Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Posted by Velouria Posted on 17:02 | No comments

Trans Baviaans 2010

The annual Trans Baviaans bike race from Willowmore to Jeffery's Bay saw The Soggy Bottom Boys reuniting for another stab at the 230km mountain bike route. While we tend to get on quite well as a team, there are always several areas that cause a little added tension. Inevitably, the first point of concern is the team name, and like most things in life, people are very quick to criticise, but rather slow in offering any alternatives. Having had to endure names like The Soggy Bottom Boys, The Tartrollips etc, John was eager to give us a name that we could be proud of. Unfortuantely, the best he could come up was
As benevolent dictator for life of the Baviaans team, I could not possibly accept such half hearted attempts. And I certainly took offence at being labelled a whiner (I also wasn't quite sure who the weight watcher was). Since we were going to be two 29ers, I thought "Little John and his Merry Men" was quite fitting (and as it turned out, a little prophetic too). 

After many years of great service from our usual seconder, Bonte, we welcomed a new guy to the team - Freddie.  Freddie is an avid mountain biker with some good results, a blog, a broken bicycle, and an Epic entry. We still  aren't quite sure why he volunteered to put up with us, but whatever his motivation, he did a great job.
It looks downhill, but it really isn't
We spent the night in the local school's hostel and after the mattress thievery of last year we had been promoted to real beds in a corner room. Luxury. Apart from the odd bit of faffing and fiddling with bikes and equipment, we all got a good night's sleep and were well rested for the race. I had organised the tops, and since I know how much John (and his wife) likes tight yellow tops I had a special treat for him. I reckon we could have gotten him to wear it with a little bit of persuasion. Our real kit were the trusty tops.
Sexy in yellow
With everything packed, we said farewell to Freddie, and would see him again 8 hours later near Patensie. We were a little better organised this year, and managed to get quite close to the front of the start pen, where we proceeded to do the usual pre-race suss of the potential competition. This is an art that we have perfected over the years. Look at the bike, look at the rider, look at his legs, look at his kit, look for a camelback, look for accessories on the bike. Repeat as many times as required.
The area we were riding in
At ten o'clock we got underway and made good progress riding fast, but not too fast. Imagine our surprise then when we rounded a corner to see a bunch ahead of us, and then nothing in front of them. Could that be the leading bunch? I have never even seen the lead bunch at Baviaans before, so this was rather special. It got even better when we realised that we were catching the lead bunch without too much effort. In fact, it looked like they were freewheeling. We eventually rode onto the back of the bunch, and were quite surprised at the lack of pace, and so, before too long, Little John and his Merry Men had two riders on the front of the bunch, both on 29ers, leading the Trans Baviaans race. A dropped chain had Craig and I off the back, but we quickly rejoined and went straight back to the front.

We led the bunch into Checkpoint 1, got some juice and coke, and were out in a flash. Just as the bunch was reforming I heard the sickening sound of air escaping from a tyre. A quick check to make sure it wasn't my tyres (and lots of relief) before looking at Craig. He had a hole in his rear tyre, but we quickly plugged and bombed it and were back up to speed in no time, and in the bunch shortly after that.

The pre race fiddle and faff
For the next 60kms, Little John and his Merry Men set the pace - Craig being a bit of a TV slut and riding off the front on his own, with the rest of us following. Nelly, my 29er, was certainly proving her worth and was making short work of the rolling hills. With the bunch starting to swell a little, I decided that Craig had showed off enough and started to close the gap to him. The immediate effect was that the bunch went from about 15 teams down to 7. Not only were Little John and his Merry Men in the lead bunch, we were making the racing and lead everyone into Checkpoint 2. We knew our time at the front was now up, as the hills now lay ahead of us, and the 29ers aren't the quickest up the climbs.

With the temperature getting up to 33C we started the first big climb of the day, riding a good pace with everyone still looking good. We crossed the summit of the climb together, although the same cannot be said about reaching the bottom of the descent together, my descending skills still letting me down. Checkpoint 3 awaited us, and after some sosaties, potatoes and coke we set off for the Mother Of All Climbs up to Bergplaas and Checkpoint 4. 
I like the guy in green checking us out
A motorcycle marshal told us we were just five minutes behind the leaders which surprised us a little. As we started the early slopes of the M.A.C., I started to feel a little funny. Something wasn't right. My legs felt ok, but my heart rate was slowly climbing, and my stomach was starting to act up. I hoped it was nothing serious, something that a good burp would solve, and I could be on my way, but as I progressed the feeling in my stomach got worse and worse. Thinking it was dehydration I tried to drink more, but each time the aches got worse. Thankfully, I spotted a water tank on the side of the road from the recent road works on the M.A.C. and after a quick check found it to be full of fresh water. I only managed to get one gulp down before the evacuation order was given and all evil was told to leave my body. I never knew evil was bright orange with bits of potato in it, but I certainly felt better after the purge. One or two vehicles came past me as I was ridding my body of evil, and so as not to show any sign of weakness, I pretended to be doing some stretches. I filled my bottle with water, hopped on my bike and was back on way.

Cool calm and collected
My team mates had deserted me before my exorcism, and Craig must have been a little worried as he came back to find me and offer a bit of assistance. Nothing was more welcome than the short push he gave me up to Checkpoint 4. I grabbed the other elixir of life (tea is the original elixir of life) - coke - and downed a whole bottle, had some snacks and was ready to go. We flew down th Big Dipper, some of us a little slower than others and eventually got back onto 29er turf - flatlands and rolling hills. Eager to make up for my bad showing on M.A.C. (again), I tried to help out as much as possible with the pace setting. We were still doing extremely well - at least an hour ahead of our previous best, and sitting in 7th place overall. In the past we have always arrived at Checkpoint 5 as the sun sets, but this year we rolled into the checkpoint in broad daylight.
Freddie at work

Freddie was there to welcome us, and was exceptionally organised. He had convinced his family to join him in supporting 3 sweaty, smelly, strangers. We got naartjies, juice, water, potatoes and all our goodies laid out neatly on a blanket. I needed to take a Gu, and inevitably this is followed by some gagging and dry heaving as I struggle to convince my stomach that the Gu is not evil, and very much required, so I had to put on a brave face and conceal any gagging for Freddie's family. I am not too sure how well I succeeded.

Back on the road, we had the last big climb of the route left - The Never Ender. This climb got its name from the fact that usually you end up climbing it at night, and because of all the twists and turns, can never see the top. It feels like you are going up hill for ever. However, in the daylight, it is a much different experience, and rather pretty. We made good progress again, my legs were feeling strong, although there were some cramps about, but nothing that a bit of teeth clenching couldn't solve. My stomach was still a little dubious, but we had reached a compromise - I would't give it any more energy juice, if it promised to accept a Gu or two. As the sun set, we finally got to use our lights that we had been carrying since Checkpoint 4, and not long afterwards, we arrived at Checkpoint 7. (Alert readers will have noticed that I skipped a checkpoint there - checkpoint 6 was an unmanned checkpoint not really worth a mention).
Jeffery's Bay - our Siren
Freddie and his family saw to our requests once again, and we were off - the lights of Jeffery's Bay just over the horizon and calling us like Sirens - we just hoped there would be no crashing into rocks. Despite the tired legs and fragile stomach we pushed hard, keeping the pace high and making full use of the 29ers. As the brightness of the lights of Jeffery's increased, so too did our white line fever. Little John and his Merry Men were flying, and we crossed the line in 9h25 - in seventh place. We were over an hour faster than our previous best time.
Smiles all around
Freddie was there to welcome us with beer. It is such a pity that he wants to ride Trans Baviaans next year. Hopefully he can pass on his expert knowledge to a worthy recipient.

Little John and his Merry Men, and seconder extraordinaire Freddie
We were a little lost at having finished so early - in previous years it was simple - you ate, showered and went to bed, but we had loads of time to kill, and not that much to eat, so we ended up watching The Guru on TV before finally going to bed on what had been a fantastic day's racing. 
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Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Posted by Velouria Posted on 08:04 | 3 comments

Who is that guy?

While dropping off Craig's bike for some last minute bike maintenance in Hermanus (I don't get surprised anymore when things like this happen) I saw a poster on the bike shop window advertising a race in Caledon.
Blue bike, blue sky
Something about the poster got me, but I couldn't put my finger on it - and then it hit me. It was a photo of a Dirtopia event and the sun was shining.Very rare occasion indeed.
(After much analysis and oogling at the handsome bike, I also noticed that it was a photo of me from the recent 9-5 Dirtopia event)
Now I have to go and do the Dirtopia Staalwater Challenge on the 11th of September.
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Friday, 6 August 2010

Posted by Velouria Posted on 10:10 | No comments

Bicycle Portraits

I found this cool website: Bicycle Portraits. From the about section:

My name is Stan Engelbrecht. A friend and fellow bicycle enthusiast, Nic Grobler, and I recently started a project investigating South African bicycle culture, and the lack of cyclist commuters out there on our roads. We want to raise the funds to turn this project into a self-published full-color hard-cover photographic book ( similar to a previous book I've done, 'African Salad' - ). We are shooting the entire project from our own bicycles while traveling around the country - we are meeting everyday South Africans out there while they use their bicycles.
Some of the bikes and people they have encountered:

Posted Image

Elvis Klaasen
Friedlander st., De Aar, Northern Cape, South Africa
2010 / 07 / 29 17:10
'My name is Elvis - my dad gave me my name. I cycle because I like it, especially going to the farms. The longer trips - I like those. I cycle every day, I cycle to work three days a week and the rest of the time I just cycle around. I painted my bike like this, I like the bont colors. I bought this frame for R50 from my cousin. The rest I built up bit by bit myself.'

Posted Image

Gabriel Moloi
Oxford str., Rosebank, Gauteng, South Africa
2010 / 06 / 05 17: 32

'I cycle almost every day because this is my transport. But I just started it, it was just a simple bike and then I made it to look like this myself - because I like my job, I'm a security guard, by profession. I like cycling actually, this is not the one that I like, I'm going to get another one better than this one, you see. Because I don't have material - this is just a frame of what I can do. I'm just showing people I do have ideas even though I don't have materials to make something to look like this. This is just an idea. It has got music, it has got lights, it has indicators - it looks like a police bike. This one comes on and this one comes on as well. So, It looks nice at night. You see at night I used to do it like this so that I'll be visible anywhere where I go. Almost 25 kilometer I cycle, I work in Absa Bank Rivonia. I can go very far - it is like a car. The hooter has different sounds. This is a radio, I listen to 94.7.'

Posted Image

Ernestus Segers
Grey st., Phillipstown, Northern Cape, South Africa
2010 / 07 / 31 13:25

'I bought a piece of property just outside town, where you can keep about 20 sheep. As it is quite close I decided I will walk - but after a while I started thinking that walking wastes time and sometimes you got things to do - so I bought a bicycle. It’s been about two years now. So I cycle there in the morning, come home around ten to eat and around two I head back and then I tjaila around five again. It’s great exercise you know. With that and a bit of exercise bicycle it keeps one in good condition. It is only about a kilometer, but you'd be surprised as to what it does to a person, just the fresh air and the fact that one doesn't sit and rust up. I bought me and my wife bicycles at the pandjies shop in De Aar. Look, you know life is a chase. With the bicycle you can cycle around and there is opportunity to look around. I often cycle around town and have some usual places I stop at - spending some time with and greeting people along the way. It keeps one young. With a motorcar you are always heading somewhere in a hurry, but with the bicycle you get opportunity to take your eyes somewhere and ask the neighbors how things are going. Otherwise you know one would just sit. I can't sit for very long... I have a story of a bicycle. We lived in Vrede, and our deacon there - rich people with lots of property, farming with about 3000 sheep - he came into town one morning, to the Koƶperasie - I was also there, just before he got there he saw a group of guys standing, talking and looking very unhappy. So he asked what was the matter. They said that one of guys’ brand new bicycles was just stolen the night before. So sympathizing with them he mentioned that the week before they had just stolen 300 sheep from him. They didn't sympathize with him saying that he has lots of sheep but this guy only had this one bicycle and it is the only thing he had.' 

If you'd like a copy, go to the KickStarter page, pledge some money, and get a copy.

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Posted by Velouria Posted on 17:46 | No comments

Gansbaai MTB

A week after Dirtopia's 9-5 we trekked out to Gansbaai for another mountain bike race. It promised to be a great event - a bit of climbing, some flat fast sections, and nothing too technical.

The Routes
After her good performance at the 9-5, I thought Nelly the Niner deserved another outing, and what a good choice that turned out to be.

The 60km Profile
The start was a furious affair, and I quickly jumped across to join the leaders as we made our way to the first climb. With my lungs dragging alongside me we flew up the climb, legs burning. Just as we were about to pass out from the high pace we crested the top and had a fast crazy descent to deal with. I not only lost contact with the leaders dues to my shoddy descending skills, I also lost a bottle.

Thankfully, I was joined by Marius at the bottom of the descent and the two of us set about reeling in the guys ahead of us. We were sitting in 5th and 6th place. Nelly did a fantastic job - Marius was barely able to keep up as we made short work of the rolling hills. By the time we got to the bottom of the climb in the middle of the route, we had caught the rider in 4th place, and could see the guy in 3rd.

With a procession of little bikes behind us, Nelly and I slowing closed the gap to the rider in 3rd place as we neared the final climb of the day. By this time Marius was looking a little glazed over (perhaps the stress of asking Tania to marry him was starting to take its toll). As we started climbing, he was the first to get dropped, and I thought I might be next, as the other two guys pushed hard up the hills. My only saving grace was that the hill wasn't too steep, and I was able to grind my way up, hanging on.
Almost finished
When the next rider unexpectantly fell off, I suddenly had a chance of getting third. The two of us crested the climb together, and I promptly lost touch with the other rider (again) on the descent. The run into the finish was nice and flat - perfect for Nelly to show her true colours, and slowly but surely we managed to make up the ground we had lost on the treacherous downhill.

With two corners to go, I had sussed out a plan to win the sprint to the finish - I had to get into the first corner in first place, and then hold that place till the finish. A bit of traffic congestion played into my hands and I managed to finish in third place quite easily.

Bonte was out to defend her title from the previous year and had some tough competition from some 13 year olds, as well Tania, and managed to come second. It was Yolanda's first time on a bike in almost 4 months, and all things considered, she had a good, if not slightly slow ride, but thoroughly enjoyed it.

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Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Posted by Velouria Posted on 22:02 | 1 comment

Dirtopia 9-5 2010

After an absence of a couple of years I decided to return to ride Dirtopia's 9-5 event. And for the first time I was going to ride it solo. I had always believed that it wasn't long enough for me to stand a chance of doing well, and so had always previously entered in either a 2 man or 4 man relay team.

The weather for the event didn't look good, with weather reports varying from cold and wet to freezing cold and torrential downpours. I am getting old, and so the thought of riding in the rain when I don't really have to doesn't appeal to me at all. The deal was - we would go to registration, but if it was raining when the race started, we would go home.
Start time - clear skies.
Perfect weather for bike riding
Needless to say, 20 minutes before the race was due to start the rain stopped, the clouds lifted and the sun came out. Now I had no excuse, and after missing the 100Miler through illness I was rather keen to see just how well Nelly the Niner would do in an endurance event.
Race face
The route was a typical Meurant route - a 7km lap with a climb in the middle and some singletrack thrown in here and there for good measure. The rules were simple - person with the most laps after 8 hours was the winner. The rain had kept some people away, but there was decent competition in the form of Gavin (my 24hr duelling buddy) and Marius, as well as a good assortment of youngsters.
Completing another lap

Two hours done - in second place.

My main objective was to pace myself - I had not had the best of 24hr races previously for this very reason, and so I wanted to get into a rhythm and ride consistent, solid laps without over doing it. The initial laps were a muddy, mucky affair but the course quickly settled and rode in quite nicely. The usual shadow boxing occurred, and I was determined to follow wheels rather than do any of the pace setting and so for several laps just followe Gavin round and round - losing him on the technical stuff as he rode away from me, but catching him on the flatter fast stuff. The challenge from Marius never happened - he was still feeling the effects of the 100Miler in his legs.
Following Gavin
With 3 hours gone we were joined by a youngster - Timo, and the three of us did some laps together. Gavin stopped for some snacks and so I followed Timo for half a lap. He had put in a big effort to catch us and I wanted to see what sort of legs he had. Up a short sharp climb I put in a bit of effort and immediately a gap opened up. Timo had gone too hard to catch us and had nothing left in his legs with which to respond. I was alone, in the lead and still feeling good.
First, second, and third
Yolanda, the ever present backup expert was doing her usual great work of keeping me topped with food and juice, and had managed to commandeer Marius's bucket and sponge to clean off the mud and gunk that was collecting on my drivetrain. I was also getting updates as to where Timo was and how he was doing, but it looked like he was in a race for 2nd place with another rider, and hopefully they would forget about me.
First place with an hour to go

Another lap almost finished
Yolanda being creative with the camera
Slowly but surely the clock wound down as I did lap after lap - all pretty much at the same pace, and before long I had an hour to go and a 12 minute lead. All I had to do was get around the course without any technical issues.
One lap to go
I finished off with 20 laps - a lap more than Timo who managed to win the sprint for second. I now had a complete set of results for Dirtopia's 9-5 - first in the 4 man relay, first in the 2 man relay, and first in the solo category. It was also only Nelly's fourth race, and already she was a winner.


Posted by Velouria Posted on 22:01 | No comments

Cape Epic - Stage Eight

Date: 28 March 2010
Start/Finish: Oak Valley to Lourensford
Distance: 65km
Climbing: 1640m

The final stage of the 2010 Cape Epic had arrived, and it couldn't have come any sooner for those still in the race. We had endured 7 days of some of the toughest and most technical mountain biking in the Western Cape, certainly the toughest riding in an Epic to date. A general air of excitement and anticipation filled tent city - we were just 65km away from Lourensford and the finisher's medal that awaited us.

While there might have been a carnival atmosphere in the hours leading up to the start of the final stage, the final stage was not one that could be taken lightly. It really was the sting in the tail of what had been a tough Epic, and was the kind of stage that could ruin one's hopes of finishing.
Good bye to tent town
As is customary, the stage started a little later than previously, giving us some extra time to sleep in, enjoy breakfast and fiddle. The extra time flew by, and before we knew it the stage had started and we were climbing once again on tired, cold legs up the towards the old Viljoen's Pass. Lady Luck was smiling on me, and for the first time in three attempts I was able to ride up some steep concrete jeep track instead of having to push my bike up the climb.

We made good progress up the old pass, and crossed over to the foot of Nuweberg. There had been a general sigh of relief that we weren't going to be climbing this monster, but Dr Evil wasn't going to let us get away without a little bit of pain and suffering. He had found a new climb that was higher, steeper and rockier than Nuweberg - Buysepad. Once again we found ourselves riding with the usual suspects, the Coach, the DropGoal Hero, the Pretty Boy, and Mr Stander. The more I saw of Mr Stander the more respect I had for him - he is not a small fellow, and yet he was climbing as well, if not better than the rest of us - doing his own thing at his own tempo. Very impressive.
The Mountain Bike and I crossing the line
The final section of Buysepad kicked up quite steeply, and we were forced to carry/push our bikes. I was riding Nelly once again, and so far everything was going well. We were climbing well, we were fast on the flats, and relatively fast on the smoother descents. And then I found her weakness - the otherside of Buysepad is a rocky technical descent with no real line at all. I am embarrassed to say that The MountainBiker rode away from me on the descent, and did so looking like he was a natural. In fact, I think he even gave me a "what took you so long" look at the bottom. While he still hadn't found his elusive climbing legs, he certainly had found some technical skills and was making good use of them.
We made it!
A short stop at the only water point of the day where bumped into the Coach and we were off - 30kms to go. We got to the compulsory portage just ahead of our competitors, and had a leisurely stroll down Gantouw Pass, to the railway line that awaited us. Thankfully, it was nothing in comparison to the railway line of Stage One, and we were soon off it and flying downhill towards Vergelegen and the ridiculous "no over taking zone". If we could get into that zone ahead of our competitors, we would stand a good chance of finishing ahead of them. To do that, we would have to get over the horrible little climbs that preceded the zone. With my hand planted firmly on The MountainBiker's back we flew up the hills and managed to open up quite a nice gap.
Happy to be finished
Walking past the gallery - everybody is a winner
After leaving the "no over taking zone" we had a short flat time trial to the finish. With The MountainBiker tucked in behind me we flew over the wide flat dirt roads, past a rather grumpy and tired Yolanda (who had done a 50km race in Lourensford and was probably close to being in last place) and onto the finishing straight.
The stage winners handing us our medals
It is quite a strange feeling riding up the grass finishing straight - it is not a thought you want to entertain at any time during the Epic in case of jinxing you race, and yet when it finally happens it feels a little weird - almost unwanted. Just like that, the Epic is over - eight long hard tough stages, some good times, some bad times - all come to an abrupt end. While the finish is most welcome, it also signifies the end to yet another great adventure through the Western Cape.
The MountainBiker and I - 2010 Finishers.
The MountainBiker and I had survived - there were definitely times when we both thought that he wouldn't make it, but being the tough little rider that he is, he stuck it out, gritted his teeth and crossed the line like a true champion. Well done Russell, and thanks for a great Epic.
Medal number 4

168. Cat
238. GC

181. Cat
261. GC