Thursday 29 November 2007

Posted by Velouria Posted on 15:36 | No comments

DC 2007

Craig and I had initially volunteered our services out to the Wannabees for this year's Double Century. The idea of riding 200kms slowly with a bunch of old guys didn't really appeal to us, and so Craig decided to make his own team (he wasn't good enough for the Hermanus teams - apparently).

We managed to cobble together a team consisting of all sorts of odds and ends. We initially had 11 people - 2 Poms, two Gauties, the Maverick Racing Team (all 3 of us), a Durbanville local, and 3 left over Hermanus riders. As is always the case, some people dropped out, and we were left with 8 riders - the 2 Gauties and the Durbanviller dropping out.

Craig had set his sights on doing a sub 6 hour ride. This was always going to be a tough task, and now we only had 8 riders who had never ridden together before. The only thing unifying us was the free Litespeed kit Chris (one of the Poms) kindly donated to the team. Our team name was FLAT OUT, and that was pretty much how we were going to have to ride if we wanted to get that sub 6.

But we weren't the only ones facing a challenge - the ladies were also competing, and several months of training was about to be put to the test. Just for the record - no one convinced them to ride - they volunteered on their own. Pretty darn hardcore!

Still all smiles

Bike racing is serious - no time to smile :)

We started our ride at 6:23, which, if according to the plan, would mean we would be finished by 12:22 or so. We quickly left Swellendam behind us and headed off towards Suurbrak. Craig was leading the team from the front, and took a long 7 minute first pull on the front (I was quite worried - if we were all going to have to do 7 minute pulls we would be dead by 9am). Shortly after hitting the N2 we passed the Wannabee Social team containing our wives. They were still all smiles (I am glad they had a checklist otherwise it could have been a different story!)

Ready? ...

Steady? ...


Tradouw Pass made for a pleasant climb - loosen the legs up and get the heart going. Everyone was still looking good, although I was feeling a little sorry for Anton - big men don't like going uphill. We were continually passing teams, and having the carrot dangling in front of us was good motivation. At the top of the Pass we turned left at the Barrydale intersection, and headed towards Montagu, via the only other serious climb of the day - Op Die Tradouw Pass. This one is a bugger. It is one of those hills where you can't see the top, and every time you get to a corner you get to look up and see still more climbing ahead.

Sticking with tradition - I gave Russel a push up the Pass again - not that he needed it this year. We got to our first feed stop at 66km in just a little over 2 hours. We had another 70kms of riding with the wind to Robertson, and then another 70kms into the wind back to Swellendam via Bonnievale.

Our top notch seconders - service with a smile

Our seconders were brilliant - and to think they had only found out what they had to do a couple of hours before. Friendly, understanding and organised. Thanks :)

Craig had calculated that we needed an average speed of 33km/h to do a sub 6, and at the top of the pass we had an average of 31.5km/h, so I decided to take it upon myself to up the average. The rolling hills into Montagu flew by, with our maximum speed of the day coming in at just over 75km/h. There were fewer and fewer teams ahead of us - we had pretty much passed the majority of the 100 or so teams before us.

Just before Montagu we were passed by the Pinnacle Point guys. After much debate we had decided not to stop at Montagu, but to rather push on to Bonnievale at 160kms for our next stop. Just after Montagu we were passed by another team - the SA De Jeaux team, and for the next 60kms had a bit of a ding dong battle with them - us passing them, and them passing us. They were also a team of only 8, and they too were suffering.

I think this was Montagu

The road to Robertson is a long and boring one - not very much to look at, and a couple of rather annoying little hills. Anton was starting to take strain, but was hanging on. On a couple of occasions I thought that he was going to drop off, but every time he would clench his teeth, dig deep, and ride back onto the bunch.

We were doing well, and had managed to get the average speed up to 34.5km/h - was it going to be enough to make up for the trip back into the wind?

We hit the circle at Robertson, and turned into the head wind - almost immediately our speed dropped, as did the general feeling in the team. To make things a little worse - the SA De Jeaux team passed us when Cobus lost a bottle going over a railway line. I took a couple turns on the front, trying to keep the momentum going, but as we approached Bonnievale I could tell something wasn't right. With every effort that I put in, my stomach would start to ache, and I would feel a little nauseous. Sitting on the back of the bunch everything would be fine - until we started to hit the hills.

While I was dealing with my belly issues, Christian was complaining of a sore knee, and had decided to pull out at the next stop. This meant that we would be just 7 riders for the last 40kms. In Bonnievale I grabbed some water - trying to settle the beast in my belly, and hoped I would be ok. But 10 kms later and it had just gotten worse. I waved goodbye to the team, before waving goodbye to my stomach contents. After going to the toilet, I got back on my back and started to tackle the remaining 30kms as I quickly watched my team disappear off into the distance.

The worst road in SA

Chaos at the feed stop

Will the magic water do the trick?

On any other day, 30kms would take about an hour, but those 30kms felt like 1000kms. At several points I was very tempted to get off my bike and walk up the hills, but didn't because there were spectators camped out on most hills. And no amount of cheering and encouragement helps, but it is appreciated. I also noticed that I had a white car following me - not sure if it was someone I know, or, like a vulture waiting for its prey to die, he was getting ready to steal my bike should I pass out or die.

The marker boards were slowly ticking by 30kms, 20kms, 10kms, 5kms, 3kms, 2kms, 1km. That last kilometer was the longest one of the day, but eventually the finish line appeared and it was all over, for another year. Just to rub salt into the wound, the organisers then took us on a round about way through the streets of Swellendam to get us back to the sports grounds where we had started.

Perhaps it was the compulsory zebra feeding stop the cost us?

When I arrived, I found my team scattered across the grass, like soldiers wounded in battle - I think they had suffered way more than I had during those last 30kms. And we had missed out on the sub 6 by 6 minutes. I had finished 15 minutes later...

Russel leading the team across the line

A couple of beers later, and some food in the stomach, everyone was looking good, and we began the long wait for the ladies. Just like Hell and Back, you never know if there has been a mechanical or medical problem, and there is not much you can do but wait and hope. They eventually finished in 9:59:59, which is a very long time to spend on a bike, but they finished as a team, and everyone looked happy, and relieved that it was over. Yolanda has officially retired from the Double Century (at least for next year's).

They finished, as a team, with smiles

The rest of the weekend was spent telling stories about the ride, being lazy, and eating.

An ostrich egg to feed the masses - hurry up Chris!

This is going to be tasty!

Tuesday 27 November 2007

Posted by Velouria Posted on 10:42 | No comments

A kid in a candy store

A mate of mine recently bought Yolanda's brother's bike. Look at the smile on his face (and look at how nice the bike looks)

Posted by Velouria Posted on 10:33 | 3 comments

Assorted Pictures


Hell and Back

Thursday 15 November 2007

Posted by Velouria Posted on 13:05 | 3 comments

I survived Hell (only just)

The annual pilgrimage to Hell took place last weekend. This is always a great event - some tough cycling, usually some adverse weather conditions, and some beautiful scenery. And this year we had managed to convince the ladies to come along (we had to withhold some of the truth about the ride in order to get them to come along).

As is becoming the norm - I was dreading the start of the ride - and only because Craig seems to think that you have to go flat out from the gun. To add to the mix, Marius was also riding, and I wanted nothing more than to beat him. At 7 am we were off, and Craig did not disappoint - Marius and I just shook our heads in disbelief as he powered away from us up the first bit of uphill.

"They never said it was this long"

I don't remember most of the ride into Hell, as I was hanging on to Craig's back wheel, and suffering all the way. The only comfort I got was knowing that Marius was having the same trouble hanging on to my wheel. We climbed the 18km up Swartberg pass in 1h17. I recovered slightly on the flat middle section, and really enjoyed riding behind Craig on the downhills. He picks much better lines than I do. Marius let us know he was always there because his bike was making a racket - squeaking and creaking on every pedal stroke.

"Or we could just go back to the start??"

With about 10km to go, we had a 4km climb called HeartBreak Hill before the final descent into Die Hel. Craig got a bit of a gap on me, as I tried to ride a steady pace over the climb. Marius was still stuck on my wheel, and with the final downhill coming, I had to get rid of him. I got in front of him going into the downhill, and out descended him. I took a few risks, but when I saw a guy climbing up after having gone over the edge, I backed off a bit. I finished in 3h03, a minute behind Craig, and 2 minutes ahead of Marius.

"You mean we have to ride there??"

Now the wait for the ladies began. We both knew that we were going to be in serious trouble when they eventually did arrive - it was way tougher and longer and harder than what we had led them to believe. And as the time went by, we had to wonder if they had had a mechanical, or even worse, a crash. When Yolanda and Bonte eventually did arrive, we could tell that they had had a long tough day, but I think they were also proud of their achievement. The trouble was that they had to ride out the next day.

"Never mind the heart, my bum is broken!"

We spent the rest of the day in the Maverick camp, talking nonsense, tending to the girls (we looked like such henpecked men!). We had a braai that night, and Nigel and his world class steaks did the trick. The ladies looked like they might be able to ride out the next day.


Making juice for Bonte

Making juice for Yolanda

Sunday dawned, and already the mood in the camp had changed. The climb out of die Hel was sitting heavily on everyone's minds - today was going to be another tough day! We packed up the tents, loaded the trucks, and headed towards the start line. This is one of the few rides where you start the race in your granny gear, and face a 4 km climb right from the start.

A crazy local?

We had been seeded in the top 100, and so the start was not too chaotic. It took us a while to get warm - the heart rate took a while to get into the race zone. Once there, I decided that I was going to ride the climb like it was the only thing I was doing that day, and pushed really hard. We strung along a couple of familiar faces, Marius, John (TransBaviaans), and some other Hermanus locals. Marius started taking strain quite soon on, and just after the descent of HeartBreak Hill we dropped him. I think the hill had neutralised Craig's fast starting ability, and as the race wore on, I felt my legs were getting better, and I was riding in a comfortable suffer-zone.

Very important - the braai!

I also got a bit of revenge on Craig, as he had quite a bad middle patch, although it didn't last as long as I would have liked :) . We had a couple mechanical incidents on the way out - I did some interesting things to my chain, and Craig lost a pivot bolt in his rear triangle. Thank goodness for cable ties. And you don't have to worry, if you think the thought of Craig's bike disintergrating under him would slow him down, you are wrong. It was from here on that he started recovering, and eventually reversed the tables on me.

After descending Swartberg pass we hit the last 5 kms of the ride - on tar, and I got a bad dose of cramps in my thighs and calves. Craig was eager to get the race over with, but I was holding him back. We finished in 3h16, and 30 seconds later, much to our surprise, Marius crossed the line - that had been far to close for comfort!

Ok, enough smiling - I want to eat!

It was at this point that things took a turn for the worse. We decided to drive back to a part of the route and wait for the ladies. Somehow we missed the ladies, and they finished without us to cheer them in. When we eventually did return to the finish, there were two rather grumpy and tired riders. All they had wanted was for us to cheer them in, and we had missed them. A packet of chips and some food later, and peace was restored - thankfully ;)

A good weekend was had all round, although I don't think the ladies will do this ride again.

Craig and I came 32nd and 33rd overall, and 8th and 9th in the SubVets - not too shabby.

Monday 5 November 2007

Posted by Velouria Posted on 14:48 | 2 comments


After getting up at the crack of dawn (3:45) so that I could be in the car by 4:15 after doing my usual race day ritual (I won't go into details), the very least I expected was a nice easy ride and some easy points in the small country town of Bonnievale.

I should have known that this wasn't going to happen when I got in the car to discover that my wife was doing an experiment in seeing how close to the far end of the red line she could get the fuel gauge needle to go. After a moment of panic when I couldn't find my wallet to put fuel in, I was off to Botrivier to pick up Craig, so that he could do what he hoped would be his first league ride.

We got to Bonnievale at about 6:15, and had enough time to register, find the porta-potties, ready the bikes, and go for a half hearted warm up ride. At 7:00 we were lined up in the start chute waiting to go. There must have been about 25 riders in the SubVet bunch, so a good haul of points was looking good.

The race started at a good pace, and on the first hill I attacked - I had no idea what sort of legs I had, and wanted to get a feel of whether I had some form or not. The bunch let me dangle for a bit off the front, before they made an effort to reel me back in. As I was to discover, they were not going to let anyone get away today.

Another rider attacked, and I went with him, and we built up a gap of about 500 meters before the bunch responded and closed us down again. The points leaders were not going to take any chances by letting a couple of riders escape, but that didn't stop me from trying. I tried again once more, before settling into the routine of the ride. I didn't have great legs, but I felt comfortable and was able to hang one when we got put in the gutter with a nasty North Wester blowing.

After about an hour the race was going to change direction, go around a circle and cross some railway lines, and then ride with the wind. I was going to give it
another shot and try to get clear. As we approached the circle, another rider had similar ideas, and I was glad to know that I wouldn't be alone on the break. I gave him some time to get a nice gap on the bunch and then broke and chased after him. We worked well together, and built up a nice gap on the bunch - the tailwind helping us out a great deal. Once again the big guns decided to close us down after leaving us off the front for about 6 or 7 minutes.

A couple of the other riders tried to break free, and I thought I would have one last go, but the move went nowhere fast. Now it was time to just chill in the bunch, and recover before the rolling hills that awaited us.

To my surprise, the race winning move came before the hills, in a slight crosswind, with 5 riders simply riding off the front of the bunch. I could see a Maverick jersey there, so while I was suffering like crazy trying to hang on to the second bunch, I was quite happy that Christian had made the gap.

From here on in it was a time trial to try and catch the leaders, and I was paying the price for my earlier efforts. I still think that with a bit of teamwork we could have caught the leaders, but team tactics and fatigue prevented us from doing so. We eventually reeled in Christian after the 3 leaders dropped him and another rider up a hill. I didn't have much left, and no one was willing to help Russel de Jager with the chase, so I thought I would try to help him close the gap, so that Christian could sprint for 4th.

The end of the sprint - I was happy with last (or 10th)

It is amazing how scarce riders become when there is a bit of work to do. Suddenly they were nowhere to be found. Russell did the majority of the work, and I tried to help where I could. The gap was closing, but we were running out of road. One of the leaders punctured, and suddenly we were racing for 3rd. Christian started his sprint early, and ran out of legs about 50m short of the line. I never had legs to start with, and all the guys that we were towing came past me on the line.

My chance to sneak around Christian and get 9th :)

This was one tough ride (my nose starting bleeding again), and I was absolutely finished. In hindsight, perhaps I shouldn't have wasted all that energy up front, but it felt good at the time.

The league is now over (for me - I miss next week's ride because of Hell and Back) - I have 54 points, and finished in 13th position overall. Looking forward to the summer league