Monday, January 20, 2014

Attakwas 2014

Saturday 18 January and it is time for the annual Attakwas from Chandelier Game Farm in Oudtshroon to Pine Creek Resort in Groot Brak River. A distance of 121 km with 2,900 meters of climbing over the duration of the race.

Sue agreed to join me again this year and we left Cape Town on Friday morning at 11:00 and had a leisurely drive.  We stopped at Affie Plaas Padstal in Robertson where we bought some fresh pies, cooldrinks and fruit as take aways and to eat along the road. We arrived in Oudtshroon at about 16:00, booked in at NA Smit Resort and collected my number and goody bag at Kleinplasie. As I have completed the Attakwas five times, I now became a member of the Rattle Club. At this point there are 67 members and I was number 47. From here on my number will be 047 in all future editions of the Attakwas. To celebrate this, we were invited to a braai at Katot Meyer’s Attakwas Cottage Bush Camp in Oudtshroon at 18:00 on Friday 17 January. We had quite an enjoyable evening in the company of some fellow “Rattles” and even played some “kennetjie”. If anybody want more information on “kennetjie”, just Google it! Everybody agreed on an early evening so we left just after 20:00 and managed to get to bed before 22:00.

Saturday morning was an early rise as the race was starting at 06:30 to beat the heat. Sue dropped me at the start at 05:45. The actual starting shoots were moved from last year and the first 2 km was different to previous years. Instead of going straight out we now took a loop in a south-westerly direction, then went east before joining the old route after 2 km. Due the fact that I finished in under 7:30 last year, I was seeded in the A group. This meant that lots of people were going to pass me during the first 10 km!

We got going after a short benediction at 6:32. The start was actual very nice with nobody really trying to force their way to the front. I decided to keep left and let the “racings snakes`’ pass on the right. People kept passing me on a regular basis as I settled into a pace that I felt comfortable with. After a while I started noticing certain people who either I kept up to or kept up to my pace. The weather was excellent with good cloud cover and a starting temperature of 19 degrees Centigrade. The first 69 km of the route consists of jeep tracks through Chandelier Game farm, the Doringrivier Nature Reserve, the Outeniqua Nature Reserve, the Attakwas Nature Reserve and Bonniedale Guest Farm. Some of the tracks are in excellent condition while others are pretty rough. Most of it is rideable, but there are a number of steep rocky sections where one is compelled to get off and push. I see even the pros had to revert to pushing their bikes! The first 25 km to water point one took me 1:18 at an average speed of 19.6 k.p.h. This section was generally in a good condition and it was easy to maintain a good pace.

The next section of 21 km was very rough and took me 1:20 at an average of 15.8 k.p.h. This included some really steep descents and a number of serious climbs. At water point two we crossed the R328 linking Oudtshroon and Mossel Bay. The next section of 22 km through the Attakwas Nature Reserve, was the really tough part of this race. It took me 1:56 to cover this distance at an average speed of 11.4 k.p.h. We also went over the highest point of the race, at 841 meters. The terrain was also the roughest during this section. Most of the pushing occurred here. There also were a number of downhill sections that was just not rideable for the average rider. I did see a lady negotiating the last descent, while staying on her bike, but there were very few of these around when I went down this hill! At water point three we were treated to a Spur Burger and other general eats and drinks. A quick “rinse”, to get rid of most of the mud and muck we picked up while crossing 11 streams, was also provided.

The last 52 km was mostly on district roads, but it started off with a 207 meter climb over a distance of 6 kilometers. Not really serious climbing, but energy sapping after being in the saddle for five and a half hours! At least the road condition was very good. In the end it took me two hours thirty minutes to complete the 46 km from the top of this hill to the end. The route was pretty undulating from here to the end with three nasty climbs at 88, 106 and 111 kilometers, with all of them being between 1.5 to 2 kilometers long and climbs of 60 to 80 meters for every kilometer travelled! Fortunately we had water points at 86 and 107 kilometers. The last water point was on top of the second last hill. So from there it was 14 kilometers to the end with only the last climb in our way.

During this section I picked up a number of riders with whom I “seesawed” for quite a while. I would pass them and then they would pass me where after I would pass them again. There was this one guy and lady, who never spoke, so I was not sure whether they were riding together, but we were around one another for quite a number of kilometers. After a while they pulled away from me. Then three guys, who were going quite a bit faster than me, came past. I managed to “hook “onto them and made good time. We were going along at about 25 k.p.h. until the second last hill. They gained about 100 meters on me while going up the hill. I managed to maintain that up to the second last water point. Here one left before me and while the other two took their time and left after me. I did not manage to catch the one who left before me and did not see the two who left after me again. Just after going over the top of the last climb, a guy came past. Once again I managed to hang onto him and we started working together nicely. About five kilometers from the end, we caught up with the quiet guy and lady and formed a “train” of four going along well and rotating the lead regularly. When we crested the last uphill to the last descent into Groot Brak, I looked behind me and saw that I had a gap on them. I slowed down, but they did not catch up to me so went downhill as fast as possible. When I approached the last corner I saw the guy who left the last water point before me, in front of me. I raced up to him and went past the finish line level with him.

What a fantastic race! 121.16 kilometer; 7:46:45; 2,921 meters ascent and 3,230 meters descent. I finished 356th out of 846 finishers and 6th out of 25 in my age group. Not quite as good as last year’s 7:29, but very enjoyable and satisfying! Photo's will be added as soon as they become available.

We were informed that they had a mosquito plague at the Pine Creek camping site, so my sweet wife and me decided to take the road and find a B&B closer to Cape Town. That happened to be Swellendam and we spent a delightful evening at de Companjie Guesthouse at 6 Voortekker Street, Swellendam. It is well worth a visit!