Monday, 1 October 2012

Posted by Velouria Posted on 16:42 | No comments

My Movie Debut

In the run up to my failed World 24hr MTB Championships attempt in Canmore, Canada, a friend of mine put together this video as a marketing video in my fruitless search for sponsorship.

Dane Walsh, Ultra Endurance Cyclist from Fluffy Owl Films on Vimeo.

Ironically, 4 days after doing the shooting for the video I got the following mail (dated on my birthday):

At least now I have an awesome action video. And let me tell you - I can now appreciate just how hard it is for people to sound coherent and intelligent when placed in front of the cameras. Riding a bike for 24hrs is much easier than trying to talk sense for 5 minutes.

Thanks Theunis

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Posted by Velouria Posted on 19:19 | 5 comments

Trans Baviaans 2012

The farewell tour
Once again, three middle aged men made the pilgrimage to Willowmore in the Eastern Cape for the small matter of a bike race. Not just any bike race - the 9th edition of the Trans Baviaans mountain bike  race. The usual crew of Captain Craig, Little John and myself were all together for one last attempt at a top five finish - Little John is slowly starting his transformation from wannabee race snake to leisurely weekend warrior, shifting his focus from 5am tempo rides to 5pm sundowner rides, from riding flat out to riding flat roads, from clocking up 25 hours a week on the bike to clocking 25 hours a weekend with his family.

A clean bike is a fast bike - even if you have to clean it in the rain
In what has become another Baviaans tradition, we spent the night in the Willowmore School hostel, listening to the nervous restlessness of the first timers, hearing them clomp up and down to the toilets at all hours of the night, burying our heads under our pillows as they got ready for the 10am start at 5am in the morning. With our beauty sleep ruined we finally got up, put out our kit and supplies for the day and wandered off to breakfast.

Start line nerves from the old man
I've discovered a new party trick that works especially well in the crowded dining hall of the Willowmore School hostel - find a rather nervous looking individual and strike up a conversation about the race, without giving too much away. Offer some advice, tell them not to worry too much and let them know what a fantastic event it is. Eventually he'll ask how many times I've done the race or what my best time is and this is where I love watching people's facial expressions. They range from total disbelief to wild skepticism. In a way I'm a little hurt that no one takes us seriously, but generally when your team name is Walla Walla Weasel Whackers, I really shouldn't expect anything less. Out of respect for Little John's retirement race, I'd opted not to name our team the usual name of Soggy Bottom Boys.

Captain Craig and I - chilling in the start chute
With 10am fast approaching, we packed our supply boxes for later in the day, put on our kit, stuffed our pockets with supplies and tools, and headed off to the start line. It's not often you get to see the impact an event has on the local community, but as Trans Baviaans has grown, so too has the involvement and interest from locals. In what used to be a one horse town where if you ventured too far away from the local hotel you might never see your teammates again, the whole community comes out to support the race, lining the recently swept streets and cheering wildly. In a week where many needlessly lost their lives in the Lonmin mine shootings, it was refreshing to see South Africans of all shapes, sizes and backgrounds coming together in the name of sport.

Winners of the "Kleintjies" race - one lap around town
The local race snakes about to start their 2 laps around Willowmore

After another mumbled race briefing by Wikus the organiser and a much improved rendition of the national anthem, we were set on our way for the 230km ride to Jeffrey's Bay. A lead bunch immediately formed and so began the cycling poker. For the next three hours there was bluffing, double bluffing, peeking at the cards of others and a bit of underhanded dirty tactics. All the cycling tricks in the book were used, from glass pedaling on the front to wheel sucking on the back, from upping the pace when "The Biggest Cyclist in the World"™ had a mechanical to surging on the hills - everything to get some sort of advantage over the rest of the bunch for the second part of the race.

Little John working on his race face
In the blink of an eye we had done 105kms in 3h20 to checkpoint 2 - Little John fighting with the big boys on the front of the bunch while Captain Craig and I dangled off the back as we took a bit of strain through the countless water crossing as the bunch surged to get back up to speed on the exits. Any hopes about not getting wet feet or a soggy chamois were dashed on the first crossing. As the day wore on and the temperature started to rise, I think many riders in the bunch were only too glad for the regular cooling of feet, legs and bums.

Little John was the only one doing the "YMCA"
The strategy from checkpoint 2 onward is simple - ride a constant, steady pace from checkpoint to checkpoint. Make the most of the good patches, and survive the bad patches. Little John, much like a fine wine or smelly cheese just seemed to get better with age and the responsibility of setting the pace fell to him. If there ever was a point to be made in the 26 vs 29 inch wheel size debate, Little John was coming out fighting for the little wheels as he made his teammates on the bigger wheels work rather hard to keep up. With his hairy legs and baggy shirt, his cycling bandanna and retro helmet, he certainly looks the part of a weekend warrior, not the race snakes which we found ourselves amongst.

ET phone home?
A solid ride to checkpoint 3 had us arriving in 10th place overall. A quick change of bottles and some salty potatoes later and we were on our way, heading towards my nemesis - The Mother of All Climbs. If something can go wrong for me at Baviaans, this is usually the place where it happens. I've had a massive side wall cut in my tyre, I've bonked so badly that Little John had to push my bike as I tried to stumble up the hill, I've developed stomach issues and had to take a moment to purge my stomach contents. All I wanted was an incident free leg of 28km up to checkpoint 4 at Bergplaas.

Lights on, downhill awaits
Shortly after leaving checkpoint 3 we found ourselves in 8th place as the two leading teams came past us in the wrong direction - they had missed the checkpoint. I felt for them, as Little John and I had pulled the same move in 2007. Not only do you end up riding an extra 10kms, but doubts and cracks begin to appear in your mind. It wasn't long after that move that I found myself walking up MAC. Little John set another superb pace as we approached the climb. Much like meeting your in-laws for the first time - it's not something you want to do, but it is inevitable - we started climbing. I kept waiting for the ninja of death to strike me down, but the further we made it up the climb without the ninja of death making an appearance, the more confident I became that I could finally banish my MAC demons.  It certainly helped the spirits that we caught and passed 3 teams on the climb, and in a symbolic gesture of thanks for all the times Captain Craig has had to deal with my self destruction on this climb, I was even able to give him a slight push.

Team 333 - aka The Walla Walla Weasel Whackers - in 5th place
As we approached checkpoint 4, Little John adopted his father voice and demeanor and barked out orders to his younger teammates about the schedule of happenings for checkpoint 4. I was tasked with getting life saving soup and bread rolls for the Weasel Whackers, while Little John would get our box. Captain Craig got a pass, and was told to do whatever it is he does. A cup of coke, some soothing bum cream and the life saving soup later we were ready to leave. With a pit stop more commonly found in a Formula One Grand Prix we'd been able to climb up the leader board, and we found ourselves in 5th place as we signed out of checkpoint 4. Out of habit from when we used to be slow, we'd attached our lights at the stop, but at the rate we'd been riding, we'd only need them several hours later.

Trying to look fancy for the camera
As we were leaving we caught sight of "The Biggest Cyclist in the World"™ and his team, and this provided us with some added motivation to make use of the fantastic descent down the other side of the MAC. It wasn't long before we found ourselves back on the valley floor with another team for company. Little John and I shared the pace making as we drove on towards checkpoint 5 at Hadleigh, determined to make the teams behind us work hard if they wanted to catch us. I also knew that we'd never hear the end of it if Little John did all the work on the front as we loafed at the back. Sometimes the bigger picture needs to considered, despite the consequences.

Little John in the zone
We flew into checkpoint 5 where we finally met up with our support - my very capable and experienced wife. A quick bottle change, some fluid and snacks and we were back on the route in 5th place - Jeffrey's Bay was almost within sniffing distance. Just the small matter of the Never Ender climb stood between us and the downhill to the finish.

Captain Craig sporting the new trend in cycling - calf warmers
The roadie in me appreciated the tar section out of Hadleigh before we turned off onto the road to Humansdorp. Captain Craig navigated the flooded Gamtoos River crossing on his bike while Little John and I chose discretion over valour and walked through the thigh deep, ice cold waters. And then the Never Ender began. Little John immediately went to the front and set a perfect pace and the two 29ers slotted in behind. Thank goodness there were no photographers to record the rather embarrassing situation. We made good progress up the Never Ender when disaster struck. I had been taking a bit of strain with Little John's relentless tempo and in an effort to get a boost I took a Gu. Next thing I knew I was projectile vomiting like a newborn baby. There is nothing quite as funny as watching the awkwardness between two grown men deciding how to react to a teammate who is ejecting a troublesome Gu as fast and as violently as possible. To my credit, I was able to do all this on the bike, with only a marginal decrease in pace. I was however quite disappointed that I'd been unable to break my run of reverse gastric emptying.

The Weasel Whackers crossing ANOTHER river
Once the awkwardness had subsided a little, and my teammates had realised that I was going to live, Little John resumed the pace setting as we neared the top of the climb with the sun slowly sinking below the horizon. After lugging the lights around for several hours, we were finally able to use them. Still in parent mode, Little John told Captain Craig to turn his light on, despite it not being quite dark enough. He would later tell us that Captain Craig has a reputation for falling over in broad daylight, and he wasn't going to take any chances with him in the semi-darkness. As we approached the unmanned checkpoint we saw the tell tale sign of some lights stalking us from behind. Try as we might we could not hold them off, and as we arrived at checkpoint 6 we found ourselves in 6th place with 30kms to go.

Sunset at checkpoint 6
Organised chaos in the backup vehicle
A quick stop, some ego pandering from my wife, some last minute snacks and we were off - the Jeffrey's Bay lights beckoning in the distance. Captain Craig was finally taking strain - he'd been threatening us with stories of poor form all ride long and after 8 hours of showing little weakness we didn't actually believe him. One last river crossing followed by a leg busting climb, and it would be a cruise into the finish. Or so I thought. Captain Craig caught sight of a pair of fast approaching lights, and in the most rapid onset of white line fever I have ever seen, went to the front for the first time all day and proceeded to rip my legs off. As he powered his way towards Jeffrey's, the regrets started. I regretted the push I had given him near the top of MAC, I regretted all the times I had gone to the front to help Little John, I regretted the speed sessions I had missed because of the rain, I regretted not choosing running as my sport of choice.

The Walla Walla Weasel Whackers - 6th place overall and first 3 man team.
We never did see those lights behind us again. As if it wasn't bad enough, Captain Craig caught sight of the team ahead of us, and although I didn't think it was possible, managed to up the pace even more. I don't recall too much of the final 10kms, except for Little John's rear tyre, and the pain in my jaw from biting down on my handle bars. I didn't know if we were catching the team ahead, and I didn't really care right then. I just wanted the pain to stop. Thankfully, the finish line put an end to the pain and suffering - we'd crossed the line in 6th place in 9h28 - less than a minute down on the guys in 5th. An added bonus was that we were the first 3 man team.

And with that I shook Little John's hand for the 6th and final time (I also had to endure a man hug). Captain Craig had finished his 5th Baviaans, and I was on my 9th. As they say though - the band has to break up before they can have a reunion tour. Perhaps the Walla Walla Weasel Whackers will be back again next year with the original line up of Little John, Captain Craig and myself, or perhaps we'll hire a session cyclist to fill the void for a couple of years.

Additional photos from The Nature Gym, Photo Dynamix (1, 2, 3)

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Posted by Velouria Posted on 16:31 | 2 comments

Oak Valley 24hr 2012

Courtesy of
14th December: Just entered for the Oak Valley 24hr. Solo. I suddenly feel like a prisoner on death row. What was I thinking? I'm getting too old for this. At least I got the early bird (aka cheapskate) discount. On the positive side, it surely can't be as bad as my Double Century.

24th December: Just got back from a 5 hour ride, having bonked spectacularly after 3 hours. It was like the Double Century all over again, except there was no one to push me. Forget about tomorrow being Christmas Day - I'm just glad it's a rest day.

26th December: Another 5hr ride. Didn't bonk this time - I suspect the 7 mince pies and 2 helpings of Christmas pudding yesterday might be the reason. Probably explains why I climbed like a lead balloon. Time for a compact crank perhaps (or a diet).

1st January: Happy New Year. Twenty days until my date with the Grim Reaper. I did a 6 hour ride yesterday and didn't see a single cyclist on the road. Gave all the merry holiday makers on Strand beach me best death stare - they seemed to be having far too much fun. My plans to have a nap in the car last night at the New Year's party were foiled, but as the dedicated driver I made sure we left just after 12. Thanks goodness for spmall miracles - another rest day today. Can't get too excited though - another 5hr ride tomorrow.

2nd January: I hate my bike. My bum hates me. My dogs (and wife) treat me like a stranger in my own house.

5th January: Started stalking potential competitors, while at the same time keeping a low profile. Thank goodness for Twitter and Facebook - it's so much easier being a stalker these days. Found a route profile and am suddenly quite nervous. An 11km lap with 250m of climbing. Really regretting all those Christmas pies right now. Time for us to diet (us being myself AND my bike).

Oak Valley 24hr Lap

8th January: Completed my last big weekend before the 24hr. Saw last year's 2nd placed solo lady out on the road in the middle of nowhere, so at least I'm not the only antisocial person in the Winelands. Also saw the beginning of the Argus First Timers/New Year's Resolutionists beginning their training/get fit plans. I'm glad to see that tekkies and T-shirts are still the apparel of choice for beginners. (Mental note: be sure to destroy all photos of my first Argus!)

11th January: Where. Are. My. Lights??? Last seen just after Trans Baviaans.

12th January: Found my lights, along with a pair of missing (now mouldy and rank) arm warmers and a stranger's pair of underpants. Don't ask - your guess is as good as mine...
Ready to roll
14th January: Earned some brownie points doing backup for my wife at Attakwas. Going to come in handy next week. Looked like a bit of a tit riding back along the route, but when the coach says 3 hours, I do 3 hours...

20th January: Frantic search for new tyres. Settled on Racing Ralphs. Need all the raciness I can get. Bike serviced, snacks bought, kit washed, lights charged, bags packed and bum cream purchased. The 24hr is a go!

21st January

6:30am: It's impossible to sleep more than 10 hours - time to get up. Best thing about the 24hr - double helping of FutureLife for breakfast.

8:30am: On our way to Oak Valley. Can't believe how much stuff we've packed for one night away.

10:30am: Gazebo pitched. Decided not to pitch tent. Didn't want to tempt fate.
Single track heaven
11:30am: Changed into cycling kit, bum cream applied. Had a motivational chat with Nelly (my bike) - she looks after me and I'll look after her.

11:45am: Race briefing. Felt like I was back in high school listening to the headmaster. Meurant may have missed his calling as a school principal - no wonder he channels that authority into some really great, but equally tough trails around the Western Cape. A fantastic turnout - in excess of 300 participants overall and over 100 insane people going solo.
And we're off
12:00pm: Le Mans style start. It's rather easy to spot the solo riders in the crowd - I've perfected the loping amble. Slightly faster than walking pace, but slower than a jog. Anyone faster than that was riding in a team, and anyone equally slow or slower was doing it solo.

12:35pm: First lap done. What a fantastic course. First half requires a bit of hard work up the climb, but you're easily distracted by the climbing single track. The second half is pure smile inducing awesomeness. Fast flowing single track bobbing and weaving between the trees - mountain biking at its very best. Legs felt great, everything appears to be working well. Seems like there is a sneaky photographer behind every tree, jumping out with camera in hand when you least expect it. Modern day ninjas.

16:18pm: 7 laps done, seven bottles of juice consumed. Bum cream reapplied. 37 degrees out on the course. Have had several close encounters with cows. Rather ironically we still have half an Oak Valley cow in our deep freezer. I was tempted to mention this to them next time they got too close but decided against it. Having one of their friends for supper twice a week might just spur them on to attack me.

17:01pm: Near race and marriage ending argument with my wife (or as Meurant calls her, the best technical support in the business) over the flavour of Gu she was giving me. After forcing down several Tri-Berry, Jet Blackberry and Peanut Butter flavoured sachets I lost it when I got yet another Tri-Berry flavoured one. All I wanted was my favourite Double Espresso flavoured Gu. Perhaps I was going to be pitching the tent after all...
Time for a snack
18:30pm: Discovered I had a granny gear at the front. The climbs are suddenly a bit more manageable. The time keepers are playing silly buggers with me - they won't tell me what's happening in the race. Good thing Tree John wrote the timing software and was able to sneak me some race info. Things are looking good. I might be in first place. Or third. In other news, the wind has started to drop - I'm upset for two reasons. It was nice and cooling, and was doing a good job of blowing us up the climbs.

19:12pm: Stopped for supper and a change of shirt. Was beginning to smell like my long lost arm warmers. Applied more bum cream for good measure. Fitted my underpants flavoured lights while trying to touch them as little as possible. Sunset is imminent.
Fresh gloves
21:50pm: JRR Tolkein was onto something with his Ents. Trees definitely move at night. It feels like they've all taken one step closer to the trail. Rather intimidating. Saw several frogs on the trail. Made sure I wasn't hallucinating and they were in fact real. They have a deluded sense of toughness - quite prepared to take on a bicycle wheel.

12:00am: Halfway. 17 laps done. Very quiet and lonely out on the course. The odd racing snake makes a brief appearance before vanishing down the trail - rear red light blinking faintly. Almost rode over a mouse with the indecisiveness of a guinea fowl crossed with a squirrel. Had to actually dismount while he made up his mind about which way he wanted to go.
An indecisive mouse
2:03am: Found a crazy solo single speeder have a wrestling match with his bike up a hill. At least I'm not that crazy, and at least I'm not struggling that much. Suddenly very grateful to the guy who invented the derailleur and gears. Asked my wife for lube - she handed me the bum cream. I was talking about bike lube for my dry chain.

2:52am: Had a close encounter with a Tree Ent. I swear it deliberately stuck out a branch and grabbed my bar ends. Quite surprised by my cat like reflexes so early in the morning (I put this down to the switch to the Double Espresso Gu flavour). Pity no one was about to see my fantastic bike handling skills, or witness the evil Tree Ent.
Check the cows out
4:28am: The sky is getting lighter - sunrise will be any minute now. Couldn't help thinking of all the other athletes about to wake up - Half Iron Man and the Cape Cobra. I'm secretly jealous of their choice in outdoor activity. In other news, I suspect various parts of my body of planning a pain protest. I think my bum is the ring leader.

5:17am: It is light enough to ride without lights. Imagine my surprise upon discovering the cows were in exactly the same place as they were before the sun set. They'd been watching us all night long. I feel violated by the voyeur cows. Time for more bum cream. Is it possible to apply too much?
In the zone
7:44am: Have had Robbie Williams' "I don't want to Rock DJ" stuck in my head for 2 hours now. I suspect the other competitors are resorting to nasty psychological warfare tactics. The worst thing is that I only know one line of the song. The course is suddenly as busy as the N1 on a work day. And I'm the overloaded 18 wheeler truck grinding up Durbanville Hill, obstructing the traffic.

8:34am: Just did a whole lap with the hiccoughs. Banana flavoured. I haven't had a banana for 6 hours. Some vindictive social rider is making bacon and eggs in the camp. There should be rules about torturing the solo riders like this. The finish is almost within sight.

9:21am: Some windgat race snake wearing world champ colours came flying passed me. Like there'd be any world champs at a little 24hr event in Grabouw. Pffft!
Spot the World Champ behind me
10:26am: No wonder I am so slow - there are bits on my bike that I am not using. Like the big chain blade, the second water bottle cage. And the saddle. The protest has escalated into a full blown strike. My bum refuses to go near my saddle. In other news, in an attempt to let a faster rider past I fell into a bramble thicket - bum first. Once in, I was quite prepared to spend the rest of the day there - getting out brought tears to my eyes.

11:31am: Last lap done. Finished. Just waiting for 12pm to cross the line. Ignoring all the encouragement to do one last lap. Names have been taken and I'll be lodging a complaint of attempted murder against all those egging me on. Far more focused on getting a beer. And sitting.
Bum and saddle are no longer friends
12:01pm: 30 laps completed, 330kms, 6890m of ascent, 17 451 KCal burned. I took in the following: 30 bottles of juice/water, 4 litres of coke, 2 litres of Lucozade, 4 Woolworths milkshakes/yoghurt drinks, 15 baby potatoes, 12 Gu sachets, 4 bananas, one sandwich, one cappuccino, a mouthful of pasta and 17 airborne bugs.

12:17pm: Attempting to shower. Discovered several new features on my bum. I'm either growing horns or they are blisters. Going commando.

12:30pm: Been lusting after a Spur burger and chips all night long, only to be told that they are packing up. Tried to explain that I'd been a little busy for the last 24hrs. Ended up going to the LimeBar for beer instead.
Happiness is beer and a chair
1:12pm: Car is packed largely due to the best technical support crew around (my wife). I sat down to tie a shoelace and stayed there.

1:30pm: Prize giving. Lots of weary bodies with big smiles. On the smile scale the event was clearly a great success. Seems like a tough battle for 1st place was had in all categories. Except that crazy single speeder team - no one was crazy enough to challenge them. The best 24hr event I have been to yet - the course alone is enough to forgive any other oversights by Dirtopia. Good work. Turns out the windgat race snake wearing world champ colours is in fact a Ralph Näf - 2006 World Marathon Champ - out on a training ride. He won the 3hr race.
The top 3 solo riders
2:32pm: Fell asleep on the car trip home. Drooled down my cheek. Car is unpacked, and by unpacked I mean all the stuff is now taking up space in the lounge. A cup of tea in the bath, bum damage inspection and time for a nap. Taking tomorrow off - is it normal leave or sick leave?
Even Nelly took strain
8:07pm: Pizza in bed, time to catch up on missing sleep. Will be sleeping on my stomach tonight. Good night.
One dirty right leg
All professional looking photos courtesy of Chris at PhotoBay

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Posted by Velouria Posted on 13:46 | 5 comments

Double Century 2011

Once again, Team had assembled a rag tag bunch of cyclists with the aim of riding 202 kilometers as fast as we could. We're a virtual team, corresponding via email, and meeting up together as a team for the first time the night before the event. Captain Craig and I spend the entire year between events trying to fill the ranks around a core group of riders, always on the hunt for riders who will compliment our cause, so you can imagine our relief when we were able to recruit "The Biggest Cyclist in the World"™ and some of his friends. The team now consisted of some road cyclists, some mountain bikers, some triathletes, a Double Century virgin, a localised Brit, a senior citizen, The Accountant, and two mustache wearing members of the Village People - a cosmopolitan bunch indeed.

Ever since our stroke of recruitment genius, I had been receiving updates via twitter from "The Biggest Cyclist in the World"™, mainly about his training, and to say that I was nervous is an understatement. With each update my anxiety levels increased - suddenly my 350kms a week seemed rather pathetic in comparison to the 600kms a week he was putting in. I sensed that this was going to be no ordinary DC.

One straight stripe
We all met up for the first time the night before the big day in a guest house in Swellendam, where we talked strategy and tactics over dinner, while at the same time scared the living daylights out of the DC virgin. The plan was simple - when on the front, ride as fast as you can, for as long as you can, and then drop back into the pace line to recover. Repeat about 30 times, or until you died, which ever came first. After watching the speed with which some of the team members devoured supper I hoped that the same enthusiasm would be present the next morning on the bike.

The team - altogether still
After our great ride from 2010, Team had been seeded to start with the big boys of Double Century racing, which meant we started at 6:08am. Of all the teams around us, I was particularly worried about Red John, my W2W partner, who was starting ten minutes behind us. I knew that if and when he caught and passed us, I would never hear the end of it. I needed all the extra motivation I could get. As soon as the gun went we assumed the position that we'd stay in for the next 6 or so hours - one long stripe of men on machines tearing up the tarmac.

Are we there yet?
With Swellendam quickly vanishing behind us we made good progress, lured by the slower teams ahead of us. Nothing like a target or two to motivate a team of twelve cyclists. We whizzed through Suurbrak and before we knew it we were on the lower slopes of the Tradouw Pass, but already we had a problem. We'd lost 3 riders within the first hour, and the race had barely begun. The nice thing about having "The Biggest Cyclist in the World"™ on our team, among other things, was that we got to climb the 14kms of the pass at his pace, and not at the pace of some of the other mountain goats in our team. The same applied for Op de Tradouw pass, where we had our first feed stop. In addition to grabbing new bottles and snacks, Andy, the localised Brit did an equipment change.

The Andy Train
Photo courtesy of Ronelle Rust:TORQUEPICS
"If the speed goes over 50km/h, I want to be on the front"
Photo courtesy of Ronelle Rust:TORQUEPICS
Much like Stanely Ipkiss in The Mask, as soon as Andy put on his time trial helmet he went from being a strong tempo riding cyclist to an insanely fast speed loving yellow-shoed maniac. Not only did his muscles have muscles, but the muscles on his muscles had muscles. Us ordinary folk were going to be in for a ride of our lives. The next 80kms took us 1h55, and in the process Team slowly lost a few more riders. First to go was Hector (admittedly it was my fault after I gave him a dead wheel), followed by our time trialing quiet guy Chris with a flat tyre. We were down to 7 riders and I was starting to take strain.

I had to make a decision quickly - drop off now while I still could, or endure another 2 hours of pain and suffering. Just when I was about to put my plan for a gentle ride to the finish into action, I realised that I was too late. Jarryd had beaten me to it, and now I was suddenly number 6 - the worst number to be in a DC team. I persevered to the next feed stop where I hoped that some coke and a Gu would get me going again. If anything, I felt worse after that, and the thought of another 2 hours of this didn't do much to lift my mood. Thankfully Andy had taken off the time trial helmet - with my spaghetti legs we wouldn't be needing that again in a hurry.

Photo courtesy of Ronelle Rust:TORQUEPICS
Hector feeling rather happy to be off the back
Photo courtesy of Ronelle Rust:TORQUEPICS
I went through all manner of pain and torment, gave up cycling 3 times, and vowed to name my second born (I've already promised the organisers of the Swazi Frontier naming rights to my first born) something along the lines of Trevor Andy Craig Warren Andrew (or a combination thereof) should it be a boy, if I were to survive to the finish line in one piece. With some great team work, plenty of pushing, and some words of encouragement the stronger members of Team nursed me through the remaining kilometers. As soon as a gap opened there'd be a hand on my back pushing me back into contact with the rest of the team, as soon as I called for water I'd have a bottle right away.

Guess who Warren is pushing?
Photo courtesy of Ronelle Rust:TORQUEPICS
A team tradition is to go for a cool down ride on the day after the race, and as we crested the final sense of humour killing hill I remember telling Craig that he could stick his cool down ride - I wasn't interested. Somehow, I survived two of the darkest hours I have had on a bike and we finally crossed the finishing line in a slightly disappointing 5h48 and 9th overall. It's not a bad time, but we certainly were on target for something so much faster. The only saving grace was that Red John and his Anderson crew had been unable to catch us - at least a small part of my pride was intact.

Guess who Craig is pushing?
And guess who "The Biggest Cyclist in the World"™ is about to push?
As the French say "un jour sans" - a day without. I prefer Captain Craig's take on things though: "It's a bit like us being taken for a walk by a much bigger and meaner dog than we expected!". To Eurice (the DC Virgin), Grant (The Accountant), Russell (The Senior Citizen), Hector (The Gay German), Chris (The Quiet Guy), Jarryd (The Kid), Craig (The Captain), Warren (The Village Person), Trevor (The Beast), Andrew (The Silent Assassin) and Andy (The Silver Bullet) - thanks for another great DC. To Chad (The Chiropractor) and Yolanda (The Wife) - thanks for the brilliant backup - without you guys we wouldn't have gotten very far at all. See you all next year.

The finishing six
I was just happy to still be alive.
The Team and Chad