Wednesday 22 September 2010

Posted by Velouria Posted on 15:45 | No comments

Karoo2Coast 2010

For years I have had to put up with mountain bikers talking about a ride from the quaint little Karoo town of Uniondale, down some mountain passes, to Knysna. I have had to listen to the war stories, the tales of triumph and heartbreak, the accounts of steep cliffs, dangerous drops and atrocious weather. When asked how my ride was, I would mutter under my breath that I hadn't ever done the ride, and in an instant I would be excluded from the conversation and given that look. The look that says "You obviously aren't a real mountain biker."
The Route
But that all changed this year when we finally decided to enter the Karoo2Coast Mountain Bike Challenge. How hard can it really be? Apart from the odd bump here and there it is all downhill. On big wide roads. These mountain bikers are pansies! I had ridden the route in reverse in the 2007 Epic, and although Julian had suffered a bit, it didn't seem that bad. And surely the Epic route was the tougher direction to ride the route in anyway!
It's all downhill!
Along with the usual Hermanus contingent, we had a visiting Belgian physio/soldier/cyclist - Luc, who was eager to see just how tough us South Africans are. Bonte had once again used her amazing organisational skills to secure us accommodation in the school hostel, and Luc's first hurdle would be to survive a night with The (injured) Runner and The Greek in a tiny dorm room. After a few ground rules were laid down, I think they all got on like a house on fire. First rule - no snoring. Consequences - Death. Actually, that was the only rule. The Greek was particularly scared, and was only too grateful to have a very cute duvet with chickens on it to cuddle in the night as he made sure he didn't snore.
Our accommodation for the night
Race day dawned bright and early with The Greek bringing The (injured) Runner breakfast in bed. Those two do make a good couple. After breakfast and the usual pre-race pfaff we all headed off to our start chutes - the threat of bad weather having failed to materialise. It looked like a perfect day for a downhill ride to Knysna.
The Greek's duvet
And that was probably the last pleasant thought I had until I crossed the finish line 3h42 later. Craig and I had the pleasure of starting in the Elite bunch, with both of us downplaying our form - Craig blaming his island adventure, and me blaming all the racing I had done. At 7:30 we were off, and I was quite nervous - whenever a large bunch of mountain bikers get together in a bunch on tar bad things are bound to happen. Barely 100m from the start and I almost had my first crash, and in return sending Craig sideways into some other innocent bystander. Luckily no one went down. Shortly after that 2 riders did go down - but it was on the other side of the bunch far away from us.
Rent-a-mechanic as The Greek and The (injured) Runner look on.
As we hit the dirt at the bottom of the first climb the race exploded and the front guys were off. Craig and I were stuck behind some riders whose own perceived ability and actual ability were on opposite ends of the spectrum. I weaved my way through the traffic, thinking Craig was right on my wheel - Team 5339 ripping up the course. The reality was that Craig had bust his dérailleur at the start of the climb and was on his way back to the start to either look for a new dérailleur, or a new bike. I should probably look behind me every now and then.
Nelly got her own special place to sleep
After some ups and downs I found myself in no man's land - there was a group up ahead that were getting away from me, and a group behind me that weren't quite catching me. I plodded along at my own pace when I was eventually caught by Jarryd just when I needed someone to pick a line down Prince Alfred Pass, and he was the perfect person for it. Unfortunately he punctured not long afterwards and I was all on my own again. I finally got some company in the form of Tiaan Erwee, another Helderberg local and together we rode well up the never ending climb towards Buffelsnek. The bunch finally caught us, but nothing changed - Tiaan and I stayed on the front and did all the work while we towed the rest of them along. It's the burden of riding a 29er, and I am slowly coming to accept it.

We were picking up riders who had been dropped quite regularly, and one of them happened to be Hector, a Hermanus local, and my future DC teammate. It was rather bad timing for Hector, because as soon as we had caught him my little bunch decided to drop the hammer and the gaps started to open. I had to go around several riders to stay in the bunch, with Tiaan falling victim, and Hector barely hanging on. It wasn't long before the elastic broke, and Hector was off the back.
Luc - the sun burnt Belgian
Things pretty much stayed the same, 29er on the front until we reached the last hill. I had descended quite amazingly, and was looking good to get over the climb in good shape when my legs decided to call it a day. They just wouldn't go and I slowly found myself going backwards. By the time I got to the top of the climb the bunch was gone and I was left to limp home to the finish line on my own. Never before have I hated riding on flat tar so much - it just didn't seem to want to end. I finally finished in 3h42, in 30th place, having had one of my hardest races in a long time. Karoo2Coast certainly isn't easy, and it certainly isn't downhill. I was sore all over, and a little disappointed that I could stick with the bunch, but that's bike racing.
Still smiling, despite over 6 hours of trouble
After what seemed like an age, The Greek crossed the line in fine form, shattering his personal best and comprehensively claiming the floating trophy. With The (injured) Runner out of action, his win seemed assured, but as is often the case, a new contender stood up and put her cards on the table. Bonte finished a mere 20 minutes behind The Greek, and while he basked in his amazing victory, I couldn't help notice the fear and worry in his eyes.
The Greek receiving his trophy
As for the others - The (injured) Runner had done 250km in a little over 3 hours, and was looking as fresh as a daisy. He did complain of a sore bum, but that is to be expected over such distances. Yolanda had a disaster of a ride - her dodgy Specialized equipment letting her down, although she swears it was her mechanic's fault. Craig, once again, got beaten by pretty much everybody. It's happening at such a regular occurrence that it doesn't surprise anyone anymore. Yolanda was more than happy though - Craig's mechanical skills were put to good use on her bike. Just a pity his own bike doesn't get the same level of care. Luc got his money's worth and enjoyed the scenery and the race atmosphere. He also now admits that all Belgian cyclists are wimps and that South African's are slightly crazy (despite us telling him that The (injured) Runner and The Greek are not true representatives of typical South Africans).
Podium girls, fame, groupies.
The Greek has arrived


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