Friday, 28 August 2009

Posted by Velouria Posted on 10:38 | 1 comment

Transbaviaans 2009

If it's August, it must be Trans Baviaans month. Usually, the race hangs over my head like a death sentence, but this year was different. I had somehow managed to keep some of the Epic fitness, and with the mild winter had been able to put in some good training. For once, I was looking forward to the race.

Our team was the same as last year, but this time with a new name - Rusty TarTrollips. I am beginning to think that choosing a team name is more difficult than actually doing the event. Once again, John wasn't entirely happy with the name, but considering some of his suggestions, I really wasn't that concerned. Our backup crew this year consisted of Bonte - an expert in all things backup related, with a particular talent for making very good tea, and her young apprentice Rowan. Volunteering to do backup involves sitting in a car for 7 hours as we drive to Willowmore, then driving several hours to Jeffery's Bay to offload all the luggage (on a side note - I was very proud of myself - I was able to leave my ammo box of bike goodies behind, and didn't miss it once), before heading off to the first checkpoint where we would meet up with them. And then waiting. Lots. Throw in some grumpy cyclists with strange requirements and you can clearly see that it isn't a holiday at all.

I arrived in Hermanus at around lunch time, with chicken livers couriered from Somerset West - chicken liver pasta is John's prerace meal of choice. We suspect the other Hermanus team had tried to sabotage his event by purchasing all the chicken livers in Hermanus. After some mechanical issues involving a bike rack, a computer geek and an estate agent, we were ready to pick up Craig, Bonte and Rowan, and head off to Willowmore.

The car trip is a long one, and John passed the time sending tweets to Twitter and updating his Facebook status from his phone. And they call me the computer geek. "Craig just touched me with his smelly toes - must remember to disinfect before bed". "Who put Dane in charge of music - this Kings of Lions is awful! Could be worse - at least it's not Wunderbom!"

We had supper (the chicken liver pasta) at the Engen just outside Mosselbay. Diniel had been kind enough to make enough for all of us, but I could see John was a little uncomfortable about sharing his secret prerace meal with us. I just hoped it had the same effect on me - enough legs to keep up with the rest of the Rusty TarTrollips.

We got to Willowmore quite late, only to discover that our mattresses in the hostel had been stolen. We suspected the teams in the neighbouring rooms, but when questioned they denied everything. So much for the camaraderie of mountain bikers. And they dare accuse the roadies of being heartless posers!

I slept terribly - I had a headache and my pulse was racing. And when I did eventually manage to fall asleep I snored. Apparently. I did wake myself up once through the ear plugs, but thought it was an isolated incident. Apparently not. "Dane is snoring - another minute of this and I am going to stuff a pair of socks down his throat!"

Team breakfast

We had a good breakfast - greasy eggs, overcooked bacon, toast and oats, and got ready for the 10am race start. On checking the neighbouring room we discovered that they in fact had stolen our mattresses - and were sleeping on double mattresses. Nice one. *******

With everything packed and ready to go we rode off to the start, and already things were going a little pear shaped. Craig's fork wasn't holding air, and my heart rate was sitting at 120 beats per minute freewheeling down a hill. That was about 25 beats higher than normal. I phoned uber nurse (Yolanda), just to make sure that I didn't have swine flu. I might have left out some of the details, and was really just looking for her to give me the go ahead to ride. There was no way I was going to miss out on my 6th Trans Baviaans!

After the traditional prerace mumble from Wikus, we started the 2009 Trans Baviaans race - 230kms lay between us and Jeffery's Bay. What would this year hold for us. John started with a bang and before long Craig and I were scurrying to chase him down as he weaved his way through the field. "Awesome - the pasta worked - time to dish out the pain. Revenge for last year!" Within 10 minutes the Rusty TarTrollips had stopped at the side of the road - Craig had punctured. As we fixed the puncture the entire field came past us, some making pretend offers to help, and others coming up with witty chirps. You never realise how big the race is until all 220 teams have gone past you. "Tubes? Who races on tubes? And there goes the Hermanus team! Arrg!" I gave Craig's punctured tube to the broom wagon/cheese van (the local police were acting as the support vehicle).

The Rusty TarTrollips

Once again John vanished up the road, eager to make up places through the back markers as Craig and I tried to follow. Up ahead there was chaos - it looked like there was some obstruction as everyone was slowing and dismounting. After waiting our turn, we discovered that the obstacle was nothing more than a slight dip in the trail. Once on the main road, we were able to speed up, and started moving back up through the field. Once again we had to endure the chirps from the back markers.

My heart rate hadn't settled yet, and I knew that this was more than just prerace nerves - something was wrong. I quickly found my spot on the back of the Rusty TarTrollips, hiding from the headwind behind John and Craig - a place I would occupy for the next 11 hours. We made good progress back though the field, in part due to Craig's super fast big wheeled 29er. I have got to get one of those. We caught and passed the the Hermanus team - they wouldn't be a threat this year. We also passed the team that had stolen our mattresses, and since my brain hadn't turned to porridge yet, I got in a good comment - "for a team that slept so well, you sure ride like sh*t!".

Craig being Craig did the lion's share of the pace setting, and I was struggling just to hang on. We were flying and before long made checkpoint one - I gulped down some coke, had some Gu's and snacks - hoping that eventually everything would return to normal. We eventually caught up with a large group, and while I was content to hide anonymously at the back with John, Craig went straight to the front. "Craig is on a death wish - if he doesn't kill Dane he is going to kill himself!". Being accustomed to riding on Craig's wheel (I feel safe riding behind Craig) I went to the front and slotted in behind Craig, and for the next two hours that is pretty much how things stayed. Occasionally one or two of the other 20 or so riders in the bunch would come forward to help, but it was always short lived.

I really was struggling, and we had barely been going for 4 hours - if our vehicle had been at the next checkpoint I would have gotten into it. I was struggling on the flats, and the hills were yet to begin. On the hills Craig was struggling with his big wheels and gear ratio, which gave me some company at the back. John was flying - I think he got a special chicken liver pasta from Diniel. By now we had made up the time lost for the first puncture, and were about 30 minutes ahead of our previous best time. We got to check point 3, gulped down some coke and had a sosatie and a potato, and set off to scale the big climb up to BergPlaas.

Before we even got to the bottom of BergPlaas I got a puncture - a small hole in the side wall of my tyre just above the beading. We bombed it (CO2 cylinder), and hoped the sealant would do the trick. My brain was completely porridge, coherent thought was escaping me, so John took over and helped with the repair work. The stop cost us 12 minutes, thanks to my porridge brain, and a particularly stubborn valve. After the race, John informed me that I should grease my valve - it took me a while to figure out what he was talking about!

"Craig spotted the Hermanus team - I will kill myself (or Dane) before I let them catch us!". Unfortunately John didn't realise that Craig was just kidding, and rode up BergPlaas like a man possessed, in the process reducing me to a quivering wreck, inches away from hitting the wall. Like 2007, BergPlaas again destroyed me, except this time I didn't have to walk. The only thing that kept me going was the thought of the magic soup and bread they provided at the checkpoint on the top of the climb. It had worked wonders for me in 2007 when John had had to force feed me, and I was hoping it would do the same again this year!

We had our soup, applied new botty butter, put on our lights and left BergPlaas in a speedy 10 minutes (Craig was the police man - keeping us focused pointing us in the right direction). "Craig just asked to finish my soup - how rude!" We started the long twisty descent of the pass. This was the earliest we had ever left BergPlaas, so riding down in the light was great. On the way we passed a guy who had a puncture - the course was quite rocky and jutted, and now that I had a tube in the back wheel, I didn't want another puncture so I carefully picked my way down. Upon rounding a corner, I saw Craig lying in a heap, with John almost stopped on top of him. Craig had punctured his front wheel and lost control. He was quite bashed up - his knee and shin the proud new owners of some roasties. We quickly fixed Craig's puncture, and with a little more caution carried on down the pass. We had now used our last tube and would have to survive until the next checkpoint where we would finally meet up with Bonte and Rowan.

First class backup services - they win the prize for best seconders!

For the first time all day I found myself able to do some work on the front - not because I had finally come right, but because Craig and John were paying for babysitting me all day. I felt quite bad for being the weakest link and was trying to help out as best as I could.

After some rolling hills on wide dirt roads we finally made the next checkpoint at Kondomo in the light. I wasn't really that light, with the sun having set quite a while previously, but it still wasn't dark enough for us to use our lights. We really were flying despite all the issues we were having. We had left BergPlaas in 29th position (having been 220th at one point). Bonte and Rowan were on hand to tend to our needs - I had a two fantastic cups of tea - easily in my top 10 cups of tea list of all time. Bonte and Rowan had also organised potatoes and fruit and some other snacks for us, and helped where needed. After a slightly longer stop (Craig the policeman was busy, and with no one to hurry us along we faffed quite a bit). "At least I am not being force fed oranges this year - maybe I should get Dane to have one or two."

We left Kondomo in the dark, and had the NeverEnder climb to look forward to. Once again I went to the front, only because it was flat, and on tar, and stayed there for about 5 minutes until we turned of and began the climb. That was the last time I would see the front. The nice thing about racing at night is that you can see the teams ahead of you from their flashy red lights. Targets! We had decided to ride in stealth mode, and had no flashy red lights (we actually just forgot about them). John was chomping at the bit and set a good pace up the climb, and before long we had caught and passed the first target. We passed several other teams, leaving them behind us, until we got to a team that decided to hook on and ride with us. Slowly but surely John and Craig started upping the pace, as well as my level of discomfort, and before long I was spat out the back of the group. I dangled there for a while, while John and Craig did battle with the other teams on their wheels. Eventually the gap was so big that I had to call out and ruin their fun. As they sat up, so did the other teams, and when I caught them we easily rode away from them. Why hadn't we tried this strategy several kilometers earlier? Despite my slowness, we were still making good time and reached the final checkpoint in 26th position (having lost several positions at the last stop).

"Now he wants my Enerjellies - can you believe Craig's cheek!" We had to pump up Craig's wheel, and I took the opportunity to sit down and catch my breath, and have another cup of superb tea. I force fed my self just enough snacks to make the last 30 kilometers or so, and we were off. Several teams had decided not to stop at this checkpoint, and once again we had to catch and pass teams. Suprisingly, we did most of our passing on the hills - at least I wasn't the only one finding them tough. After a short climb we eventually emerged on the top of a small rise with the lights of Jeffery's Bay waiting for us in the distance. John didn't need any encouragement, and took up the pace making duties, Craig and I tucked in behind him.

A big bunch of riders caught us, and John quickly hopped on the back. Craig and I took our time as we struggled to hook on but we did it. We turned on the N2, on to beloved tar, and the pace immediately picked up. White line fever was gripping every one. Up a small rise John gave me a push to stay in contact with the bunch, and I wondered why it had taken him 228kms before deciding to push me ;) Having made the mistake of turning down the wrong road to the finish line in the past, I had made sure I knew where to go. Unfortunately, the same can not be said for the rest of the bunch as everyone except Craig and I took the wrong turn - including John. Suddenly we were in with a chance of beating 3 or 4 teams, so Craig and I kept going, knowing that John was strong enough to catch us. After a slight mishap 30m from the finish line we all crossed together - in 20th place, in a time of 11:10:21.

Finished - physically and mentally.

Number 6 was over, and I have never been so grateful to get to the finish. I really thought I was going to die somewhere along the way. My average heart rate, sitting on the back and not doing any meaningful work for 230kms was 157 beats per minute.

We headed back to our accommodation for the night, cleaned ourselves up, had lots to eat, and chatted about the race. Bonte produced another delicious cup of tea, and we all headed off to bed. "Awoke to find Dane staring at me - freaky stuff! I shouldn't have accused him of snoring last night."

The long drive home was hell, but the time passed quite quickly, and before long, the Trans Baviaans weekend for 2009 was over, but certainly won't be forgotten.

Friday, 24 July 2009

Posted by Velouria Posted on 10:34 | No comments

Epic 2009 - Stage 7

Date: 28 March 2009
Start/Finish: Oak Valley to Lourensford
Distance: 60km
Climbing: 1760m
Cut-off time: 15:30 (Start at 08:30)

The last stage of the 2009 Cape Epic couldn't have come at a better time. After the tough stage the previous day, I was beginning to think that I was on the downward curve of my fitness. And the memories from last year's final stage were also running around in the back of my head. I remember not having the best of legs, and struggling quite a bit on the steep climbs. In addition, I also punctured, which completely took the wind out of my sails, and my gears finally gave up about 10 kms from the end. I really didn't want to go through all that again.

Me with number one supporter

Pre race nerves

Third place ladies - Sarah and Nolene

I had eaten well the previous night, and again at breakfast, but had given up trying to match Craig. He is in a class of his own when it comes to eating. We enjoyed the last couple of meals at the Epic and soaked up the atmosphere. The vibe around tent city was quite festive, with the finish line just around the corner (and over several mountains). Most people could finally relax a bit, knowing that they had almost survived an Epic, with just one day remaining.

Sarah - eager to start the stage

DCM Chrome nervously looking around for us

The previous evening in the eating tent Christoph Sauser had taken to the stage to promote the charity that he and Burry Stander are riding for. He also offered his opinion on their time penalty they received, making the comment that sometimes he wished politics would stay out of cycling, and that the legs would just do the talking. The eat tent erupted in applause for about 10 minutes. It was plain to see who the "ordinary" cyclists supported.

Burry Stander

My trusty steed - Svalbard

The final day of the 2009 Epic arrived, and again this year we were given the opportunity to sleep in as the start was delayed to 8:30 to give the people at the finish in Lourensford enough time to get organised. It didn't really help though - by now the routine of getting up at 5am was firmly entrenched, and most people went about their usual pre-race business. My father had flown down to see the last stage, and to try and get some sort of idea why it is we put ourselves through events like the Epic. This would be the first time he has seen me race in person. To non-cycling people (and probably cycling people as well), I think events like the Epic really are quite spectacular to see - the organisation, the cyclists, the determination, the stories.

Empty tent town

Yolanda and the empty tent town

As the start time approached, Craig and I lined up in B for the last time. We had decided to ride without hydration packs - after 7 days of lugging around several kilograms on my back I was only to glad to leave the thing behind, and instead rely on bottles for juice, and pockets for spares. Although everyone was excited to be heading off to Lourensford, there was still an air of nervousness as we lined up for the final time - one silly mistake and it could all be over. I think most riders were opting for discretion, rather than ending their Epic within sight of Lourensford.

Right from the start we went up!

As this was the same route as the previous year, Craig and I knew exactly what to expect, and right from the start we went quite hard up the first hill. We knew we could get a nice head start, as the hill wasn't that steep, and many people would take a while to get going. I think Craig and I ride the best when there is a hill right at the start - it slows Craig down just a bit, and lets me use my climbing skills to keep up. Stage 1 and Stage 3 were clear evidence of this.

The photographers eagerly awaiting our arrival

For one of the few times at this year's Epic I set the pace as we climbed up the old VilliersDorp pass, heading towards the monster of the day (and one of the monsters from the first stage) - Nuweberg. We made good progress, passing riders as we slowly climbed the pass - it is a great climb - not too steep, and just goes on and on - exactly what Craig and I are good at.

The Crazy German - Mike Mike

We were riding around the usual suspects - Auric Auto, and several other teams we had spent most of the Epic battling for supremacy. Missing from this mix were the faffers, and Benedikt and his partner. As the road kicked upward on Nuweberg and the going got a little tougher, Benedikt made an appearance. I really wanted to get rid of him, but the steepness of the climb was taking its toll on my legs, as well as on Craig's. We got into a good rhythm and slowly ground our way up the hill - so far this year's final stage was going a lot better than the previous year's. I hadn't had to walk yet, and my legs were feeling pretty good.

DCM Chrome finished in second place

As we crested the top of the climb, Craig came through and vanished down the hill like a maniac. I tried to keep up, but the traffic on the downhill was making me nervous. Our favourite team of downhill-challenged riders were ahead of us (Team Cyclelab Supercycling Racing MTB A Men's Team or something like that) and I just couldn't get past them. I was also a little nervous as there was a lot of dust, and it was quite tough to pick a line, and I was not going to take any risks just to make up a minute or two. When I eventually got to the bottom, Craig was waiting for me, and pointed out that a girl had ridden the downhill faster than me. Thanks.

The winners, and the people's champions

With the monster climb of the day over, and about 35km to go, we slowly started the gradual climb towards the Gamtoe Pass. We took a little longer than planned at the water point, and as we left we were greeted with the familiar sight of the faffers. They had obviously flown down the hill, and made up all the time we put into them on the climb. And they looked good - well, at least Etienne looked good. He was riding like a man possessed, and poor Cillie was doing his best to hang on for dear life.

Bulls - overall winners

Auric Auto, the faffers and us were locked in a 3 way battle, each team trying to shake the other two, but also trying not to over do it. Craig rose to the challenge well, and I started to pay for my earlier efforts. I don't remember too much about the section up to the compulsory portage, except perhaps giving Cillie that knowing look as I dug deep and tried to stick on Craig's wheel.

Kevin Evans and David George

The compulsory portage down the pass gave me a chance to stock up on fluids and have a Gu - the run into the finish was not an easy one, and I didn't want to fade completely. As we were about to leave the portage section and hop onto the railway line, a train came through, forcing several cyclists to jump for their lives into bushes to avoid having a rather embarrassing accident. One or two riders tried to slip the train, but riding over the sleepers in the middle of the tracks is hard work, and they were unable to keep up. Nice idea though. When we finally got down onto the tracks Craig and I chose to ride in the middle - this was the third year we had ridden this route, and we reckoned that it was quicker to ride in the middle than try to find a line on the edge of the tracks. The tough thing about riding in the middle is that you can't really get a rhythm going as you are continually being bounced all over the place as you ride across the sleepers. Our plan did have two flaws - by riding in the middle we just motivated the riders on the edge to ride a little faster to keep up with us, and when it came to leaving the tracks we would have to get off our bikes and hop over the rails. All in all it was a zero win effort - we left the tracks in the same position as when we started. To add to our disappointment, Benedikt had been sneaky and made up some time somewhere, and now was just ahead of us.

Doug Brown and Bärti Bucher - Masters Winners

Another long downhill lay in front of us, and again Craig disappeared as I tried to keep up. Thankfully, there was some traffic which kept him within range. We were know chasing the faffers and Benedikt, and not making up too much ground. With Lourensford around the corner, and some short, sharp horrible climbs still to come before the neutral zone through Vergelegen we had to make our move. Craig pushed hard on one of the little climbs, and had me right on my limit. It was enough to shake off Benedikt. As the road flattened I realised that we had one last chance to catch the faffers before the neutral zone in order to stand a chance of beating them. It was my turn to push hard, Craig hooked on, and after passing several teams we entered Vergelegen behind the faffers. We still had to make up some ground, but at least we wouldn't be hampered by the no overtaking rule and could close right up on Etienne and Cillie, as they were now stuck behind a mixed team.

Etienne and Cillie

All three teams stayed together, obeying the rules, but I could see that Etienne still had plenty left and was starting to get edgy. I knew that once we left the neutral zone the final 5 kilometers of the 2009 Epic would be flat out. As predicted, the faffers made a move and got a gap on us as we had to try to sift our way through traffic. I was on the front, trying to close the gap with not much success when Craig came passed and tried to have a go. He was closing in on them - only problem was that he had left me behind - I just couldn't get on his wheel. We tried bravely for the next couple of kilometers, before easing off to enjoy the last few kilometers as we approached the finish straight.

Team Spot on Bevan

Eight days earlier, the finish line at Lourensford seemed so far away, and yet here we were. Things hadn't gone quite as expected (show me a race where they do), but I think we had tried our hardest and raced pretty well for a snail farmer and a computer geek. The true test of an Epic partnership is to still be friends with your partner afterwards, and we had achieved that twice.

Post stage analysis

Epic finishers for the third time

It was great to spot all the familiar faces in the crowd and to be cheered by friends and family as we crossed the finish line for the last time. At the same time it is a little sad - the Epic adventure was coming to an end, and on Monday morning it would be work as usual. For those 8 days we were mountain bikers, tackling one hill at a time, completely oblivious to the happenings in the rest of the world.

Benedikt and Joaquin

We spent the next couple of hours relaxing with friends and family, eating and chatting. It was great to know that there were people supporting us each pedal stroke of the way. Although we didn't achieve our goal of a top 50 finish, we gave it a good shot, and I don't think there were any sections of the 800kms that we could have ridden better.

Me, with number one supporter - Yolanda

Off to the showers

It did bring a smile to our faces to hear that the team we had beaten the day before - DCM Chrome, had finished second.

Highlights of the day: Cruising up the hills, racing the faffers, finishing the Epic
Lowlights of the day: Forgetting how tough the bit from the country club to the pass is

GC 83 Cat 63 3:34.33,0
Total Time

GC 93 Cat 64

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Posted by Velouria Posted on 14:12 | No comments

Epic 2009 - Stage 6

Date: 27 March 2009
Start/Finish: Oak Valley
Distance: 86km
Climbing: 1546m

The thing about stage racing is that you never quite know what sort of legs you are going to wake up with the next morning. There are some indicators though, like if you have a good day and rode a little too hard because you felt quite strong, chances are that the following day is going to be a killer. That was my worry after Stage 5 for Stage 6.

Today's stage was another loopy affair in and around the forests of Grabouw. I really wasn't looking forward to the stage, and the only thing getting me through was the thought of some lovely singletrack in the forests of Lebanon and Oak Valley.

First water point - getting some lube

I was suffering from some saddle sores - nothing I hadn't had before, but still pretty uncomfortable. Thankfully, they only hurt for about 10 minutes once on the bike, because after about 10 minutes, my legs started aching more than the saddle sores, and I was able to completely forget about them.

Craig having a look at the bent link in his chain (and me having a rest)

As I suspected, my legs were nowhere, and the fast start out of town didn't do much to help me either. I was only too glad to turn off the tar, but my relief was short-lived as the mass start had seen us lose quite a lot of places, and we were now sitting way back in the traffic. To make matters worse, my awesome sand skills from a few days before had mysteriously deserted me, and I was riding like a 10 year old girl through the sand (wait - that's being unkind to 10 year old girls - I am sure they would have done a better job than me).

Having fun? Craig is, not sure about me!
(Race founder and director Kevin Vermaak on the right looking on)

The first hour of the race was filled with lots of waiting (for me) - Craig spent half of that time looking over his shoulder to see where I was. The short sharp hills that I usually love were killing my legs. I wasn't having fun. Luckily, after the first hour Craig started to slow - just enough that I could hang on to his wheel, and that is pretty much how we stayed for the rest of the day - Craig on the front, with me tucked in right behind.

The first half of the stage was spent climbing up short steep climbs with loose rocks and sand. We did get a few downhills to enjoy, but had been warned that some might be a little dangerous. Being the second last day of the Epic, we chose to walk the downhills, and each time we did, our choice would be justified when a random rider with bravery levels far outweighing his skills levels would come flying down the hill, misjudge an obstacle, and end up in a heap of grazed skin and shattered ego. Just goes to show - sometimes discretion is the better part of valour (I was just glad for the opportunity to rest as we walked down the hill!).

Fueled up and back on the go.

The funny thing was that, because of our (ie. my) bad start, it felt like we were passing people all day long. This ended up giving us the false impression that we were actually riding quite well, yet the people we were passing were riders that should never have been in front of us in the first place. The only reassurance that things weren't that bad was that we were still ahead of the faffers (funny story - Yolanda had foxed Etienne into taking an anti-histamine for a bee sting, and he blamed the tablet for making him weak).

Probably the only time I was at the front!

With the race now firmly in our backyard, it was great to spot many familiar faces in the crowds, and the encouragement and support did loads to lift my spirits. Occasionally there would be so many spectators at a check point that it would be hard to spot our dedicated supporters. The crazy screams of "Craig and Dane" usually gave them away though! I made sure to match Craig snack for snack today - I didn't want to feel any worse than I already did. It was at one of the waterpoints that Craig discovered Energade's Jelly Babies. Fifteen minutes after wolfing down a whole bag of EnerJellies, Craig was like a man possessed. Thankfully I had some Gu's stashed away for emergencies just like this, and had to gulp down two just to stay on level terms. At the next water point I made sure I grabbed a bag of EnerJellies as well - I wasn't going to let a supercharged Craig do that to me again!

Keeping an eye on Craig's snack intake

We eventually made it into the single track of Lebanon - our hearts almost sank as our favourite pair of mountain bikers who can't ride downhill (CycleLab MTB Racing Team - grr!) were just in front of us, with about a kilometer to go to the single track. I was not going to let them ruin the only enjoyable highlight of my day. They must have sensed my bad vibes, and pulled over to let us past. There is nothing quite like the single track at Lebanon - it has the perfect mix of flowing technical sections, gradient, surface etc. Just perfect!

My bubble was burst slightly - I thought I was doing a great job, hanging onto Craig's wheel, flying down the single track, when out of nowhere Brendan Stewart and Max Knox of DCM Chrome came flying past - they had had some awful luck all morning, puncturing every 10 kms. It was quite amazing to see how effortlessly and controlled they rode.

Craig had bent a link in his chain earlier in the day up on of the steep inclines, and the big worry was that the chain was going to break. As it was, he had to be quite careful not to put too much power into pedaling, as the chain was skipping and slipping quite a bit. Again, this helped me out a bit, and made my ride a little easier.

Going into the some of the singletrack on Oak Valley, I got stuck behind a mixed team, while Craig had managed to sneak ahead of them. DCM Chrome had punctured again, and once again they were behind me. I can't begin to explain how nervous they made me feel. When we eventually got out of the single track, I had hoped to pass the mixed team, only for my plans to be dashed - a steep uphill awaited us, and Craig was taking a bit of strain. DCM Chrome also decided to do the gentlemanly thing of pushing the lady up the hill, so I just settled down to ride behind them - there was no way I my legs would last a sustained effort to get away from the mixed team.

Last downhill before the finish

We eventually did lose the mixed team in some single track, and it was left to Team Spot On Bevan to dice it out with DCM Chrome (the sneaky bit was that we hadn't really told DCM Chrome that we were dicing), and in the home straight, in front of our adoring fans and supporters, we pulled of a daring coup as we jumped past DCM Chrome and held them off to the finish. So if anyone asks how our stage went, we can at least say we beat DCM Chrome, and have the pictures to prove it!

DCM Chrome eating our dust!

I haven't been so relieved to see the finish of a stage at the Epic in a long time. Today was a day I was glad to have behind me, and hopefully I would find some legs overnight for the final stage into Lourensford. My worst stage of 2009 by far.

Benedikt and partner were getting stronger and stronger

Benedikt was chuffed to have beaten us, although he finished behind us

Giving orders for the final bike wash and lube

Glad that it's over

Highlights of the day: Finishing the stage, beating DCM Chrome ;)
Lowlights of the day: The bit at the beginning, the bit in the middle, and the bit at the end.

GC 113 Cat 83 4:50.12,3
Total Time