Tuesday 14 September 2010

Posted by Velouria Posted on 19:06 | 1 comment

Staalwater 2010

As the poster boy for this Staalwater MTB Challenge I had an obligation to attend. Thankfully, the organisers had set up a course that favoured my strengths, and decided to keep the technical stuff to a minimum. It still wasn't going to be easy - we had loads of climbing to do, and it looked like it was going to be flat and fast.

With Karoo2Coast just around the corner, this was to be the last dress rehearsal for The Runner and The Greek, and an opportunity for either of them to gain the upper hand in the psychological war games. We were all expecting big things from this race.
Another reminder - I am the poster boy
I was a little disappointed to see that some of the big guns had rocked up again, and were likely to ruin my poster boy day in the sun. Equally distressing was the fact that I had competition from 3 other riders: my Baviaans team mate John, Marius the Pansie, and Henning, a local Somerset West rider.

With a turnout that far exceeded the size of the start shoot, the long route set in a flurry of riders. The quicker riders eventually made their way through the traffic and a nice little bunch formed at the front. The old saying "If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is" applies here - I thought I was doing well, sitting comfortably in the bunch, feeling good when all hell broke loose. In slow motion. Four riders just rode away from the rest of us, and no matter how hard I tried I could do nothing about it. Two hours of chasing followed, with mixed results.
The Greek, having a pre-race stress about the integrity of his carbon Giant

We managed to catch one of the leaders, also on a 29er, and so there were 3 riders chasing the 3 leaders, with us being chased by John and Marius. A catch 22. I wanted to stay away from the guys behind us, but I didn't want to kill myself trying to catch the leaders, and give Henning a free ride. Thankfully, the course was very 29er friendly, so Henning was practically removed from the equation.

The Runner, adopting an interesting warm-up routine
The status quo remained until the first water point, and the sharp little hill that followed it. We lost the other 29er early on, with Henning next to go. In the interim, Jarryd, a downhill demon and future Double Century teammate, had been dropped by the leaders and was about 100m ahead. With everything looking great, it was around this time that my legs decided that they were no longer interested in cycling, and were going on strike. To make matters worse, all three of the guys I wanted to beat had now joined up, and were working together to chase me down.

My only hope was to get over the climb with a slight advantage, and hope that some more 29er  friendly roads would present themselves. While my wish wasn't granted exactly, I got the next best thing - some technical downhill. John was able to ride across to me, but the others struggled, and before they could close the gap the hallowed 29er friendly road appeared and John and I were able to open the gap. Things pretty much stayed like this until the finish - we could see third place, sixth and seventh could see us, but there wasn't a lot that any of us could do about it.
Third placed Jarryd looking cool
With Caledon approaching fast, John got a serious case of white line fever, and I had to hang on to his rear wheel for dear life. Just when I was about to pop, the cycling gods smiled on me once again, and John dropped his chain on a steep little uphill. Doing the thing that Alberto Contador should have done, I waited for John. (That's what it appeared like anyway - the truth was that I would have walked that hill anyway.) In return for my generosity, John didn't sprint me for fourth place. We had ridden the 60kms in 2:14, and were only 5 minutes behind the leader. Being old also has its benefits as I was the first SubVet across the line (and the first 29er, but there are no prizes for that).
Both the ladies beat the boys
Back to the main attraction - The Runner vs The Greek. We were expecting fireworks, with thousands of spectators turning up to see the action, drama, and suffering. What we got was one of the biggest anticlimaxes in the history of cycling. Sadder than Lance Armstrong's return to competitive racing, more disappointing than Jan Ullrich's attempt to win a second Tour de France, less riveting than watching a Dennis Menchov interview. It was a total damp squib. The Greek and The Runner had declared a truce and rode together. Something about The Runner suffering from an old ITB injury he picked up back when he was an up and coming endurance runner, training under the watchful eye of Arthur Lydiard in a bid to smash the Comrades up run record.
The deserved winner of the trophy, flanked by the two losers.
Bonte had gone to great effort in securing a trophy for the main attraction, but given the outcome, it was decided that she should receive it as she comprehensively beat both of them. Whether this stunt by The Runner was just another salvo in the psychological duel with The Greek remains to be seen. One thing is for sure, this burgeoning rivalry will keep us gripped for many years to come.

1 comment :

  1. maybe if i nag a bit they'll give me first place!