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.