Tuesday 18 September 2007

Posted by Velouria Posted on 11:09 | No comments

Oranges and Midges!

In our quest to have the perfect Epic next year, Craig and I headed off to Citrusdal for some "team building". Last week was supposed to be a team ride, but we know how that turned out. Our aim was to ride together, and get some back to back racing in.

It is rather sad to see an event like this so poorly attended - the riding was great - the venue is scenic, and the organiser's enthusiasm can't be beaten.

As always, Craig started like a rat up a drainpipe, and I was left trailing a lung trying to catch him. I got tangled up with some slower riders in a very sandy patch, only to see Craig disappearing into the distance.

It took me about 15 minutes to catch him (although I do think he waited), and from there on we set about trying to get into a rhythm to catch Marius up ahead.

There was loads of climbing, mostly up rocky jeep track, but with the odd sandy bit thrown in for good measure. On one of the big climbs, I could see the gap to Marius dropping - we started out about 2 minutes behind him, and by the time we went over the top, the gap was down to 45 seconds.

We both had a couple of hairy moments on some of the descents - my back wheel tried to overtake my front wheel, and Craig decided that he didn't like the jeep track and veered off into the fynbos - making his trail. I chose to follow the trail.

We thought we had got lucky when we saw Marius trying to pump a tyre. We stopped and lent him a bomb. As we were about to leave, I discovered that I too had a puncture, and Uncle Stan wasn't going to fix it, so we had to put in a tube. This gave Marius time to open up a gap on us again.

With more climbing and bundu bashing through fynbos (I still have splinters in my hands, arms and legs) we were finally greeted with some appreciated downhill. And to make it even better - we could see Marius in the distance. I had a target to aim at. As we got to Marius, he stopped and I lent him my pump to do some running repairs. We thought we had him now, but all credit to him, he chased hard and was able to hop onto our wheels.

We tried to ride him off, but we didn't do it particularly well - we had discussed it before the race, but when the pressure was on, we lacked in the brain department, and never really threatened Marius. As a result, he was able to out sprint us both on the line.

All in all, a good days racing - we both learned a lot, and had a good workout.

That afternoon we cruised Citrusdal, eventually finding the local rugby match to be the only thing of interest in the town. We spent the afternoon watching the locals pummel Tulbagh, while swarms of midges tried to suck us dry. I also learned a couple of new insults from the locals. The phrase of the moment is "Jy is n gemorse!"

Day Two dawned, and although we hadn't entered the race, we were going to sneak onto the course. Plenty climbing awaited us, but we worked well together, until I punctured again. We then had to play catch up and just as we were about to get in front again, we missed a turn (I was trying to catch a guy who wasn't in the race). More climbing awaited us, and it felt like we climbed for hours - before we finally popped out in a wheat field. That was a new experience for me - I have never ridden in a wheat field before. A couple more stops to attend to my tyre before we got to fly down the old pass back to the finish line. We took day two much more at Epic pace, and it was good to have a hard 4 hour workout.

While all this was going on, the wives were busy racing the Tour de Vino. Yolanda had some mechanical problems - which are naturally all my fault, and so their time was a little slower than expected, but judging from the photo, fun was had all round.

Tuesday 11 September 2007

Posted by Velouria Posted on 12:26 | 3 comments

We have a winner!

Can you believe it - I won a race. And I am not talking about winning a race just because the other guy's bum wore out after 21 hours of riding. No - I won a race because I was able to ride away from the competition.

Just to clarify - most of the competition weren't at this race, leaving the competition to be two guys from Hermanus, and Craig, my Epic partner with the freshly broken (and almost healed) neck. But I still rode away from them.

The initial plan had been to do this race with Craig as a team, as it covers part of next year's Epic route. I didn't really feel like racing, and was quite prepared for a nice outing in the Stanford country side.

We set off at a reasonable pace, and I quickly tucked into 3rd position behind the Hermanus representatives. I was going to ride on their wheels, and maybe out sprint them towards the end. Craig was right behind me. Very quickly, the Hermanus representation halved, and suddenly Craig and I had the upper hand. I was feeling good, so after about 20 minutes of riding I went to the front and set the pace, with Craig hoping into 3rd place. As the road went up, I still felt good, and didn't mind setting the pace, but I could feel the Hermanus rider right behind me. On a short downhill, the Hermanus rider left both of us for dead, and I realised that if we wanted to get beat him, we would have to make him hurt on the hills.

On the next bit of steep grassy up hill I put in a hard effort, and immediately a gap opened up. I eased off a little to let Craig get across to me, and then carried on pushing hard. (All the while, scenes from various Tour de France's were flashing through my head - all I needed to do was give the Lance "Look").

Craig and I then rode on, getting to the bottom of the big climb together. Craig was not supposed to be racing, so he was going to take it easy from here on - we still had about 2 hours of racing left. I kept on going - I was feeling great, and the hill was my kind of climb - not too steep, and very loooong.

I had a motorbike marshal for company - and he would give me updates on where I was, where Craig was, what lay ahead etc. I did want to kill him when he pointed to a hill and said the small climb ahead was all that remained. It was like a mountain, and damn steep. I had to walk sections!

Although I couldn't see anyone behind me, I wasn't going to take any chances, and so I pushed on to the end - and equaled the course record in the process, with Craig coming in in second place - 10 minutes later.

What a great little ride - well laid out, well marked, very scenic and a lovely prize of a weekend away in a cottage in the area. Just a pity the race wasn't better attended (but then I probably wouldn't have won!)

I have agreed to let Craig win the next one - and he has agreed to make a real race of it!