Wednesday 14 July 2010

Posted by Velouria Posted on 22:02 | 1 comment

Dirtopia 9-5 2010

After an absence of a couple of years I decided to return to ride Dirtopia's 9-5 event. And for the first time I was going to ride it solo. I had always believed that it wasn't long enough for me to stand a chance of doing well, and so had always previously entered in either a 2 man or 4 man relay team.

The weather for the event didn't look good, with weather reports varying from cold and wet to freezing cold and torrential downpours. I am getting old, and so the thought of riding in the rain when I don't really have to doesn't appeal to me at all. The deal was - we would go to registration, but if it was raining when the race started, we would go home.
Start time - clear skies.
Perfect weather for bike riding
Needless to say, 20 minutes before the race was due to start the rain stopped, the clouds lifted and the sun came out. Now I had no excuse, and after missing the 100Miler through illness I was rather keen to see just how well Nelly the Niner would do in an endurance event.
Race face
The route was a typical Meurant route - a 7km lap with a climb in the middle and some singletrack thrown in here and there for good measure. The rules were simple - person with the most laps after 8 hours was the winner. The rain had kept some people away, but there was decent competition in the form of Gavin (my 24hr duelling buddy) and Marius, as well as a good assortment of youngsters.
Completing another lap

Two hours done - in second place.

My main objective was to pace myself - I had not had the best of 24hr races previously for this very reason, and so I wanted to get into a rhythm and ride consistent, solid laps without over doing it. The initial laps were a muddy, mucky affair but the course quickly settled and rode in quite nicely. The usual shadow boxing occurred, and I was determined to follow wheels rather than do any of the pace setting and so for several laps just followe Gavin round and round - losing him on the technical stuff as he rode away from me, but catching him on the flatter fast stuff. The challenge from Marius never happened - he was still feeling the effects of the 100Miler in his legs.
Following Gavin
With 3 hours gone we were joined by a youngster - Timo, and the three of us did some laps together. Gavin stopped for some snacks and so I followed Timo for half a lap. He had put in a big effort to catch us and I wanted to see what sort of legs he had. Up a short sharp climb I put in a bit of effort and immediately a gap opened up. Timo had gone too hard to catch us and had nothing left in his legs with which to respond. I was alone, in the lead and still feeling good.
First, second, and third
Yolanda, the ever present backup expert was doing her usual great work of keeping me topped with food and juice, and had managed to commandeer Marius's bucket and sponge to clean off the mud and gunk that was collecting on my drivetrain. I was also getting updates as to where Timo was and how he was doing, but it looked like he was in a race for 2nd place with another rider, and hopefully they would forget about me.
First place with an hour to go

Another lap almost finished
Yolanda being creative with the camera
Slowly but surely the clock wound down as I did lap after lap - all pretty much at the same pace, and before long I had an hour to go and a 12 minute lead. All I had to do was get around the course without any technical issues.
One lap to go
I finished off with 20 laps - a lap more than Timo who managed to win the sprint for second. I now had a complete set of results for Dirtopia's 9-5 - first in the 4 man relay, first in the 2 man relay, and first in the solo category. It was also only Nelly's fourth race, and already she was a winner.


Posted by Velouria Posted on 22:01 | No comments

Cape Epic - Stage Eight

Date: 28 March 2010
Start/Finish: Oak Valley to Lourensford
Distance: 65km
Climbing: 1640m

The final stage of the 2010 Cape Epic had arrived, and it couldn't have come any sooner for those still in the race. We had endured 7 days of some of the toughest and most technical mountain biking in the Western Cape, certainly the toughest riding in an Epic to date. A general air of excitement and anticipation filled tent city - we were just 65km away from Lourensford and the finisher's medal that awaited us.

While there might have been a carnival atmosphere in the hours leading up to the start of the final stage, the final stage was not one that could be taken lightly. It really was the sting in the tail of what had been a tough Epic, and was the kind of stage that could ruin one's hopes of finishing.
Good bye to tent town
As is customary, the stage started a little later than previously, giving us some extra time to sleep in, enjoy breakfast and fiddle. The extra time flew by, and before we knew it the stage had started and we were climbing once again on tired, cold legs up the towards the old Viljoen's Pass. Lady Luck was smiling on me, and for the first time in three attempts I was able to ride up some steep concrete jeep track instead of having to push my bike up the climb.

We made good progress up the old pass, and crossed over to the foot of Nuweberg. There had been a general sigh of relief that we weren't going to be climbing this monster, but Dr Evil wasn't going to let us get away without a little bit of pain and suffering. He had found a new climb that was higher, steeper and rockier than Nuweberg - Buysepad. Once again we found ourselves riding with the usual suspects, the Coach, the DropGoal Hero, the Pretty Boy, and Mr Stander. The more I saw of Mr Stander the more respect I had for him - he is not a small fellow, and yet he was climbing as well, if not better than the rest of us - doing his own thing at his own tempo. Very impressive.
The Mountain Bike and I crossing the line
The final section of Buysepad kicked up quite steeply, and we were forced to carry/push our bikes. I was riding Nelly once again, and so far everything was going well. We were climbing well, we were fast on the flats, and relatively fast on the smoother descents. And then I found her weakness - the otherside of Buysepad is a rocky technical descent with no real line at all. I am embarrassed to say that The MountainBiker rode away from me on the descent, and did so looking like he was a natural. In fact, I think he even gave me a "what took you so long" look at the bottom. While he still hadn't found his elusive climbing legs, he certainly had found some technical skills and was making good use of them.
We made it!
A short stop at the only water point of the day where bumped into the Coach and we were off - 30kms to go. We got to the compulsory portage just ahead of our competitors, and had a leisurely stroll down Gantouw Pass, to the railway line that awaited us. Thankfully, it was nothing in comparison to the railway line of Stage One, and we were soon off it and flying downhill towards Vergelegen and the ridiculous "no over taking zone". If we could get into that zone ahead of our competitors, we would stand a good chance of finishing ahead of them. To do that, we would have to get over the horrible little climbs that preceded the zone. With my hand planted firmly on The MountainBiker's back we flew up the hills and managed to open up quite a nice gap.
Happy to be finished
Walking past the gallery - everybody is a winner
After leaving the "no over taking zone" we had a short flat time trial to the finish. With The MountainBiker tucked in behind me we flew over the wide flat dirt roads, past a rather grumpy and tired Yolanda (who had done a 50km race in Lourensford and was probably close to being in last place) and onto the finishing straight.
The stage winners handing us our medals
It is quite a strange feeling riding up the grass finishing straight - it is not a thought you want to entertain at any time during the Epic in case of jinxing you race, and yet when it finally happens it feels a little weird - almost unwanted. Just like that, the Epic is over - eight long hard tough stages, some good times, some bad times - all come to an abrupt end. While the finish is most welcome, it also signifies the end to yet another great adventure through the Western Cape.
The MountainBiker and I - 2010 Finishers.
The MountainBiker and I had survived - there were definitely times when we both thought that he wouldn't make it, but being the tough little rider that he is, he stuck it out, gritted his teeth and crossed the line like a true champion. Well done Russell, and thanks for a great Epic.
Medal number 4

168. Cat
238. GC

181. Cat
261. GC