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.