Wednesday, November 6, 2013

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. 

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