Thursday 20 January 2011

Posted by Velouria Posted on 16:56 | 1 comment

Attakwas 2011

My memories of the Attakwas 2010 event were a little blurred by the Epic-ending crash of my prospective Cape Epic partner, and I wasn't sure I wanted to venture all the way out to Oudtshoorn to take part in South Africa's toughest mountain bike marathon event. With the Bicycling Omni-Motion 24hr still lurking in my legs (and head), I was also quite skeptical of my form, and really wasn't in the mood for another suffer-fest.

In a moment of madness (or weakness) I entered the Attakwas 2011 - I think the promise of a free event T-shirt was all it took to change my mind, and possibly a long weekend away in Herold. With the entry fee paid, I set about trying to find some form on the bike, only to feel rather fat, unfit and decidedly slow. Added to this, all the buzz on The Hub SA was about tyre choice, training programs, riding conditions, race strategy and a bit of smack talk. I was beginning to wonder how much I really wanted that event shirt (which they give to you BEFORE the event, at registration).
Etienne, with me lurking on the right
Photo thanks to Debby Champion
As is always the case, a keen eye was kept on the weather forecast - perfect cycling conditions require an exceptionally rare combination of factors. It must be warm, but not too warm. It must be dry, but not dusty. It must not be windy, but it also must not be windless. Tail winds are preferred, except when climbing steep hills in the heat - then a gentle, cooling headwind is desired. The drive to Oudtshoorn was done in the pouring rain, which did not bode well for the event. Thankfully, as we headed further into the Karoo the weather started to clear and race day promised to be one of those rare days of perfect bike riding weather.

Since we were staying in the quaint hamlet of Herold at a place called Over the Mountain I had to get up rather early on race day. I was rather tempted to roll over and rather enjoy a couple hours of extra sleep than to start the process that would end in upwards of 6 hours of suffering. My masochistic streak won in the end and at 6h40 the Sub Vets set off on our 121km journey towards the coast.

Route thanks to nathrix™ ® from TheHubSA
Attakwas is a race of two halves - the first half is a rough, brutal, off-road, technical, hilly affair, while the second half is a rough, brutal, dirt-road, non-technical, hilly affair, with water point 3 being the transition between the two halves. The plan was a simple one - survive the first half with my limited technical skills, and then take advantage of Nelly the Niner's love for dirt roads on the second half.

The race turned out to be a rather lonely one, and I often found myself in the middle of nowhere with no one around and only my thoughts for company. Occasionally I would catch and pass someone I recognised (and occasionally I would catch and pass someone who I knew and didn't recognise). The former included Etienne, a 100Miler teammate,  Tree John, my Swazi partner, Baviaans Backup Freddie, and crazy Anton Bosman from the 2009 Bicycling Omni-Motion 24hr event on a single speed rigid fork bike (it took me over three hours to close the 10 minute gap he had on me, making full use of my 27 gears and 3 inches of front suspension).

The latter included Rob Dormehl, one half of Osama B's from the Swazi Frontier. We rode together for around an hour, along with Hanlie Booyens, sharing the pace setting (although in the photos I am on the front), and it was only when looking at the photos afterwards did I realise who my fellow pace setter was.
Rob Dormel, Hanlie Booyens (hiding behind Rob) and me
From Photo Dynamix's album on Facebook
I had heard that the silver medal cut-off was 6hr30, so when we got to within 40kms of the finish with 2 hours to go I was confident my little threesome would easily make it. At 20kms to go and just over an hour I was pretty sure the silver was in the bag. And then the wheels fell off up a particularly steep hill, with the sun scorching down, and the air thick and humid, with stench of something dead. I remember that smell from last year too, and had to wonder if perhaps this was a hill that often killed cyclists, as it was busy killing me. At least I had the water points to look forward to, with the Attakwas water points easily winning the prizes for the best stocked, most enthusiastically manned water points in any race that I have done. Burgers, donuts, fruit, gels, juice, coke, ice cold damp towels, chain lube and big smiles.

One of the 6 buildings in Herold
I limped on trying to find some legs when a fellow Somerset-Westian, a knight in shining armour by the name of Deon, offered me his slip stream and towed me for several kilometers towards the final downhill, and the awaiting finish line. I crossed the line in 6h20, a little tired and weary, but chuffed with my ride, only to be told that the silver cut off was 6hr15 (only 13 non-UCI riders qualified, or just 2% of the field). It didn't really matter - I was still quite chuffed with my 18th place (of non-UCI riders), and only to glad that the pain and suffering from a rather long and torturous day out in the saddle was over.
Our guest house - Over the Mountain
My decision about the 2012 edition of this race still needs to be made - perhaps a few memories need to fade before I'll commit to another Attakwas.

1 comment :

  1. Again no 5339 kit. ave you worn it out already? Think not!