Wednesday 9 September 2009

Posted by Velouria Posted on 16:44 | No comments

Stanford 2009

After missing last year's Stanford Mountain Bike Race due to a dodgy knee, I was back to defend the only proper race I have ever won (24hr events don't count - I prefer to think of those as survival contests). After the disaster that was Baviaans, I really wasn't that confident about my form. And word had gotten out about the race - I was no longer just racing the local farm labourers - there were some proper cyclists in attendance this year.

The organisers had put together quite a tough course - only 65kms long, but with plenty of climbing. Word was that we were in for over 3000m of climbing. I think that alone chased away plenty of potential riders. A tough Epic stage only has about 2000m of climbing in 120km of riding. This was going to be tough!

A 7am departure

I had convinced Yo to come along, telling her it was an easy ride!
We arrived at Beloftebos with an hour to spare, and already the turn out was quite impressive. The competition from Hermanus was going to be quite stiff, as well as a couple of out of towners. The 30km ride I had promised Yolanda had been changed to a 45 km ride, taking in the tougher parts of the 65km course. I could sense that Yolanda wanted to bail and do the 22km kiddies race, but with a bit of pressure from Bonte and some other Hermanus people, she bravely entered the 45km ride.

The Greek - on his brand new pimped out bike!
Right from the gun the racing started, with a young Matie rider leaving us all for dead. This was going to be a race for 2nd place. Ettienne set the early pace on his new 29er, and quickly opened up a gap on the rest of us. Only John (the same John who had dished out the pain at Baviaans) was able to match him, and marked him all the way up the long first climb in Salmansdam. I slotted in behind Craig and tried to find a good rhythm. My legs were feeling good, and so I decided to try and cross the gap up to 4th place, currently occupied by Cillier (of Team Faffer fame). I caught and passed Cillier on a steep section just before the top of the first climb, and then set off after Ettienne in 3rd place, quite a way up the road.

Tussen the fyn bos

The curse of the Merlin strikes again!
I was beginning to think I would have to settle for 4th place as it looked like Ettienne was riding extremely well, when I caught a glimpse of him disappearing around a corner. With a target to aim at I slowly closed the gap, catching him as we started the next climb of the day. I knew I had to get a gap over Ettienne, Cillier and Craig on the hills, as I was no match for them on the down hills, so I pushed on, hoping to catch a glimpse of John in second place. I never did see John, although I was told that he was just 4 minutes ahead of me at one of the water points. John claims they told him the same thing about the guy in front of him.

Looking good in yellow ;)

Bonte freewheeling to the finish
The next 2 and a half hours were spent climbing hills, with the odd fast piece of downhill in between. And not the sort of downhill where you can rest and let your legs recover. The kind of downhill where you feel you are about to make a serious mistake and end up in a pile of grazed skin, buckled wheels and torn clothing. But it was quite a bit of fun.

I think that is a smile

Yolanda freewheeling to the finish
After what seemed an age, I got to a water point with 10kms to go expecting a nice quick run into the finish - after all - how much more climbing can there be. Apparently quite a bit. By now my legs were completely knackered - I had given up on chasing John ages ago, and was quite happy to settle for third. I couldn't see anyone behind me, and so I plodded my way to the finish - cursing and swearing at every meter in elevation gained! Thankfully the organisers had made a mistake - we only did 1850m of climbing, but even that is a lot for 65km.

I wasn't the only one having problems, and in comparison, mine were quite trivial - Craig had broken his rear dérailleur and had had to abandon at the 30km mark and wait for the broom wagon to pick him up. Bonte and Carmen had both fallen victims to the nasty descents and got some scrapes and bruises - Carmen spraining her wrist quite badly. John had misjudged a gate, and had become entangled in an electric fence, having to endure 20 000 volts pulsing through his bike and body - no wonder I never saw him - he was riding on pure adrenalin.

Tired, but alive and in one piece

Bonte looks like she could do another lap

The race did claim some victims - Carmen and Bonte succumbing to gravity
I eventually finished - in a whopping 3h53 (a massive 20 minutes behind John) in third place - completely and utterly exhausted. This was one tough ride - one of the tougher rides I have done in a long time. I headed off to the showers - completely disinterested in the rugby - a little worried about Yolanda. This certainly isn't a ride for some one who isn't that fit, and I expected a call from her any minute for me to pick her up. But, with Bonte and Louise as her race companions they eventually made it to the finish. The fact that they were still smiling was a good sign!

Puuuggh - rugby

Dinniel came second in the baby sitters race

A day out for the whole family
The rest of the day was spent under the shade of the big oak trees, eating snacks and chatting. A perfect setting for a mountain bike race.

Third place - a weekend away, some wine, and a flower

Second placed John and his flower

The petting zoo


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