was losing air. This was especially becoming a problem when we entered some single tracks through the pine trees. On entering the second single track, I decided to pull aside and attend to it by putting air in with a CO2 bomb. This was after 22 kilometers. There after it went much better with a rear wheel which was not moving all over the place. The problem was that I used only bomb! At the next water point I enquired after a foot pump to attend to the wheel, but nothing was available. As second best I asked if someone had a spare bomb for me. Guy Mckechnie, who was riding a single speed, came to my assistance. By this time we were at the bottom of the Du Toitskloof Mountains so the second big climb of the day started. Three quarters up the hill a passing rider asked me if I knew that my tear tyre was fairly flat. I confirmed that I knew, but decided to carry on for a while longer, but shortly got to a point where I had to attend to it again. By now we have only completed 38 kilometers and the race distance was 68 kilometers! 

We now encountered some hills which was just not rideable due to them being too steep. Towards the top I passed the late Burry Sander's dad, who was enjoying the outing, but not the hills! 

The top of the climb was followed by some riding on contour roads and then some scary downhills. This time nobody was chasing me and I reached to bottom without any mishaps. At the next water point I caught up with Ebrabim Levy, riding in Asrin colours, which I met while riding yesterday. I asked him for a spare bomb and he obliged. With this assurance in my pocket, I had more confidence in completing the day without running out of air! I picked up my pace and put the hammer down. From here to the end it was more downhill that uphill.  In the meantime my rear tyre was holding up well. I was passing riders with regular intervals. At the last water point I checked the wheel and it was fine. We encountered some sandy patches, crossed the Berg River, through the Bien Donne farmstead and onto the end. The crossing of the tar road was typical Meurant Botha by crossing underneath the tar road at a river crossing. The end was reached after 4:30:20 for 69 kilometers with 1,606 meters of ascent. Mike beat me by 1 minute 8 seconds, finishing 3rd in our age group and I as 4th. Danie finished in 5:08:48.

Friday, March 1, 2013

The Grape Escape Day 2

The second day was my turn to do the driving. I picked Mike and Danie up at 05:15 and we arrived in Wellington at about 06:20. The origanisers arranged for a free bike wash and oil. Security was also provided for overnight storage, so we had to collect them first.

Day 2 also included the riders who entered for the 2-day option, with the result that there were more people and they started 5 minutes after us. We got going at 07:00 sharp. The first couple of kilometers were along local roads and through some vineyards. Then we got into the single tracks. This really was amasing. Initially through some blue gum trees and then through local “fynbos”. The quality and the variety of the single track were just mind-boggling. It most definitely is the best I have ridden. Better than those we normally ride in the Durbanville area and also what I have encountered at Oak Valley. What make this Waldenplas tracks special is all the trees and the variety in elevation. It is not just one long climb and then a descent, but it goes up and down with some nice switchbacks, in and out of tree covering with some very good smooth sections and some fairly rough patches. A test for the experienced rider and a challenge for the novice.

At 21 kilometers there was a special a choice of two routes: the chicken run or crossing the river via a fairly narrow bridge, which was also a touch shorter. Everybody who opted for the bridge would be rewarded with a bottle of wine with a photo of him or her crossing the bridge on it.

Here after we had some local farm roads before going onto the single tracks on the farm Doolhof. The tracks are more exposed, but as challenging with a specific section called “the rock garden” and that is with a reason. This was at the halfway point. These singles track lead us onto the slops of Bains Kloof and onto a section of the pass. After a while we went left again, off the pass and uphill. I caught up to my friend Mike, who was having problems with cramping, at this stage.
With 15 kilometers to go we started descending towards the end. This again included some very challenging rocky sections and some very steep down hills. While I am a good climber, I am not too good at going down hill. It may be age, but this resulted in some guys blowing down my neck. I should have just let them past, but as they were not complaining and we were maintaining a good pace, I decided to keep going. That was until I got a very steep down hill with a very sharp right turn. I am not sure what went wrong, but the next minute I went head over heel and ended up in the bushes. Fortunately it was a soft landing and I managed to get going with no injuries except for a bent in my ego!

We took a last few unexpected excursions and after 4:05:54; 60.5 kilometers and 1,611 meters ascent we reached the finish line. I managed 2 in my age group and finished 2:36 in front of Mike, who was once again 3 rd in our age group. Danie finished in a time of 4:30:54.