Tuesday 7 December 2010

Posted by Velouria Posted on 16:49 | 2 comments

Omni-Motion 24hr 2010

After the disaster that was 2009, I wanted one more go at this event. I was quite prepared for the challenges this time around, and had made plans accordingly. We flew up early, we got lots of sleep, the bike was actually ridden before the first lap, and we arrived at the venue early missing the worst of the Gauteng Saturday morning traffic jams.
The quiet before the storm
The highlight of this year's Omni-Motion 24hr event was that David "Tinker" Juarez was going to be riding. I had heard the name, but still didn't really know too much about him. After a bit of googling I realised that he could ride a bike, and that this was going to be a very interesting 24hr race. It's not everyday that you get to race a former 24hr Solo World Champion.

With the previous weekend's Double Century still in my legs, the plan was a simple one - ride my own race at my own pace, and don't get sucked into any racing early on. Hopefully there would be someone else who would be keen to race Tinker, and I could be left alone to do my own thing.
My leisurely Le Mans stroll (that's right, there is a lady dressed as a bee ahead of me!)
At registration I received my number, and a knee guard. I had heard that there were going to be goodie-bags, but this has to be the oddest goodie-item ever. Not even a sign of an expired energy bar, a 4 month old copy of Bicycling Magazine, pamphlets for races that don't interest me, or a sample of bum cream. Next, I needed to get a camp site, and was given a camp spot on the other side of the country. There was only one camp site further away from everything than ours! Hopefully one day I'll be given some inside info on how to go about organising one of those camp sites right near the action on the Start/Finish line.
A late afternoon snack
The start was quickly approaching, and at 12'o clock we got underway with a customary Le Mans start - with some rather eager cyclists sprinting for their bikes. I prefer the more relaxed approach of taking a leisurely stroll to my bike, letting the fuss around me die down, and then get on with riding - there is plenty of time to pass riders later on.
The route
Wendell (of the Cycle Hub at Rietvlei) had put together a good course - an 11.5km loop that was not too technical, but quite tight with lots of twists and turns in the first half, and a fast, flowing section in the second half. Lose concentration for a second, and you were going to come short. The course had a bit of everything for everyone, from a former World Champ, right down to the rest of us weekend warriors. 
I did have some fans (and some future 24hr riders) supporting me
As they say, ignorance is bliss, and the second part of my plan was to be kept in the dark about the progress of the competition. For the first six hours I didn't want to and didn't need to know who was leading, who was doing quick lap times, and where I was overall. It was all about getting into a rhythm, getting comfortable, learning the course, and managing my body. With temperatures up to 39C, fluid intake was going to be important, and I was going through a bottle and a half a lap. Luc the Belgian had brought some Frangipanes with him on his last visit, and told me that Tom Boonen swears by them for long races. I ate several during the event, and now Luc can tell Tom that I swear by them too!
Showing Tinker the way.
After about 4 hours of riding, I got the sensation that I was being followed. To my surprise, Tinker had decided to latch on to my back wheel and follow me around the course. For the next 5 laps or so he remained glued there. I took it as quite an honour that he felt he needed to mark me, and at the same time resisted the urge to get involved in a head to head race with him. It also gave me an opportunity to show Tinker some good lines through the technical stuff, and give him some tips and hints on how to ride a bike. I also suspect that I might have subliminally exposed him to 5339.co.uk for 4 hours, as it was written across my bum, and he'll be buying some bike stuff online shortly.
Still showing Tinker the way.
When the information blackout was finally lifted, I found out I was in second place, a lap down on Tinker, and two up on the guy in third. So far so good. Tinker and I continued our mating ritual of him following me around, and me claiming to have a headache and pretending to ignore him for another three laps, when I decided it was time for dinner. As I stopped, my mechanic whisked away my bike, my nutritionist gave me a plate of macaroni and cheese and some juice, my masseuse started massaging my neck and shoulders, while my manager tried to motivate me and keep me up to date with the race proceedings. Unlike Tinker and his crew, I only had a support crew of one - my wife, and she did a fantastic job of keeping me going.
And again, showing Tinker the way at sunset
With night fall the racing changes and the riders go into maintenance mode. The course gets quieter as people head off to bed. This is the best part about 24hr racing - you, alone on your bike in the darkness, focussed on only the small patch of light in front of you. Nothing else matters. Pure mountain biking heaven. I also got to see a fair amount of wild life - a hedgehog (which at first I thought was a rock until it moved), a rabbit, and a mongoose. These were all real, unlike the giant yellow chicken that I have seen in previous races. I did however see a guy in a blue top several times lurking in the trees. He is either a figment of my imagination, or a master of deception, because he would vanish in the blink of an eye. Also, under the cover of darkness, rocks seem to gain magnetic powers and trees start to move around and suddenly you find yourself riding into obstacles that weren't there in the daylight.
Toasted sandwich for breakfast
By midnight I had done 17 laps, and was 2 down on Tinker. There was very little chance that I could make up that time, so I settled on a target of 30 laps for the event, which would be around 350kms of riding. I could now take a bit of a rest between laps, ride as fast or as slow as I wanted, and just enjoy the event. I did however encounter a bit of a problem - Bennie's Bend was messing with my head, and in two consecutive laps I had ended up riding into the same tree in the same manner and have the grazes and bruises on my shoulder to prove it. This was a tree I had ridden past 24 times without incident, and now suddenly I was like a deer in the headlights, inexplicably drawn to it lap after lap. Nothing like a bit of a challenge when you are tired.
Finishing the last lap.

At 10h10 I set off on my 30th and final lap, with various parts of my body now no longer keen to endure the tortures being dished out. I finished shortly after Tinker who had completed 34 laps, but he looked absolutely knackered and as it turned out was unable to attend prize giving. I had hoped to shake his hand on the podium and thank him for a good race, but he was nowhere to be seen. All in all, that was a little bit of a let down.
Tinker did however agree to a reverse match this coming weekend. Since I had gone head to head with him at his job, he was going to go head to head with me in mine. I hope he has brushed up on his computer and electromagnetic skills! Winner takes all!
24hrs of dirt and grime.
A message for Tinker.
With the demons of 2009 laid to rest and my confidence restored, we got ready for the long trip back to Cape Town. Somehow, a 24hr up in Gauteng is never just 24hrs long - it's more like a 72hr endurance event.

Prepping Nelly for the trip back to Cape Town

Wednesday 1 December 2010

Posted by Velouria Posted on 08:42 | 3 comments

Double Century 2010

Once again, the ragtag collection of riders that form the basis of Team 5339.co.uk got together for the first time the night before the Coronation Double Century in an African themed guest house in Swellendam. There were computer nerds, cycle industry executives, UIF receivers, surf apparel consultants, and a soon to be pro triathlete. We had Poms, Saffers, a Swiss, and a guy from Nam. There were some tall cyclists, some tanned cyclists, some short cyclists, some pale cyclists, and pair of ginger cyclists. Anyway you look at it - we made for quite a random collection of people. But we all had one common goal - to finally go under 6 hours for the 202km.
Team 5339.co.uk
Marius, Russell, Dan, Sarel, Zayin, Pascal, Craig, Karel, Dane, Jarryd, Gavin, Hector
There was a very different vibe in the air on the evening before the race, compared to previous years. While everyone seemed nervous and a little introspective, there was a quiet confidence that we had finally assembled a team that would be good enough. The person most nervous was our backup driver - James. Twelve cyclists proceeded to give him often contradictory advice, and then let him know in no uncertain terms that the fate of the whole team rested in his hands. Possibly a little overwhelming for a guy who had never done backup before, let alone the DC. Rumour has it that he never slept that night, and spent the entire evening going over the race rules again and again, pacing up and down, while mumbling words like "pressure", "responsibility" and several other words not suitable for this blog.
Awaiting the start
After eating a surprising amount of pasta for dinner, and hashing out the plan for the next day several times, the riders slowly headed off to bed. Except Marius. He had been in bed since before the sun had even set (being newly wed, we forgave him just this once). I am not sure about the rest of the team, but I didn't sleep very well. I think I must have cycled the entire route at least three times in my mind, going over the smallest detail, running through checklists, and hoping that this wasn't going to be a repeat of the 2009 disaster. I, along with the rest of Team 5339.co.uk were put out of our sleep deprived misery when we were rudely awoken at around 4am by a stray herd of wildebeest that ran through the guest house several times, occasionally stopping to use the toilet.
One straight stripe
With everyone up and ready, and Hector being closely monitored by three assigned chaperones, we went over the plans one last time. The backup car was packed, the bikes were lubed and tyres were pumped. We were ready once again to tackle the DC. Our 7am start meant we had missed the worst of the weather, unlike the poor teams that had started at 5am. The light overnight rain had cleared, the wind had dropped and the clouds were lifting. A perfect day for bike racing. I was a little disappointed that our team captain didn't get us into a huddle and give us one last team talk, and when I saw the team behind us doing this I thought we might be doing something wrong. Although, with our fancy looking 5339 cycle kit, we didn't need a team huddle - we already looked like we knew what we were doing! As the start gun for Team 5339.co.uk went off, all thoughts left our heads, and we got on with the task of riding 202km as fast as we could.
Synchronised feeding under the watchful eye of the captain
There isn't much to report about from the actual race. I was either behind someone, focussed on his wheel and bum, or taking my 2 minute turn on the front. As we started catching people, the view from the front became quite unpleasant (much like the view of a certain Swiss bum in see through shorts) - there were riders spread out all over the road, backup vehicles squeezing into gaps that didn't exist, busses overtaking on blind rises. Often, we were left with little choice but to attempt to pass in the right hand lane. How no one got hurt, let alone killed, is amazing.

By the top of Op de Tradouw we were down to 11 riders, but still flying along under the steady, and often excruciatingly painful, pace set by Sarel the See Fiets Monster (for the youngsters on our team reading this, ask your parents about the Sarel the Seemonster reference) and Dan the Triathlete. Montague, Ashton, Robertson, Bonnivale all passed by in a blur of sweat and energy juice as we slowly started to lose riders. With 40kms to go, we were down to 9 riders, but more importantly, still had 1h30 to play with.
A friendly Dan the Triathlete, warmed up after 160km and ready to lead the way.
Then came The Incident that we'll debate for years come. Five of us were on the front of a rather big bunch of riders consisting of at least 2 other teams. We were setting a good pace, but somehow lost sight of the rest of the team, and proceeded to ride them off the back of the bunch. By the time we realised we were just 5 riders, it was too late - the damage had been done. We lost several minutes as two riders went back looking for a suitable number 6. Everything was eventually sorted out and we got going again - no one could drop off now as it was down to the 6 of us to get the sub 6 hour we had been aiming for.

Sarel on the front, dashing for home.
With great team work, determination, gritted teeth and aching legs we made our way over the last couple of hills which felt like mountains by now - all the while receiving encouragement from the backup vehicle. James had clearly found a manual or something on the internet the night before, and was putting his new found backup knowledge to great use. I almost felt like a pro. White line fever took over and with speeds well over 60km/h on the flats we steamed towards Swellendam, cresting the last climb and crossing the finish line in an unbelievable time of 5h47:10 and an average speed of 34.91km/h. It was surreal. In an instant, all the pain and suffering vanished and it had been worth it.
A rather chuffed looking Team 5339.co.uk
The customary post DC Team 5339.co.uk braai took place in the rain, again, and it wasn't long before we all drifted off to bed with full stomachs and big smiles. We awoke early the next morning to the news that we had finished 6th overall - not bad for a bunch of mountain bikers, triathletes and bit-part roadies.

After a breakfast of scrambled ostrich egg, bacon, mushrooms and toast we packed up and headed back to reality - already scheming about DC 2011 and how we could go even faster!

Watch the video 59 times for the full 5h47 DC experience