Thursday, 15 November 2007

Posted by Velouria Posted on 13:05 | 3 comments

I survived Hell (only just)

The annual pilgrimage to Hell took place last weekend. This is always a great event - some tough cycling, usually some adverse weather conditions, and some beautiful scenery. And this year we had managed to convince the ladies to come along (we had to withhold some of the truth about the ride in order to get them to come along).

As is becoming the norm - I was dreading the start of the ride - and only because Craig seems to think that you have to go flat out from the gun. To add to the mix, Marius was also riding, and I wanted nothing more than to beat him. At 7 am we were off, and Craig did not disappoint - Marius and I just shook our heads in disbelief as he powered away from us up the first bit of uphill.

"They never said it was this long"

I don't remember most of the ride into Hell, as I was hanging on to Craig's back wheel, and suffering all the way. The only comfort I got was knowing that Marius was having the same trouble hanging on to my wheel. We climbed the 18km up Swartberg pass in 1h17. I recovered slightly on the flat middle section, and really enjoyed riding behind Craig on the downhills. He picks much better lines than I do. Marius let us know he was always there because his bike was making a racket - squeaking and creaking on every pedal stroke.

"Or we could just go back to the start??"

With about 10km to go, we had a 4km climb called HeartBreak Hill before the final descent into Die Hel. Craig got a bit of a gap on me, as I tried to ride a steady pace over the climb. Marius was still stuck on my wheel, and with the final downhill coming, I had to get rid of him. I got in front of him going into the downhill, and out descended him. I took a few risks, but when I saw a guy climbing up after having gone over the edge, I backed off a bit. I finished in 3h03, a minute behind Craig, and 2 minutes ahead of Marius.

"You mean we have to ride there??"

Now the wait for the ladies began. We both knew that we were going to be in serious trouble when they eventually did arrive - it was way tougher and longer and harder than what we had led them to believe. And as the time went by, we had to wonder if they had had a mechanical, or even worse, a crash. When Yolanda and Bonte eventually did arrive, we could tell that they had had a long tough day, but I think they were also proud of their achievement. The trouble was that they had to ride out the next day.

"Never mind the heart, my bum is broken!"

We spent the rest of the day in the Maverick camp, talking nonsense, tending to the girls (we looked like such henpecked men!). We had a braai that night, and Nigel and his world class steaks did the trick. The ladies looked like they might be able to ride out the next day.


Making juice for Bonte

Making juice for Yolanda

Sunday dawned, and already the mood in the camp had changed. The climb out of die Hel was sitting heavily on everyone's minds - today was going to be another tough day! We packed up the tents, loaded the trucks, and headed towards the start line. This is one of the few rides where you start the race in your granny gear, and face a 4 km climb right from the start.

A crazy local?

We had been seeded in the top 100, and so the start was not too chaotic. It took us a while to get warm - the heart rate took a while to get into the race zone. Once there, I decided that I was going to ride the climb like it was the only thing I was doing that day, and pushed really hard. We strung along a couple of familiar faces, Marius, John (TransBaviaans), and some other Hermanus locals. Marius started taking strain quite soon on, and just after the descent of HeartBreak Hill we dropped him. I think the hill had neutralised Craig's fast starting ability, and as the race wore on, I felt my legs were getting better, and I was riding in a comfortable suffer-zone.

Very important - the braai!

I also got a bit of revenge on Craig, as he had quite a bad middle patch, although it didn't last as long as I would have liked :) . We had a couple mechanical incidents on the way out - I did some interesting things to my chain, and Craig lost a pivot bolt in his rear triangle. Thank goodness for cable ties. And you don't have to worry, if you think the thought of Craig's bike disintergrating under him would slow him down, you are wrong. It was from here on that he started recovering, and eventually reversed the tables on me.

After descending Swartberg pass we hit the last 5 kms of the ride - on tar, and I got a bad dose of cramps in my thighs and calves. Craig was eager to get the race over with, but I was holding him back. We finished in 3h16, and 30 seconds later, much to our surprise, Marius crossed the line - that had been far to close for comfort!

Ok, enough smiling - I want to eat!

It was at this point that things took a turn for the worse. We decided to drive back to a part of the route and wait for the ladies. Somehow we missed the ladies, and they finished without us to cheer them in. When we eventually did return to the finish, there were two rather grumpy and tired riders. All they had wanted was for us to cheer them in, and we had missed them. A packet of chips and some food later, and peace was restored - thankfully ;)

A good weekend was had all round, although I don't think the ladies will do this ride again.

Craig and I came 32nd and 33rd overall, and 8th and 9th in the SubVets - not too shabby.

Monday, 5 November 2007

Posted by Velouria Posted on 14:48 | 2 comments


After getting up at the crack of dawn (3:45) so that I could be in the car by 4:15 after doing my usual race day ritual (I won't go into details), the very least I expected was a nice easy ride and some easy points in the small country town of Bonnievale.

I should have known that this wasn't going to happen when I got in the car to discover that my wife was doing an experiment in seeing how close to the far end of the red line she could get the fuel gauge needle to go. After a moment of panic when I couldn't find my wallet to put fuel in, I was off to Botrivier to pick up Craig, so that he could do what he hoped would be his first league ride.

We got to Bonnievale at about 6:15, and had enough time to register, find the porta-potties, ready the bikes, and go for a half hearted warm up ride. At 7:00 we were lined up in the start chute waiting to go. There must have been about 25 riders in the SubVet bunch, so a good haul of points was looking good.

The race started at a good pace, and on the first hill I attacked - I had no idea what sort of legs I had, and wanted to get a feel of whether I had some form or not. The bunch let me dangle for a bit off the front, before they made an effort to reel me back in. As I was to discover, they were not going to let anyone get away today.

Another rider attacked, and I went with him, and we built up a gap of about 500 meters before the bunch responded and closed us down again. The points leaders were not going to take any chances by letting a couple of riders escape, but that didn't stop me from trying. I tried again once more, before settling into the routine of the ride. I didn't have great legs, but I felt comfortable and was able to hang one when we got put in the gutter with a nasty North Wester blowing.

After about an hour the race was going to change direction, go around a circle and cross some railway lines, and then ride with the wind. I was going to give it
another shot and try to get clear. As we approached the circle, another rider had similar ideas, and I was glad to know that I wouldn't be alone on the break. I gave him some time to get a nice gap on the bunch and then broke and chased after him. We worked well together, and built up a nice gap on the bunch - the tailwind helping us out a great deal. Once again the big guns decided to close us down after leaving us off the front for about 6 or 7 minutes.

A couple of the other riders tried to break free, and I thought I would have one last go, but the move went nowhere fast. Now it was time to just chill in the bunch, and recover before the rolling hills that awaited us.

To my surprise, the race winning move came before the hills, in a slight crosswind, with 5 riders simply riding off the front of the bunch. I could see a Maverick jersey there, so while I was suffering like crazy trying to hang on to the second bunch, I was quite happy that Christian had made the gap.

From here on in it was a time trial to try and catch the leaders, and I was paying the price for my earlier efforts. I still think that with a bit of teamwork we could have caught the leaders, but team tactics and fatigue prevented us from doing so. We eventually reeled in Christian after the 3 leaders dropped him and another rider up a hill. I didn't have much left, and no one was willing to help Russel de Jager with the chase, so I thought I would try to help him close the gap, so that Christian could sprint for 4th.

The end of the sprint - I was happy with last (or 10th)

It is amazing how scarce riders become when there is a bit of work to do. Suddenly they were nowhere to be found. Russell did the majority of the work, and I tried to help where I could. The gap was closing, but we were running out of road. One of the leaders punctured, and suddenly we were racing for 3rd. Christian started his sprint early, and ran out of legs about 50m short of the line. I never had legs to start with, and all the guys that we were towing came past me on the line.

My chance to sneak around Christian and get 9th :)

This was one tough ride (my nose starting bleeding again), and I was absolutely finished. In hindsight, perhaps I shouldn't have wasted all that energy up front, but it felt good at the time.

The league is now over (for me - I miss next week's ride because of Hell and Back) - I have 54 points, and finished in 13th position overall. Looking forward to the summer league

Friday, 19 October 2007

Posted by Velouria Posted on 12:30 | 1 comment

Battered and Bruised

The weekend started off with a road race in Worcester. Not really my sort of race - far too flat with no hills what so ever to break up the bunch. There was a gravel section on a gradual climb, and I think most guys were waiting to make their moves there.

The bunch was quite lethargic, and I just couldn't sit in the bunch, and so launched several pointless attacks. I didn't really want to get away - it was going to be a long hard ride on my own, but I wanted to have a look to see if anybody else had similar ideas. On each occasion that I tried to get off the front, the yellow jersey would close me down by himself. That made me feel quite good - he obviously thought I was enough of a threat to warrant closing me down.

The big move did happen on the gravel section, and I probably went a little early, and as a result got dropped on the incline. Nine riders got away with a 20 second gap, with 15 riders forming the chasing bunch. In 20kms we only took 10 seconds
off them. I think a couple of factors were to blame - some teams not really prepared to chase (like Maverick, as we had a rider in the break), and the general inexperience of some of the riders when it came to riding a pace line.

It ended up being a sprint for 10th position, where I got 12th. Not too bad.


Wow - I never noticed this view when I was riding.

The Apple Blossom. I thought the plan was to ride with the ladies today, but my dear Epic partner had other ideas. The race started slowly as we entered some single track just after the start and it got quite congested. Once we got out onto the farm roads, Craig decided to set the pace, and that was the last time I was in front of him. He towed me around Paul Cluver Estate for about 2 hours - inflicting serious pain. At one point my nose started bleeding, but I didn't get much sympathy. I can't recall much about the race - I just see Craig's rear wheel in my memory. We did come across a herd of cows that were running obstruction for the leaders. Craig had great fun herding them out of the way, while I took the time to recover slightly - to catch my breath, and wipe away some of the blood.

Amazing - you can't see my tongue dragging on the ground.

I hope the Epic isn't going to be 8 days of this. While I was on the limit, it looked like Craig still had quite a bit left in the tank. This is possibly revenge for Lourendsford and Citrusdal.

Thursday, 11 October 2007

Posted by Velouria Posted on 14:02 | 2 comments


Once again Lourensford made its appearance on the cycling calendar. I treat every outing at Lourensford with a bit of trepidation, as I have suffered plenty of times there before. Just ask Tim. I think he fears it even more than I do, and that is saying something.

Me, on my own, concentrating
I had spoken to the guys who laid out the course, and I had been told that it was going to be an easier route than in previous years. So maybe I wouldn't cough up blood, or loose a kidney, but those weren't exactly reassuring words.

Yet again, it was threatening to rain - Lourensford without the wet is toast without the Marmite - they are just meant to go together.

Me, on my own, dodging some wetness

Craig and I agreed to treat this like another training ride, but I was already suffering on the 10 minute ride I did to get to the event from my house, so I knew that today I was going to be the weaker partner. As usual, Craig was trying to race the leaders, and I was hanging on for dear life. Slowly but surely a gap opened between the two of us, and got bigger and bigger. To Craig's credit, he did wait once, and I did tell him to go on without me. Which he did.

Five minutes into the race, and no Craig

I was racing my own race, and starting to feel quite good. The climbing suited me, and the ride was not too technical.

With almost all hope of ever seeing Craig again after being on my own for over 2 hours, I caught a glimpse of him up ahead. Slowly but surely the gap started to close, and while he will tell you he was waiting for me, I like to think that I got some legs towards the end of the ride.

Me, on my own, suffering

When I did eventually catch him, I had to dish out some payback, and we pushed hard to the finish. I almost lost my partner twice in the last 5 kms, not to him getting lost, but to two very near accidents. Craig (with a pair of very large eyes from a near crash) and I crossed the line in 3:17, in 34th position. Not bad going considering how bad I felt before the ride.

Thanks to my personal photographer Theunis for all the photos. I don't remember seeing photographers in half the places that I have photos from. They are very sneaky indeed. Check out

Wednesday, 3 October 2007

Posted by Velouria Posted on 14:33 | 2 comments

Riding a road bike off road

After the training ride I had two weeks ago, I was not looking forward to the first league ride of the season. I had suffered like crazy for 3 hours in the wind and the rain, and the prospect of actually having to race in the wind had me doubting my abilities.

To add to my worries, the organisers of the Geco Durbanville Children's Home funride had decided to throw in a gravel section of about 1.7kms. How could I take Roxy, my delicate and beloved road bike, across such a section, and still expect her to speak to me afterwards? Just in case, I bought new tyres, and gave Roxy a good cleaning the day before the race (like giving a death-row prisoner his last meal).

After not getting my full 8 hours of sleep the night before, and probably drinking too much wine at Yolanda's birthday party, I was awoken by the sound of a howling South Easter. Now I really didn't want to ride - all I needed was a valid excuse, but none was forthcoming.

For the first time in ages, we had a neutral start as we wound our way through the residential areas of Durbanville. This meant that I got 10 minutes to nicely warm up before the racing began. It was good to have all three Maverick riders together again, and quite surprisingly, our little team was looking quite strong (all the hot shots are riding Elite this year).

Christian in his Maverick kit

With about 15kms on the clock, a break of four riders went off the front of the bunch - including a Maverick rider. And that was pretty much the end of the racing for us for the next 60kms. No one was quite prepared to chase the break down, and we were quite happy to let it get away.

Fast forward to about 75kms - I was starting to get a little bored with the slow pace, and I wanted to stretch my legs as we started riding over the rolling hills coming back into Durbanville. I had decided to ride quite hard on the gravel section - firstly to get rid of some of the riders in the bunch, and secondly to give myself a head start up the last two climbs of the day.

I was first onto the gravel, and found a nice line on the extreme right hand side, and really went quite hard. Two other riders came with me, and we quickly had a gap on the rest of the bunch. The gravel got a little scary as it went downhill and the speed started to pick up, but both Roxy and I made it over in one piece. I climbed Contermanskloof at a tempo pace, and was eventually joined by 5 or 6 other riders.

I am the little yellow dot on the extreme right - 3rd wheel.
Look at the gap we have :)

Once we got to the bottom of Vissershok, I could see that Cobus, my teammate, had been dropped by the break and was limping up on his own. At the steep section of Vissers the first move went, but I wasn't (or couldn't) follow it. Shortly afterwards, two other riders went, and I decided I had to go. Looking over to Marius, I told him we had to go too, and all he could do was respond that his legs were cramping. I went, and tried to get into a rhythm, which is hard up Vissers. I eventually got over the top about 150m behind the other two chaps, and it took me the next 3kms to close the gap down and catch them.

Marius limping up Vissers, with Donkey for company.

Four of us were now racing for 5th place. I went early, thinking I would soften the other two up for Cobus, only to realise that Cobus was finished, and I just really softened him up even more. The other two riders got to a traffic circle before me, and with 500m left it was going to be quite hard to get past them.

I ended up coming 7th in the SV, and more importantly, never really felt like I was under too much strain for the whole ride. A great way to start the Spring League.

(I hear there is a gravel section in the next league ride too :) )

Tuesday, 18 September 2007

Posted by Velouria Posted on 11:09 | No comments

Oranges and Midges!

In our quest to have the perfect Epic next year, Craig and I headed off to Citrusdal for some "team building". Last week was supposed to be a team ride, but we know how that turned out. Our aim was to ride together, and get some back to back racing in.

It is rather sad to see an event like this so poorly attended - the riding was great - the venue is scenic, and the organiser's enthusiasm can't be beaten.

As always, Craig started like a rat up a drainpipe, and I was left trailing a lung trying to catch him. I got tangled up with some slower riders in a very sandy patch, only to see Craig disappearing into the distance.

It took me about 15 minutes to catch him (although I do think he waited), and from there on we set about trying to get into a rhythm to catch Marius up ahead.

There was loads of climbing, mostly up rocky jeep track, but with the odd sandy bit thrown in for good measure. On one of the big climbs, I could see the gap to Marius dropping - we started out about 2 minutes behind him, and by the time we went over the top, the gap was down to 45 seconds.

We both had a couple of hairy moments on some of the descents - my back wheel tried to overtake my front wheel, and Craig decided that he didn't like the jeep track and veered off into the fynbos - making his trail. I chose to follow the trail.

We thought we had got lucky when we saw Marius trying to pump a tyre. We stopped and lent him a bomb. As we were about to leave, I discovered that I too had a puncture, and Uncle Stan wasn't going to fix it, so we had to put in a tube. This gave Marius time to open up a gap on us again.

With more climbing and bundu bashing through fynbos (I still have splinters in my hands, arms and legs) we were finally greeted with some appreciated downhill. And to make it even better - we could see Marius in the distance. I had a target to aim at. As we got to Marius, he stopped and I lent him my pump to do some running repairs. We thought we had him now, but all credit to him, he chased hard and was able to hop onto our wheels.

We tried to ride him off, but we didn't do it particularly well - we had discussed it before the race, but when the pressure was on, we lacked in the brain department, and never really threatened Marius. As a result, he was able to out sprint us both on the line.

All in all, a good days racing - we both learned a lot, and had a good workout.

That afternoon we cruised Citrusdal, eventually finding the local rugby match to be the only thing of interest in the town. We spent the afternoon watching the locals pummel Tulbagh, while swarms of midges tried to suck us dry. I also learned a couple of new insults from the locals. The phrase of the moment is "Jy is n gemorse!"

Day Two dawned, and although we hadn't entered the race, we were going to sneak onto the course. Plenty climbing awaited us, but we worked well together, until I punctured again. We then had to play catch up and just as we were about to get in front again, we missed a turn (I was trying to catch a guy who wasn't in the race). More climbing awaited us, and it felt like we climbed for hours - before we finally popped out in a wheat field. That was a new experience for me - I have never ridden in a wheat field before. A couple more stops to attend to my tyre before we got to fly down the old pass back to the finish line. We took day two much more at Epic pace, and it was good to have a hard 4 hour workout.

While all this was going on, the wives were busy racing the Tour de Vino. Yolanda had some mechanical problems - which are naturally all my fault, and so their time was a little slower than expected, but judging from the photo, fun was had all round.

Tuesday, 11 September 2007

Posted by Velouria Posted on 12:26 | 3 comments

We have a winner!

Can you believe it - I won a race. And I am not talking about winning a race just because the other guy's bum wore out after 21 hours of riding. No - I won a race because I was able to ride away from the competition.

Just to clarify - most of the competition weren't at this race, leaving the competition to be two guys from Hermanus, and Craig, my Epic partner with the freshly broken (and almost healed) neck. But I still rode away from them.

The initial plan had been to do this race with Craig as a team, as it covers part of next year's Epic route. I didn't really feel like racing, and was quite prepared for a nice outing in the Stanford country side.

We set off at a reasonable pace, and I quickly tucked into 3rd position behind the Hermanus representatives. I was going to ride on their wheels, and maybe out sprint them towards the end. Craig was right behind me. Very quickly, the Hermanus representation halved, and suddenly Craig and I had the upper hand. I was feeling good, so after about 20 minutes of riding I went to the front and set the pace, with Craig hoping into 3rd place. As the road went up, I still felt good, and didn't mind setting the pace, but I could feel the Hermanus rider right behind me. On a short downhill, the Hermanus rider left both of us for dead, and I realised that if we wanted to get beat him, we would have to make him hurt on the hills.

On the next bit of steep grassy up hill I put in a hard effort, and immediately a gap opened up. I eased off a little to let Craig get across to me, and then carried on pushing hard. (All the while, scenes from various Tour de France's were flashing through my head - all I needed to do was give the Lance "Look").

Craig and I then rode on, getting to the bottom of the big climb together. Craig was not supposed to be racing, so he was going to take it easy from here on - we still had about 2 hours of racing left. I kept on going - I was feeling great, and the hill was my kind of climb - not too steep, and very loooong.

I had a motorbike marshal for company - and he would give me updates on where I was, where Craig was, what lay ahead etc. I did want to kill him when he pointed to a hill and said the small climb ahead was all that remained. It was like a mountain, and damn steep. I had to walk sections!

Although I couldn't see anyone behind me, I wasn't going to take any chances, and so I pushed on to the end - and equaled the course record in the process, with Craig coming in in second place - 10 minutes later.

What a great little ride - well laid out, well marked, very scenic and a lovely prize of a weekend away in a cottage in the area. Just a pity the race wasn't better attended (but then I probably wouldn't have won!)

I have agreed to let Craig win the next one - and he has agreed to make a real race of it!