Sunday 5 September 2021

Posted by Velouria Posted on 17:10 | No comments

Trans Baviaans 2021

Part of the joy of riding bike races is writing the blog that follows, mostly because, whenever Captain Craig and I get together on bikes, the chances of dumb stuff happening is rather high. There is always a story to tell afterwards (actually, I usually have the outline of the blog post in my head before we cross the finish line). But, the 2021 Trans Baviaans was different. Boringly different.

Looking lean and mean

There is usually a bit of pressure in the week before any race, but I don't think other teams realise just how much pressure The Prancing Thunder Pixies are under. And I'm not talking about the "what's the weather going to do, what's our pacing strategy" kind of pressures - all teams experience that. I'm talking about the added pressure from the Media. While it's cool to get a mention in the local cycling media, it does put a lot of expectation on the team to perform. Especially when there is a new guy on board:

"The final elite men’s team to watch are The Prancing Thunder Pixies. Dane Walsh is one of the legends of the Trans Baviaans having taken part in every edition of the event, since it was founded in 2004. Throughout the 16 editions he and Craig Edwards have seldom been outside the top 10. Their real contribution to the race has arguably been their humorous accounts of the races, written by Walsh and published on his Velo Tales blog, though. Their stories read like a how-not-to guide for the Trans Baviaans. For 2021 they have roped in Michael Baker as a third partner in mis-adventure." by Seamus Allardice,

But, like any challenge, the team rallied around our reputation, and we felt we'd definitely be adding a chapter to our how-not-to guide for the Trans Baviaans. After all, it's what we did best.

The panic that the Media caused!

The 2021 edition of Trans Baviaans was just the 2020 edition that had been postponed five times. That's five times that we'd trained for a race. Five times we'd done the long and lonely miles getting the body ready for the challenge. Five times of trying to organise all the logistics of a point to point race on the other side of the country. It's safe to say that by the time the race came around, I had been approaching my training with a great deal of scepticism.

And then there were the COVID Consequences. Curfew, no mass gatherings, masks, temperature checks and plenty of sanitiser. While the postponements were tough on the riders, I am quite sure that the vast majority of Wikus's grey hair was from this past year.

The Prancing Thunder Pixies race strategy - lots of social distancing

Little chance of rain with skies like this

Race day dawned on a cold and chilly Willowmore. It's always cold and chilly in Willowmore, but this year was different. Firstly, the normal 10am start was gone, and instead, teams were able to start anywhere from 5am. The Prancing Thunder Pixies had a quick discussion and thought that a 5am start was a rubbish idea, and that an 8am start seemed far more respectable. The only catch being that we'd be starting in the Elite racing category. Anything for an extra couple of hours of sleep. The next thing made the 2021 Trans Baviaans different was the weather. Now, we've had bad weather in the past - wet, soggy and chilly conditions are part of this event. But we'd never had a cold front move through the Cape and dump tonnes of snow on any mountain higher than a molehill the day before the event. Social media platforms were clogged with messages about the Mother of All Cold Fronts as cyclists scampered to buy, borrow or repurpose anything that could keep them warm in the sub-zero temperatures expected on the start line.

"Dress warmly and avoid high mountain passes" and we chose to wear Lycra and climb several mountain passes!

Beautiful. And freezing!

I pretty much had all the cycling kit I owned on. Stuff that had been in my cupboard for ages that I'd never worn because it was never cold enough. Some of the stuff I didn't even know how to use, like booties and proper winter gloves. And an undershirt. And despite this, it felt like I was lining up on the start line in Willowmore wearing nothing more than my birthday suit. The icy wind cutting straight through the layers, chilling my soul.

SnackMonster Mike didn't get the memo about the team kit and helmet colour

The race eventually got underway and it was great just to be moving and generating some warmth. The pace in the Elite bunch was fast, but not stupid, although The Prancing Thunder Pixies were lurking towards the back of proceedings. In previous years, we'd have donated organs just to stay with the leaders to the second checkpoint - the shelter of the bunch outweighing the discomfort of the leg-ripping pace. But something strange happened this year. Perhaps it was the tailwind. Perhaps it was SnackMonster Mike's influence, or perhaps it was just old age making us wiser, but as a small gap between us and the bunch opened, we looked up, and in near unison gave each other the "it's not worth it" look. I was shocked, not only at "Hang-on-the-bunch-till-we-die" Captain Craig, but also at myself. Is this what maturing is all about? Is this what sticking to a pacing strategy looks like? Had 16 years of Trans Baviaans finally taught us something?

The Prancing Thunder Pixies hanging in the Elite bunch

And so, for the next 8 hours we just did sensible stuff. Mostly. Except SnackMonster Mike also hadn't received the memo on how The Prancing Thunder Pixies like to approach a checkpoint. It's a cross between a Formula 1 pitstop and a Black Friday sale. Every person knows what they need to do, when they need to do it, and how fast they need to be. Like a choreographed ballet unfolding in less than 2 minutes. Our aim is to get back out onto the road as soon as possible while fighting to get to the front of the queue for that cup of coke, sosatie, or potato before the other riders know what hit them. SnackMonster Mike, while riding his bike like he belonged in the Elite bunch, approached the checkpoints like a backmarker. To him, a checkpoint is like an oasis. An opportunity to explore the riches, sample the wares, and rest the tired body and mind. I'm not going to lie - having someone to take the attention from Captain Craig away from my checkpoint routine was a welcome change, but even I can only fiddle and dawdle for so long, with the end result being that each restart after a checkpoint was like starting the race all over again. (It's called coffee legs - named after the feeling in your legs after a stop for coffee on a ride - basically, pretty rubbish!).

The place at checkpoints where Captain Craig and I spent a lot of time waiting for SnackMonster Mike

Anyone who has read this blog before will know that I have one weakness at Trans Baviaans. Well, there are probably quite a few, like The Mother of All Climbs, or the single track at the end, but there is one that I have yet to reliably conquer - the mid-race vomit. I've had a couple of years where it's been close, only to succumb at the last moment. But this year I had a plan and I was going to stick to it, come hell or high water! And it was a rather simple plan. In order to avoid purging my stomach of its contents, I simply wouldn't put anything in. Nothing solid at least. What doesn't go in, can't come out. Previous experiences have always hinted at a purge following a checkpoint where I ate something. A potato, a sosatie, a pancake. And then all hell breaks loose. So my plan for 2021 was to have energy gels, energy drink, and coke. And if everything was going well, I'd spoil myself with some jelly babies later on. While Captain Craig and SnackMonster Mike more than made up for my abstinence at the checkpoints, I stuck to my mostly liquid diet with the commitment of a banter, except that I didn't tell everyone about it all the time!

My head might be down, but I am actually riding up the Mother of All Climbs


I survived Trans Baviaans without wishing I was dead. Without wishing for a priest to exorcise the demon from my belly. Without Captain Craig asking me if I needed a gel (it's his way of caring). This is a new experience for me and has completely shifted my view about what it means to suffer at Baviaans. Now, I was able to focus on the "riding bikes" kind of suffering, and not the "is my belly about to explode" kind of suffering. I will definitely be doing this again!

Other than that, Trans Baviaans was quite boring and uneventful. There was a moment when Captain Craig yelled out, and I immediately thought that he'd punctured, or broken a chain, or his bike, or himself. I'm not going to lie when I say that I was a little disappointed to discover that he'd only dropped his bottle. We had some more bottle action late in the race when Captain Craig's seat-mounted bottle cage came loose, and I imagined it falling into his back wheel and breaking spokes and stuff. But that didn't happen either. The only consequence was Captain Craig donated a bottle of juice to some locals.

The Prancing Thunder Pixies, being all mature and letting the bunch go

Without the usual trials and tribulations that we seem to attract, we were left having to deal with the rather mundane peaks and troughs that every rider experiences in a race like this. Those moments where you feel invincible, where pedalling is effortless and there is power for days. Only for that to evaporate and for the legs to rather resemble lumps of floppy spaghetti and for every incline to feel like the hill that you're about to die on. Because we were riding at our own pace, we were also able to talk to each other, and both SnackMonster Mike and I discovered that when Captain Craig says he is going through a "patch", beware. Captain Craig's patch, the moment in time where he is feeling flat, is ALWAYS followed by him leaving the "patch", which is when he'd rip the legs off SnackMonster Mike and I. This happened at least four times during the race. Four times where I secretly delighted in his suffering, followed by four times where I wished for something to go wrong, just so that I could have a break.

Right after a Captain Craig "patch"

And then it was done. Another Trans Baviaans in the bag. But not before the dreaded "Singletrack of Despair". It's probably not so bad, but I know that there is a beautiful tar road that we used to finish on, and no matter how many times I ride that singletrack, the roadie in me can't help but get a little grumpy.

A big thanks to Gary for doing backup, and to SnackMonster Mike for joining The Prancing Thunder Pixies. We promise to send the memo out next year if you promise to spend the year working on the picnic stops. (Business idea: Zwift, but for checkpoints and transition zones...)

Baviaans by the numbers

0 - the temperature on the start line, but also the number of mechanical incidents we had, and the number of times I vomited.

1 - the first checkpoint (non-compulsory) where SnackMonster Mike wanted to stop for a picnic, much to the disgust of his teammates.

3 - the temperature where my face loses all feeling, where the juice in my bottle gives me an icecream headache, and where I am unable to articulate words.

5 - the number of times we'd trained for this race.

7 - the number of gels I consumed.

8 - the number of minutes of our longest picnic stop

11 - the overall placing of The Prancing Thunder Pixies.

14 - the number of cups of coke I drank.

17 - the number of Trans Baviaans races I have completed.

22 - the maximum temperature, recorded as we climbed the Mother of All Climbs.

28 - the number of minutes we were stationary for, milling around at checkpoints.

36 - the size of chain blade we convinced SnackMonster Mike he needed in order to hang with the Elites.

61 - the maximum speed I hit as we dropped into the Kloof.

144 - my heartrate sweet spot as we climbed NeverEnder, with SnackMonster Mike setting the pace.

219 - the number of kilometres before I had a sense of humour failure as we turned on to the worst piece of single track in the world.

594 - the number of minutes it took The Prancing Thunder Pixies to finish the 2021 Trans Baviaans.

3825 - the number of kilometres I've done, racing Trans Baviaans over the years.

4226 - the number of calories I burned on my liquid diet. Eating is cheating!

6kms on the worst single track in the world, made worse by the mud



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