Monday, August 31, 2015

2015 Trans Baviaans #2

Our team for the 2015 Trans Baviaans consisted of Hennie de Clercq, Hoffie Conradie and myself. Hoffie picked a cold the week before the race and had to pull out, so we were down to a two-man team. My brother agreed to be our driver and we left Cape Town at 10:30 as I first had to attend to a 08:00 appointment with my main “client” which is SARS! Hennie has a home in Natures Valley and invited us to stay with them after the race. That meant that we drove down in two cars. The woman went to Natures Valley and the men to Willowmore. Hennie had to pick-up a lady friend in Durbanville, so they left before us and we agreed to meat along the way where Sue would get in with Helena and Hennie joined us. This happened at Barrydale. E got away from there, after a light lunch, at 14:30 and arrived in Willowmore at 17:30. After we collected our numbers, we drove the 60 km to Marlu Guest Farm, where we were staying for the night. The total Trans Baviaans complement staying over at Marlu, come to 20, back the host and hostess (Martin and Lucia) were up to it for the occasion and treated us to a marvelous supper of chops, wors, steak, vegetables and some more delicacies. Breakfast was at 06:30 to ensure that we get to Willowmore in good time to hand in our containers for water point 3 and 4. Our aim was to complete the race of 225 kilometers in about 14 hours.

The weather was perfect as we lined up for the 10:00 start. The first 7 kilometers is mostly on a good jeep track through a nature reserve leaking up with the main road from Willowmore to the Baviaanskloof. This road is quite undulating and we gained 328 meters in the first 29 kilometers, which took us 1:38:46 to complete.
There after it was down the Nuwekloof Pass and we were due to decent 901 meters over the next 85 kilometers. This 85 kilometers took us 3:57:50. Unfortunately Hennie picked up a flat tyre as he crossed negotiated the first low water bridge. I was in front of him and did not realised this. After a while I decided to slow my pace and let Hennie catch up with me. This took much longer than I thought it would, but this was due to Hennie being delayed by the puncture.

We reached water point 1 after 2:32:21 at an average speed of 20.7 k.p.h. We stopped here for 7 minutes to grab some refreshment and then we were on our way again. We continued down to water point 2, maintaining an average speed of 23.8 over the next 52 kilometers. This was the “easy” part of the course and we were also exposed to the natural beauty of the Baviaanskloof, meandering through some awesome kloofs and being surrounded by some sheer cliffs. We reached water point 2 after a total riding time of 4:51:23, covering the 104 kilometers at an average speed of 22 k.p.h. At this point we were about 20 minutes behind schedule if we were to complete the race in 14 hours. This water point was stocked with some delicious homemade marshmallows, of which I had quite a few! Total stopping time was 00:12:47.

The “real “Trans Baviaans start here. As you exit water point 2, you immediately encounter a hill. It is only 500 meters with a 60-meter ascent. Nothing serious, but just something to “warm the muscles up”. The next 8 kilometers is mostly down hill during which time we entered into the Baviaanskloof Nature Reserve, where the conditions of the roads are much worse than district road we encountered up to here. The first major obstacle of the race comes after 114 kilometers in the form of Grasnek Pass, at climb of 193 meters over a distance of 4 kilometers, which took me about 22 minutes. Hennie arrived at the top only 2 minutes after me.
A nice downhill and water point 3 (Smitskraal) followed this where we were treated to boerewors, over cooked sosaties and potatoes! We spent 18 minutes here. Leaving Smithskraal we encountered a number of water crossings leading up the “two fangs” where we first had to go up a hill climbing 96 meters over a distance of 1.18 kilometers, down the other side and then climbing 79 meters over a distance of 0.73 kilometers. The first one works out at 82 meters ascent per kilometer and the second 97! This was followed by the “Mother of All Climbs” or MAC. This climb is not as steep as the fangs, but it goes on for 7.92 kilometers and we ascent 462 meters to water point 4 and Bergplaas. Hennie did quite well again and arrived at the top only 6 minutes later than me. By this time dusk was settling over it and us was dark as we cycled into Bergplaas. The road up to Bergplaas was a bit of a mess with a number of mud holes in the jeep track leading up to the actual water point. We collected our container, in which had a clean set of clothes. Hennie did a complete change. I only changed my socks and top. Hennie discovered that he lost the light attached to his helmet along the way. Fortunately he still had his main light on his bicycle. We were treated to soup, sandwiches, and coffee to fill our tummies and keep us going to the next water point. Our sojourn here took us 32 minutes.

Going downhill in the dark on a rough road is quite and experience. It was awesome to see the lights at the bottom of the pass as we started our descent and then again looking back from the bottom seeing the lights of the participants coming down the pass. The road was pretty rough and I really enjoyed negotiating it and made good time. Hennie did not enjoy it at all and I had to wait for him at the bottom to catch up with me. The rout from here to water point 5 (Komdomo) is quite beautiful, but it is difficult to really see and appreciate the beauty at night after you have ridden 150 kilometer and still had to do another 75! We covered the 20 kilometers from the bottom of Combrinck Pass to Komdomo in 55 minutes. My brother was waiting for us at Komdomo and I changed my shoes and socks again. Refreshments consisted of a “chip roll” and chocolate flavoured milk. We stopped here for 23 minutes. Only 55 kilometers to go!

We were treated to 8 kilometers tar up to the Humansdorp turnoff, followed by the Kouga River crossing via a low water bridge, which was dry. Three years ago the water was following so strong, we had to cross here on foot! We then encountered a small hill before we had to negotiate the “never ender”, a hill of 12 kilometers going up a gentle angle of an average 21 meters ascent for every kilometer. This took us just over an hour. The road meandered along and we had to “clock in” at the unmanned checkpoint along the way before arriving at Zuurbron at 23:18. The route into Zuurbron consisted of a nice little single track of about 200 meters. Hennie actually over shot the turn off and then encountered some trouble in negotiating the single track at this point! We had a jaffle and were on our way after 11 minutes.

With 25 kilometers left, the end was in sight and we were not really prepared for what was to come! Out of Zuurbron the road turns into a jeep track, which once again had a number of mud holes due the rain, which fell on Thursday. One of these caught me out I briefly parted company with my bike. When I got back to my feet, my light was pointing to the ground and my Garmin was lying in the road. Fortunately all this could be easily rectified and by the time Hennie caught up with me, I was on my way again. I was quite please when we went onto a good gravel road, because I remembered from the previous times that this led to a tar rod and from there it was easy going to the end. Unfortunately, the organisers decided to “through us a curve ball”!  Just after getting onto the tar road, we were deviated onto a single track next to the railway line. This single track generally went upwards, had a number of mud pools and railway line crossings over which we had to carry our bikes. So instead of having a nice leisurely ride for the last 6 kilometers, we now had quite a difficult ride down this single track! This probably added another 15 minutes to our time! We finally crossed the finish line at 00:01:12 on Sunday morning. Total riding time 15:11:50. Total distance 227.21 kilometers. Total ascent 2.652 meters. Total elevation loss 3,379 meters.

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