Showing posts with label wind. Show all posts
Showing posts with label wind. Show all posts

Monday 22 August 2011

Posted by Velouria Posted on 16:27 | 7 comments

Trans Baviaans 2011

For the ninth time in succession I made the pilgrimage to the dusty little one-horse town of Willowmore in the Karoo for the queen of endurance events - The Trans Baviaans. Once again, I had dragged my faithful sidekicks - Captain Craig and Little John along for the adventure, with Little John starting his 5th escapade from Willowmore to Jeffery's Bay.

After 5 years of perfect conditions through the Baviaans Kloof, Mother Nature decided to show her angry side and had unleashed a spate of bad weather over the Eastern Cape, with the result being that the rivers in the Baviaans Kloof were barely passable on a bicycle, and completely impassable in a vehicle. Rather than pull a Pied Piper of Hamlin move and lead 1200 cyclists to a cold and watery death, the organisers put Plan B into action - code named "LangsBaviaans" (for the 2 english readers out there - "Next To Baviaans"). While we wouldn't be going into the Baviaans Kloof, we would riding one mountain range over to the right. The positive being that my nemesis hill - The Mother of All Climbs - was no longer part of the route. However, a new hill affectionately dubbed The Father of All Climbs had been found to spice things up (and give me sleepless nights).
Captain Craig, wearing all his branded race gear.

After spending a noisy night in Willowmore Primary School's hostel, and being woken up at 4:30am by some very eager cyclists (bear in mind the race only starts at 10am) The Fire Breathing Rubber Duckies (formerly known as the Soggy Bottom Boys) were ready for the 235km trip that lay ahead. There was a fresh, chilly wind blowing, but thankfully the threatening rain clouds had disappeared overnight. Little John was given the honour of being the team captain to commemorate his fifth Baviaans adventure (and hopefully avoid any of the grumpiness from 2010). This wasn't just a token gesture - along with the title came some tasks and responsibility.
Little John looking nervous, flanked by his merry men.
An elementary seeding system was introduced this year, and our 7th place from 2010 ensured that we cracked the nod to start at the front of the race for a change. It also gave us an opportunity to suss out the top guys, psych out some buddies, and steal some camera time. Our kit got a couple of "Go home roadie" chirps. Little did they know that in true roadie fashion we also had newspapers stuffed under our jerseys to keep the cold tail wind out.
We're at the front!
After an interesting interpretation of our national anthem - Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika - the race got under way, and almost immediately the biggest guy on a bicycle I have ever seen - he made his 29er look like a BMX - and his partner shot off the front of the lead bunch. There wasn't a reaction at all from the bunch, and if anything it had the opposite effect - the bunch sat up - everyone trying to hide from the wind and not do any work up front. Enter the Fire Breathing Rubber Duckies.
Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika performed by the Willowmore Wailers.
With a massive bunch of wheel sucking mountain bikers on our wheels Captain Craig and I took turns on the front, enjoying the open road, the tail wind and the beautiful Karoo scenery. After an hour and a bit a couple other teams came forward and helped out with the pace setting, and some moves started to go off the front. This was what we had been waiting for - time to thin out the bunch and get rid of the hangers-oners. Careful not to get into trouble with Little John we followed a good move that looked set on going away when Little John broke his chain. Just as in 2009, it felt like the entire field came past us as we tried to figure out how to fix it. In reality, we were probably only at the side of the road for about 5 minutes, but by the time we were rolling again the bunch was long gone. Now Captain Craig and I had no choice but to set the tempo and make sure Little John was protected on his Little Bike.

Langs Baviaans

We raced through checkpoint 1 after catching our first target, and up ahead we could see several other teams - encouragingly acting as carrots. With the skill of true roadies we'd figured out a move on overtaking the slower teams that would prevent them from hooking onto to our wheels. Little John was the key, and would fly past as we crested a hill or bump, and then Captain Craig or I hop across at pace. We're both convinced that Little John would make an excellent roadie - we're just not sure what will be easier - getting him on a road bike, or getting him to shave his legs.
The roadies on the front!
(Click for big view of the awesomeness)
By the time we reached the second checkpoint we were lying in about 15th place, having made up a good few positions. We needed a quick stop to maintain our advantage and close in on the teams ahead of us when Little John failed in one of his captainly duties - he'd lost the little token that was marked at each checkpoint. This was a 20 minute penalty, the last thing The Fire Breathing Rubber Duckies needed. Thankfully Captain Craig kept a cool head and found the token, lying on the ground and averted a potential morale sapping disaster.

Slowly but surely we were closing in other teams, and at the same time closing in on The Father of All Climbs. Almost on cue, my stomach started acting up, and only through the expert encouragement and motivation from Little John (never before has a coke been so intimately described) and some welcome pushing from Captain Craig did I reach checkpoint 3 in one piece. Another motivating factor not to get off and walk was the fact that I couldn't really walk. In an amateur move akin to wearing underpants under your cycling shorts to your first Argus (come on - you've all done it!) I had bought new cycling shoes the week before. While they did their job perfectly when riding, they chaffed like crazy when walking, and by the time I got to The Father of All Climbs I could already feel some blisters from the walk around the parking lot back in Willowmore.
I didn't realise we were towing THAT many people!
(Click for big view of the awesomeness)
A quick purge of my stomach contents, 500ml of coke, some soup and a bun later and we were ready to conquer the rest of The Father of All Climbs. By now we had caught "The Biggest Cyclist in the World"and it was rather encouraging to see him walking up all the climbs. My legs felt great, my stomach was under control and the top of the climb was beckoning. A rather disappointing descent later and we arrived at checkpoint 4 in 12th place. A lightning quick stop including some expertly peeled Patensie oranges and some coffee for Little John and we were on our way again - the Never Ender ahead of us. We briefly lost Captain Craig as he got lost IN the checkpoint, but a few minutes later we were on our way again. I was paying the price for trying to race "The Biggest Cyclist in the World"™ into checkpoint 4 and was having a (another) bad batch - thankfully not stomach related. Calling in some favours from several years ago, Captain Craig graciously offered a pocket for me to hang on to while the Gu kicked in.

As the sun slowly set we could make out the lights of several teams ahead of us and we dropped a few gears, put our heads down, and rode like the wind catching and passing 4 teams along the way. Our professional backup driver (and my wife) later told us that we put in the 3rd fastest time on this leg, only 2 minutes slower than the eventual leaders. Another lightning quick transition, some raised voices in the direction of the backup driver (nothing that flowers couldn't fix later) and we were on our way, eager to make up some more ground when disaster struck.
The Duckies approaching the finish
Little John collapsed in a heap right in front of me, with our two bikes getting tangled up together. On closer inspection the little wheels from Little John's bike had disappeared down a hole and he'd come to an abrupt stop. Fearing a buckled wheel, broken fork or some other race ending damage, we slowly extricated Little John from the hole and from his bike. Apart from the handle bars being slightly skew, everything was fine with his bike. It was only then that someone asked if he was ok, and thankfully a little thing like a hole wasn't going to stop Little John from getting to Jeffery's for the 5th time.

We'd lost sight of the team in front of us, but there was no sign of anyone behind us either, so we rode a steady tempo into Jeffery's Bay, finishing the 2011 LangsBaviaans in 8th place as fireworks lit up the sky, in a time of 9h47. Little John had joined the Five Finisher's Club, and we all agreed - this was our best ride at Baviaans, even if it wasn't our best time or placing.
They need a bigger board for our team name!
After teasing the Man Mountain about his descending skills (if I can go faster than him downhill he deserves a bit of teasing), he paid me a compliment (I think): "For a skinny guy you're quite strong". I didn't tell "The Biggest Cyclist in the World"™ that I was only too glad to see the back of him before the Never Ender ;)
Fire Breathing Rubber Duckies done.
Little John has officially retired from the Trans Baviaans, but just like Lance we reckon he'll be back. As they say - you have to retire in order to make a comeback. (Some reading for you Little John). After all - it will be Captain Craig's fifth, and my tenth. Imagine the party afterwards!

Tuesday 10 March 2009

Posted by Velouria Posted on 14:34 | No comments

Argus 2009

For years to come, this will be known as the "Bad One", the "Windy One", or the "Worst One". I have lived in the Cape for 15 years, and in Somerset West for about 7 years, and I thought I knew wind. Sunday morning was an education to me.

Despite the conditions, thousands turned out.

As it is, I am not a big fan of the Argus, particularly up front in the racing section. Far too much testosterone flying about, and far too many people who should not be riding at this level. Add some gale force wind into the mix, and I was petrified! The last thing I wanted was a crash, and the Epic would be over before we have even started.

The wind ripping everything to pieces.

Standing in the start chute alone was enough to give me second thoughts - I was being blown off my feet. I should have taken the hint when a porta loo got blown over and then blown through our start chute, spewing blue porta loo juices all over the place. The SubVet bunch parted like the Red Sea as we tried to avoid being taken out by the rampant killer loo, or splashed by the obnoxious smelling deep blue liquid that was freely flowing from it.

Chaos and mayhem, when porta loos attack!

The bad porta loos, resting before the next attack

When the gun finally went and we were underway, another surprise lurked just up ahead. The wind funneled under the Civic Center, and at a specific point was strong enough to blow you off your bike. From my usual vantage point at the back of the bunch I saw several riders swerving and dismounting. Shaking my head and muttering at their amateurishness, I proceeded until I too was almost blown clean off my bike. This was going to be a long day!!

Blown clean over by the wind!

Thankfully, the hard racing that I was expecting was neutralised by the wind as no one really wanted to set a pace on the front. Same applied for break aways, although several riders tried, I think they quickly realised the error of their ways and retreated to the safety of the peloton.

All fall down!

Edinburgh Drive was a gentle, sedate climb compared to previous years where I am sure I lost a lung or kidney. Down onto the Blue Route, and the bunch was still pretty much together, when we had our first big crash. It was hard to see exactly what happened from way at the back, but the smell of burning brakes and grazed flesh filled the air as we picked our way through the debris and bodies. Always a bit of a dilemma - do you stop to help, or do you hope there are medics nearby and ride for your life to get back into the bunch. I tend to opt for the latter.

The big change for 2009 was the use of Boyes Drive as there are roadworks along Main Road. I've raced a couple times over Boyes Drive, and knew what to expect. However, I hadn't really had that many good experiences going up Boyes Drive - famously getting dropped on the first climb 5kms into the race about 3 or 4 years ago. As we started to climb Boyes Drive, I spotted Morag, Briony and Gareth - now that is true dedication - coming out to support the race in weather like that! After another brief "all fall down" the racing started in earnest, with the front riders sticking us in the gutter. The danger here was getting stuck behind a weaker rider who couldn't close a gap if it formed, but luckily I had good enough legs to ride around any such riders without too many hassles. Tim had given me some advice on what line to follow along Boyes Drive, and it was great advice. After a slightly hair-raising descent into Kalk Bay (and to the spectator who called out my name - thanks, and sorry I didn't wave back, but both my hands were needed to stop me from crashing into the riders around me!) we were back on Main road, screaming off towards FishHoek one long single file line.

Matt Damon having a mechanical

After another couple of dead wheels and gaps, Craig and I managed to hop onto the back of the bunch, and it was a good thing that we did - the bunch had split, and we were the last ones in the front bunch. Things slowed down as we went through SimonsTown (a full 30 minutes slower than usual) as everyone started to consider Smitswinkel clmib up ahead. As we started to climb, the wind started to shift, and before long we had a tail wind going up the climb. Everything seemed to be in order at the top, and a long fast gradual descent with the wind behind us awaited. I wasn't expecting any trouble, but a quick glance up ahead showed that the bunch had split, and if we didn't close the gap now, we would miss out. For the first time that day we had to put in a hard effort, but it worked out, and we closed the gap, and suddenly the bunch was down to about 50. Several riders rode back on as we went through Misty Cliffs after a loooong chase, and it was at this time that Craig sat up. He had broken a spoke, and was struggling to keep up. Only afterwards did he realise how badly his back wheel was rubbing - the wheel would barely turn!

Going through SunValley, straight into the wind caused some more havoc with the bunch. Gaps were forming, and once again I was on the wrong side of them. Thankfully, a big strong rider took up the chase and pulled myself and 2 others across the gap. With Chappies looming in the distance, the jostling for position was starting. Not wanting to get caught up in anything, I decided to lurk at the back, and make my move forward as we started climbing. But that was not to be. A rider went down hard on the left, and another rider on the right overreacted, going down as well. The crash effectively blocked the road, and quite a few of us were caught on the wrong side of the crash. I came to a stop on the fallen rider's wheel, and watched with despair as the bunch rode off up Chappies. I tried to get going as quickly as possible, but with no one to help with the workload, closing this gap was going to be tough. All the way up Chappies I was in touching distance of the bunch, passing riders as they dropped off, but was unable to make any progress in closing the gap.

At the top I met up with the Maverick Tandem of Lyle and Malan, and hoped that they might be my ticket onto the back of the bunch. We made good progress, and almost got back on until mother nature intervened and decided to blow a poor unsuspecting rider over the edge of Chapman's Peak. The crash looked spectacular, but I saw him at the end and apart from several scrapes and grazes, he was ok. Any hope of catching the bunch was now gone. To make matters worse, my new tandem buddies were struggling and I found myself all alone, staring up at Suikerbossie. Thankfully there were plenty of targets to aim at going up the last climb of the day, and I made good progress, passing struggling tandems and dropped riders. Going over the top, I could still see the bunch, but all hope of catching them was now gone.

Together with one other rider, we started what is supposed to be the easy part of the Argus - the long descent into Camps Bay. But this year it was different, and probably the most difficult part of the whole race - the wind was howling round the corners, and often we would come to a virtual standstill. Little relief was offered from my buddy, or by the riders we were catching and passing. I came the closest to crashing as we went through Camps Bay - the wind was gusting, and almost blew the two of us into the Atlantic Ocean.

Andrew McLean

As the finish line approached, we had finally hooked up with another bunch of riders, and while taking a turn on the front, saw Andrew Maclean had joined us - he had ridden away from his group at Smitswinkel and soloed for 55kms. I gave him a nice lead out up to the line.

We were going to do another lap, but there is only so much abuse one can tolerate, and the Dulux tent seemed like a much better option. 10:30 might be a little early for a beer, but after the ordeal we had been through, we thought it would be a well deserved beer.

Bonte played the patient role of chaperone and guide for Yolanda, and given the circumstances (and lack of training on Yolanda's part) they had quite a good ride. Bonte has threatened to retire from extreme cycling, and so I would like to make a request to the weather gods that next year the weather be a little more mild and pleasant.

Name and Team Start Group Race Time Overall Position Gender Gender Position Age Position Group Position Avg Speed Photo Free Video
Walsh, Dane VA 03:06:58 224/25541 M 187/20451 10/2098 29/218 35.30
Walsh, YolandaQ

All photos from the Hub
(except the Action photo one)