Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Posted by Velouria Posted on 08:24 | 3 comments

2014 The Big Day Out

After my rather disappointing 24hr effort, I was left with the feeling that the season would slip by and I would be left with out a defining highlight. When I read about the antics of Richie Porte and Cam Wurf I just knew this was the redemption I was seeking. An epic adventure. A ridiculous all day ride. And I wanted to do it with someone. Finding someone who would ride with me on something like this excluded just about everyone that I know, except Captain Craig. If there is one guy that likes spending vast amounts of time on a bike almost as much as me, it's him.

Once we had agreed on doing something truly monumental, we had to iron out the details. What exactly would a monumental ride be for us "normal" guys (the mere fact that we were discussing this precluded us from being called normal)? Richie and Cam had done 403kms, but they are professional bike riders, so we settled on 250kms as a starting point. But that just didn't sound monumental. That would be tough, and hardcore, but we've 250kms before. We had to go further. It had to be over 300kms, and the thinking was that if we're going to go that far, why not go a little bit further. The furtherest I have ridden in one outing is 355kms, twice, at 24hr events. We had to top that. So we settled on 356+kms.

Captain Craig came up with a route, starting at my house and finishing at his house, and going through 11 towns around the Western Cape, over 5 passes, and through some of the most scenic countryside the Western Cape has to offer.

With the route organised we just had to find a day worthy of our endeavour. Scanning the long term forecasts on WindGuru and yr.no we spotted a likely candidate. A Wednesday with almost no wind, and a maximum temperature of 35 in the shade. We had our epic route, and an epic day to match.
At 5:44 we set off, not too sure if we would reach our goal, but keen to enjoy a day out on the bike where heart rate zones and Strava segments didn't matter. Riding bikes for the sake of riding bikes. Almost immediately we were struck by the realisation that 356kms is a long long way. An hour in and we were less than 10% of the way. Very quickly our approach changed from knocking off the miles to achieving mini targets - top of a climb, the next town, a coke stop etc. The less we thought about the kilometres, the quicker they passed us by, and with the beautiful scenery all around us to distract us, this was rather easy.
Almost immediately, we realised that WindGuru might have been lying to us. We had been promised a near windless day, yet we were toiling into a stiff headwind as we made our way from Stellenbosch to Franschoek. The wind got worse as we started the ascent of the Franschoek Pass, and for a brief moment we considered changing our route (and effectively wimping out). After careful consideration to Rule 5 we persevered on with the original plan.
Our first stop of the day was in Villiersdorp for a top up of water, after 86kms of riding. So far it felt like every other ride, we were still well within our comfort zones, and despite the horrid head wind, we were having a good time. We were already riding on virgin roads - although we had previously ridden in the area a few times during the Cape Epic. Before long we had knocked up 100km, and just like that, the wind dropped. The depressing part was the realisation that we still weren't even a third of the way into our big ride.
Our next stop was in Worcester, 140kms in, which on it's own would be good day's outing. When comparing it to what we still had to do, it seemed like a warm up ride. By now we were starting to feel the heat, as it picked up over 30C for the first time. Some coke and snacks in the air-conditioned comfort of the Shell Ultra City gave us a brief respite, before we set off to tackle the remaining 210kms.

By now we were riding from town to town, coke stop to coke stop, slowly accumulating kilometres. The scenery and surrounds became more important than the average speed and heart rate zone. We hit the bottom of Bainskloof after 6 hours of riding, with the temperatures in the high 30s. The sparkling water in the river below, much like the Sirens, were speaking to Captain Craig, luring him in with promises of relief from the heat. And much like Jason, we resisted - we had our journey to complete.
The relief of reaching the top of the climb was twofold - not only had we done most of the climbing for the day, we had also crossed the halfway mark. It's quite amazing to realise the psychological impact little milestones like this have. We were now homeward bound. And our first order of business was to stop for lunch in Wellington after enjoying the descent off Bainskloof. Nothing better than a Gatsby, a chocolate SteriStumpi, and a coke.
The temperature was now above 40C and still climbing, and if Captain Craig has one weakness on a bike (apart from descending - apparently), it's the heat. And since I'd asked him to come along on this ride, I felt I owed it to him to make sure he survived. That's the level we had dropped to - survival. One pedal stroke after the next. We were now no longer riding side by side and chatting, it was a return to our familiar Epic position of me on the front, and Craig behind, riding a steady tempo.
On the stretch from Wellington to Malmesbury we began to realise just what we'd gotten ourselves into. The water in our water bottles was like tea, our mouths were constantly dry, and the sun was baking down on our backs. We felt like chickens in a convection oven, the heat radiating off the tar and cooking us from below. By some miracle, we stopped at a wine farm before attempting Bothmanskloof Pass for Captain Craig to cool down, and for us to refill the water bottles. I turned my back for a second, only to be greeted with Captain Craig practically lying under a tap and dousing himself in water. After clearing my throat several times, and looking longingly at the hill, he reluctantly got the hint that we actually needed to continue on our ride. With bottles filled and core temperatures chilled, we set off to tackle the climb.
And about a kilometre later we found ourselves standing on the side of the road in 47C heat fixing a puncture. You might be able to spot a bit of grumpiness on Captain Craig's face ;)
With the puncture fixed, we made it to the top of the climb with a mere 125kms to go. Fifteen kilometres later and we made Malmesbury - a little later than planned - and had another welcome coke break.
Despite having done 240kms, the section of road the I loathe and fear the most in the Western Cape still awaited us - the soul destroying strip of tar from Malmesbury to Durbanville. There isn't one outstanding reason why I detest this road so much, but it is the sum of several small factors that work together to make this road The Highway to Hell. The surface is rough and uneven. It's a gentle drag uphill for most of the way. It's pretty much dead straight. It's directly into the prevailing wind. And there is absolutely nothing of interest to look at. If there was one stretch of road that could derail the big day out, this was it. But we hadn't come this far to let some road get the better of us. It took us an hour to do 25kms, and another hour to do the next 20kms, and in the process we gave up on 356+km. We were just too shattered and short on time that we opted for a short cut. Without that short cut, we would have had to call off the rest of the ride.

And just like he always does, Captain Craig came good as my legs started to protest by violently cramping. The only positive was that the nausea I was feeling from drinking too much coke was no longer my biggest issue. As we left Durbanville behind, the wind dropped and the sun dipped towards the horizon. It really was quite magical. With Table Mountain now almost within touching distance, we set off towards Blouberg and the Bike Path (people around here refer to it as if it is the only bike path), and our way to get through the tangle that is Cape Town's roads. We got onto the Bike Path, and I felt a change - my legs seemed to revive a little, and our mood lifted. Suddenly, we weren't riding a 356+km ride any more, we were just riding. In the City. On bikes. With all sorts of other people out and about exercising and enjoying the very best that the Cape has to offer. We wound our way through the City, and out towards Captain Craig's house.

We didn't quite achieve our intended goal of 356+kms. We did something more. We had an amazing day out, riding bikes because we can, and enjoying the very best that the Western Cape has to offer. We saw some amazing scenery, shared the road with some courteous and considerate drivers, and watched ordinary people go about their business, all from the comfort of our saddles.

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3 comments :

  1. WoW1 You guys are amazing! Well done!

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  2. That is NUTS! 47C 300Km - Faaark!

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  3. Awesome ride - well done guys!

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