Wednesday, November 26, 2014

2014 Coronation Double Century

The Double Century was scheduled for 222 November. This year we made double sure we had an entry, ending up with two entries. Fortunately it was easy to cancel one.

Plan started in May and we had our first training ride on 9 August. The team members were fairly “flexible” in that we took our time filling the team up. Clive Kerr, who rode with us in 2011 managed to “draft” some strong men from Paarl. Sieg also managed to get a couple of hard riders from Metropolitan, who also agreed to provide tops. Hennie de Clercq decided at the second last training ride that he was not ready, but I managed to get Eugene van Niewenhuizen to join us on the same day and he replaced Hennie. Danie  Kotze injured his knee two months before the race and decided that 200 km will not be good for his knee, so he withdrew two weeks before the due date. During the next week one of the metropolitan guys, Nigel Shannon, was informed that he had to e bib Bangkok during the weekend of the DC. One of the Paarl guys managed to draft in Andries Duminy at short notice, but we could not find a replacement for Danie. During the last week Clive and Sieg withdrew due to illness. We therefore were due to start with only 9 riders.

Race day was a little chaotic with Eugene waiting for us at the start and the rest of us waiting for him in the Main Street! When we finally got together we realized that his number and top was still in the Main Street. He therefore had to go and fetch that before he could start, but we were due to be off in 2 minutes! We arrived at the start just in time for our starting time, but without Eugene. So all we could do was to cross the start line and wait for Eugene on the other side. While some guys sped off into the distance, Gert and myself waited for Eugene, who arrived 5 minutes later. At last we were off at a reasonable pace, hoping to catch up with the rest soon. This happened after about another 15 minutes and at last we were in one group.

The initial part of the course is fairly flat so it was easy to maintain a reasonable pace. By the time we reached the bottom of Tradouw Pass, our average speed was 30 kph, in spite of the fact that we started 5 minutes late! En route to Suurbraak we were caught by the team, which contained my brother’s two sons. Some interesting inter changes were exchanged while we were riding together. They started after us and we managed to pus away from them. Some of my team members were also concerned about my rear tyre being flat. My response was that it was not so flat that it was bumping through, so I decided to continue until it really became a problem

The weather was just about perfect and we really had a nice ride. It was misty with coolness in the air. The mist disappeared after the first hour. The temperature remained below 20 degrees Celsius for the first 2:46. By this time we were on top of On the Tradouw, where the first scheduled stop was. We agreed to give this stop a miss and carried straight on. Our average speed dropped to 25.2 by the time we went over the top. I did managed to work up quite a bit of heat going up the pass, with my heart rate going up to 101%. Once over the top, to undulations to Montague started.  With the good whether we were having, it was quite easy to maintain a good average speed. Teams were also working together helping one another resulting in an increase in average speed.

At 76 kilometers, Nelis had a flat. My rear tyre was holding out well, but I did take the opportunity to inflate it as well as the front. Both held to the end! Gert and myself decided to continue on while the others help to fix the flat. We were caught by the rest of the group in a short space of time and the pace increased again when everybody was together. Somewhere before Montague, Gert started picking up problems with cramps and Eugene and myself got separated from the group. Eugene decided to take it on himself to pace me and I had my work cut out to stay in his slipstream. We arrived at the neutral stop at Ashton 5 minutes after the rest of the group and after 117 km and 4:15. That gave us an average of just over 27.5 kph. The group spent 23 minutes at the stop, with Eugene and myself only using 18 minutes. The cramps got the better of Gert and he pulled out at Ashton.

The road to Robertson is fairly flat and the pace was hot. After about 5 km I decided that the pace was too hot for me. When the guys looked around for me, I indicated for them to maintain their pace and leave ne behind. That was the last time I saw them! I now had the prospect of another 80 km all on my own! We had a bit of breeze on our backs and I just maintained my pace. O turning left at Robertson, the wind turned to diagonally form the front. It was not too strong so it was not a serious problem. Some groups came past me, but by the time I realised that I should try to tag onto them, they were gone. After a while I managed to jump onto a group and kept up with them. This was happening all the way to the second neutral stop at Bonnievale. I was well pleased to see our seconding vehicle still waiting. The reaction form the ladies gave me the impression that they did not expect me! I had something to eat and filled my bottles, which were more that half full, with ice and was on my way after 10 minutes. It took me 1:45 to cover the 47 km, giving an average speed of 26.85 kph. According to the pace I was maintaining, I was going to come in at about 7:45, but anything can happen over the last number of hills, which can bring once average down quite a bit.

I managed to hang onto various groups as they came past up to the last water point at 177 km, covering the 14 km in 45 minutes. The terrain was getting hillier and it was reflected in my average speed. The balance of the route was more uphill than downhill and I prepared myself for a nice “grind” to the end. Just before we reached the R60, George Wienekus, who rode with me in June during the Freedom Challenge, came past. I did managed to keep up with his team for a while, but they dropped me on the second last hill. His team started 6 minutes after us. On one of the last hills towards Swellendam, I did notice some team members from my bother’s son’s team on the last hills into Swellendam. It transpired that they came in after our team, but before me in their overall time. From the top of the last hill a group formed and we worked together nicely up to the end.

The end does have a nasty sting in the tail with 34 meters of climbing over a distance of 800 meters. According to my timer I was going to finish in less than 8 hours! I gave it all up this last hill and crossed the line in 7:55! After taking the neutral stops into consideration that would probably come down to 7:30. Quite an achievement considering that we have not managed to break 8 hours since 2005! The composition of the team had a lot to do with that and we definitely had the strongest team this year.

The final time for the team was 7:05:13 and my time was 7:19:59.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Wine2Whales Day 3

Day 3 held the promise of moving from 300 meter above sea level to sea level, so there was the promise of more downhill than uphill. People started moving again at 05:00, so there was no point in trying to sleep any longer. After the usual breakfast, we got everything ready for the start at 07:20. We also had to pack our bags and deliver them to the DHL truck for collection in Onrus after the race.

We got going at 07:20 and like usual we started with some climbs, but today’s were very much gentler than the previous two days. None of then was as long either. While I was riding I felt an occasional spray over my back leg and realized that it must be tyre sealant coming out through the plug in my rear tyre!  A guy came past and wanted to know whether I knew that there was a problem with my rear tyre! I just ignored it and hoped and prayed for the best!

After some initial farm roads, which included a nasty mud pool, we were taken onto a single track, which ended as we went onto the old gravel Houwhoek Pass. This was quite rough and challenging, but exhilarating! The first water point was at the Botriver School, but we were first taken on a “senic” ride through the town before were arrived there! After a quick couple of Cokes and some eats, we were on our way again.

The next 15 kilometers was mostly downhill with the odd little hill in between and some nice single tracks. At 40 kilometers we took a left turn and started the day’s serious climbing. This started with a gentle climb, during which we gained 150 meters over the next 7 kilometers, followed by a kilometer downhill leading onto a 3 kilometer climb during which we gained 150 meters.  Some more gentle ups and downs took us through the second water point and onto water point three at Hamiton Russel Wine Farm. During the last couple of kilometers I started hearing a noise from the rear wheel, which I immediately identified as the ends of the plug tapping against the frame. That meant that the plug was busy coming out! I decided to ignore it and ride until I felt that the rear was getting to soft the carry on.

The Hamilton Russel water point was followed by the last climb of the race, 150 meter in 2 kilometers. Once over the top it was all downhill the finish, including some more wonderful single tracks down the Hemel en Aarde Valley and then onto the beach, where the track was marked with pallets over the sand, and onto the finish at the caravan park.

Total time 4:32:40; 75.86 km; 1,339 meters elevation gain; 1,631 meters elevation loss; average speed 16.7 k.p.h. We finished 165 out of 554 teams and fell back to 157 overall. We finished 9th in the 50+ age group on the day and also moved up to 9th overall.

Wine2Whales Day 2

Day 2 consisted of a 68 km circle route around Oak Valley. We were moved up to group C and our starting time was 07:20. We thought we will get up at 05:45, but the first people started moving at 05:10 and there was not much chance of sleeping after that! Breakfast was served from 05:30. Once again it was a wonderful spread. The only problem we had was to not eat too much! During the previous evening I felt that my rear tyre was not as hard as normal and I had to pump it.

Day 2 really is a “fun” day with about 70% single track including the exquisite Paul Cluver cycle park. We started off with a 70 meter climb during the first kilometer.  We lost that in the next 4 kilometers and then went on to a gentle climb, which took us onto the single tracks in the hills behind Oak Valley. This was the beginning of the “fun” part of Wine2Whales. For the next 25 kilometers we spent most of the time on single tracks. Farm roads connected some of these, but mostly the one led to the other. Some of them were single tracks that are used annually during the Dirtopia 24 hour race at oak Valley. This led us into the second water point. At one point I noticed that Mike Smit was not close to me anymore and had to wait for him. It transpired that his pedal hit a rock and he came down. Fortunately nothing serious was damaged, but he did have some minor problems with his gears after this mishap.

The magnificent Paul Cluver Cycle Park, with its wonderful single tracks and ingenuous bridges followed.
We really had  a wonderful time riding these tracks. Some farm and forestry roads up to the third water point followed this. I realized that my rear tyre was loosing air and I had to stop to pump it. After water point three we were back onto some forestry roads and then more singles tracks leading up to the final water pint at 56 kilometers.

A steady climb up some farm roads and more single tracks brought us to the Paul Cluver Packing shed. Here we were treated to some more ingenious tracks especially made for us amongst the packing crates. This included some nice berms and also a bridge, which took us above some of the tracks we road minutes earlier. On one of the berms, Mike lost his balance and toppled down the hill. Once again the bush came out worse than what mike did! When we came out the other side, I found that my rear tyre was fairly soft again. With only 8 kilometers left to the end, I went the pumping route again. From here it was also mostly downhill to the end. I very quickly realized that my rear tyre problem was more serious than I though, but I addressed it by spending more time standing up and not putting to much pressure on the rear wheel. The last three kilometers was Oak Valley single tracks again and riding with a flattish rear wheel was becoming a challenge, but it just help to the end and we crossed the finish line without any further incidents.

During the afternoon I plugged the offending tyre, taking care to cut the protruding pieces sticking out the sidewall down to a reasonable length. The problem was a cut in the sidewall, so the potential for more problems was very prevalent. I managed to get a pump from the Specialized boys and made sure that the tyre was inflated properly.

Total time 4:22:22; 67.85 km; 1,423 meters elevation gain; 1,4218meters elevation loss; average speed 15.5 k.p.h. We finished 214 out of 571 teams and fell back to 171 overall. We 14th in the 50+ age group on the day and overall.

Wine2Whales Day 1

31 October to 2 November 2014 was time for the Wine2Whales MTB from Lourensford, Somerset West to Onrus next to Hermanus on the Southern Cape coast. Mike Smit and myself managed to get an entry again and were ready for this annual outing. We left Blouberg at 05:30 to ensure that we get to Lourensford in good time to sort out the vehicles transfer to Onrus and hand in our luggage for transfer to Oak Valley.

We were seeded in Group E and our starting time was 07:40. A light breakfast was provided and we had some yoghurt and fresh fruit to “pep” us up for the day. The first stage was from Lourensford via the foothills behind the farm, over the Gantouw Pass, which was used by the Voortrekkers 200 years ago, on to Oak Valley in the Elgin/Grabouw district.

In contrast to last year, the weather was just about perfect. We left on time and were immediately confronted with some serious climbing. In the first 5 km we climbed 347 meters. In the next 15 km, to the first water point, we lost a net 278 meters, but it did include some gentle climbing with a net additional gain of 159 meters. It took us 1:17 to complete this 20 km. This was followed by a 21 km stretch during which was gained 641 meters but also lost 486 meters, so we had our fair share on ups and downs.

The next stretch included Gantouw Pass, a compulsory portage section which is 1 km and took us 23 minutes to complete. I enclose some photos of the wagon tracks etched out in the rocks! It is amazing what those guys managed!
Once over the top, we were treated to the most amazing single tracks.
During the next 10 km we probably did not do more than 200 meters on either jeep tracks or district roads. The one single track led into the next one. It really was a joy to ride and that brought us to the last water table. The last section of 17 km included some more single tracks as well as some district roads and farm tracks, all in good condition with 332 meters of ascent and 481 meters of descent.

At the finish we were treated with a Spur Burger and had an opportunity to get our bikes washed and cleaned. After a warm shower the afternoon was spent relaxing in the FNB rider lounge.  Support was served from 17:30 and included the most amazingly well prepared steaks, Thai chicken, vegetables, salads and chocolate mouse. Faircape diaries provided the drinks, of which there was no shortage.  A bar was available for those who wanted something a little bit stronger. We retired to our tents at about 20:00.

Total time 5:08:00; 73.54 km; 2,028 meters elevation gain; 1,822 meters elevation loss; average speed 14.3 k.p.h. We finished 155 out of 609 teams and 13th in the 50+ age group.