Monday 6 September 2010

Posted by Velouria Posted on 16:55 | 1 comment

Stanford 2010

One of my favourite rides on the calendar happens each year in early September, just as the legs are starting to recover from Baviaans. The Stanford MTB race. I am not entirely sure why I enjoy this race, as it certainly is one of the tougher rides on the calendar. Maybe it's the scenery and the great views from the top of the mountain, or the laid back atmosphere at the venue, or the rush of endorfins when the pain finally ends once you cross the finish line.

This year was no different. The route was a new route, but the idea was much the same - lots and lots of up, some short, sharp, lethal descents and bit of district road for good measure.
The medium route wasn't immune to the evil streak running through the race organiser either, and also took the riders over any hill that he could find.
A reasonable number of brave mountain bikers had once again turned out for the long route, known as the Akkedis (Afrikaans for Lizard). In a rare moment of weakness, the race organiser has decided to give us a 7km warmup loop before we started climbing the fabled Salmansdam climb up to the mast. In fact, one of the draw cards of this race is that it follows the part of the route as Stage 6 of the 2008 Epic.
An Akkedis
The race set off at a reasonable pace with the bunch being quite large until we hit the first rolling hills, where it suddenly reduced to about 7 or 8 riders. And then the real climbing started. The racing snakes and mountain goats disappeared up the climb and I found myself in 6th place. We climbed for around 45 minutes in hot, airless conditions, the sweat dripping off me. Ever since Knysna, I have become a little paranoid about losing a bottle and so made sure neither of my bottles were trying to escape at regular (i.e.2 minute) intervals. The new bottle cages also helped.

Once we made the top of the climb we had a sharp, dangerous descent back to the valley floor below. I had ridden up the climb on the wheel of the guy in 5th place, but as soon as we started going down I lost sight of him, and half expected the rest of the field to come flying past me. By some miracle they never did, and I managed to catch the guy ahead of me as he stopped with a puncture. I was now 5th, and had some lovely farm roads ahead of me - 29er terrain. Still half expecting the bunch to catch me I rode on by myself, when, all of a sudden, I got a glimpse of the guy in 4th - Chad the Chiropractor. I think Chad is one of those guys who struggles to leave his work at the office, as twice he had tried to straighten out my back on the warm up loop. Now I wanted to catch him and ask him if I really had a skew back.

The only catch was that I had just caught sight of the bunch (containing everyone I wanted to beat - the Hermanus locals and Marius) closing in on us as I slowly climbed one of the rolling hills. The effort of riding on my own into the wind up a hill was taking its toll, and almost on cue, as if the race organiser was speaking to me, I saw a squashed Akkedis. That was pretty much how I would feel if I got caught. Suddenly, we turned the corner onto some flat grass fields, and I could feel Nelly was eager to show me what she was made of. Before long, I caught Chad, and told him about the fast approaching bunch, hoping the two of us could work together. Chad was obviously still too interested in my back that he forgot to pedal, and when I next looked back he was gone.
A tired spectator catching a napAdd caption

With the last big climb of 7km approaching fast from the front, and the bunch and Chad behind I was in a bit of a spot. I needed a gap over any chasers so that I could survive the downhill, but I also couldn't go too fast on the 29er up the hill. My only hope was that the guys behind me would suffer as much as I was going to, and the gap would be intact once we got to the top.

Everyone's a winner at Stanford
After riding through a sheep field, the climb began. It was a series of short sharp climbs that strained the legs and lungs, followed by relatively flat sections. With half an eye on what was going on behind me I gritted my teeth and clenched my knuckles up each climb. Again, as if on cue from the race organiser, an Akkedis came running past me as I slowly ground my way up hill. Was I really going that slowly?

After the endless false flats I finally made it to the top, and there I caught a glimpse of the guy in third. Did I climb the hill that well? Was there enough race left to catch him? In a combination of my fixation on the guy in third place, and some poor route marking I took a wrong turn and followed the guy in 3rd place back to the mast we had climbed to earlier. Once I realised I was on the wrong route I then proceeded to ride down the way we had ridden up earlier. Thankfully I didn't follow the guy in 3rd place again, as he got horribly lost, going down the hill we had descended earlier. Marius too made this mistake, and had to be rescued in Caledon. Feeling a little disappointed and annoyed, I crossed the line in 5th place, in just under 3h30, Chad and another rider finishing ahead of me after taking the correct route. After gulping down some coke and hanging around for a back massage that never happened (Chad seemed to have lost interest in my back), I joined the ladies on the picnic blanket for a picnic. They had had a great ride on the 35km route, and finished 4th and 5th in a sprint finish, Yo's new bike Crumpet doing the business.
Picnic time!

1 comment :

  1. Poor road markings :(
    ...still a great area to ride in. Pity I missed the race!