Monday, 21 October 2013

Ending the National Marathon Series on a high.

Crater Cruise: Totally not my idea of a mountain bike race but somehow I enjoy it for the mental and physical challenge. You’re on the rivet for 4 hours + in the scorching heat and this year a howling wind to contend with. If the heat, wind and dehydration don’t break you, the seemingly endless and monotonous corrugated and bumpy roads would easily do the job… Challenge accepted!

Our race started at 7:30, just after the Elite men, and the temperatures were already hitting the 30’s. It was going to be a scorcher! Once the Elite men were off, we were ushered into the start chute. Standing alongside me was the series leader and SA Marathon Champ, Robyn de Groot, Swiss marathon champ Ariaan Kleinhans and our XCO Olympian, Candice Neethling. I had never beaten any of these girls and I felt strong but wasn’t too sure of my form as I haven’t been following a structured training program... All I knew is that I’d be in the hurt box for 103km. Hopefully my hours in the Cradle and Suikerbosrand would pull me through! My plan of action was to do my best, stick with them as long as I could and finish with an empty tank.

Once the gun went off we meandered through the quaint town of Parys chit chattering behind the lead vehicle for about 7km of neutral zone. Once out of town we followed the car along an undulating tar road. There was an MTN sign board pointing left, the car stopped, the chatting stopped and we were left to fight it out for the 95km. Our speed picked up with Robyn and Ariaan setting the pace up front. We soon dropped most of the field and I was surprisingly comfortable so I made an effort to do my fair share of helping up front. The wind was pumping and being in front was hard work.

Ariaan, Robyn, Candice and I were working comfortably together for the first 30km or so, with Liesel Lourens just managing to hang on. The pace started picking up especially on the climbs and we dropped Liesel and Candice. I stuck with the two national champs but was hurting, we hit a concrete climb and I was dropped. I kept Robyn in my sight for the next few km but just didn’t have the legs to catch her. My CycleOps showed that my heart rate had steadily been sitting in the mid 180’s and stayed there for at least 2 hours before dropping into the 170’s. I started getting worried about bonking, my max is only 188 and to keep it as high as I did was not ideal. On top of that I was dehydrated, I had to stop at every water table with an empty bottle and downed as many cups of liquid as I possibly could within the time they filled my bottle. I’m sure I broke a record ;-)
I made sure to take my High 5 gels every hour which definitely helped me keep energised and able to push through!

When my CycleOps measured 80km, I knew I needed to put my head down and just do it. I was hurting, fighting against the heat and strong wind. Km after km of a long stretch of corrugated road was causing sense of humour failure; there was nowhere to go! I felt my brain rattling in my head and was ready for the end. Eventually I reached the last water table. A sigh of relief. The worst was over, now it was just grassy dual track a nice big rock to climb over and homeward bound along the railway.
I filled up and stole a quick glance behind me, expecting to see Candice closing in on me. Thankfully no one was in sight. I zooted off not wanting to get complacent and hey, maybe I could even catch Robyn or Ariaan, you never know!
I dug deep, a few more kms and I could chill…. I was so happy to eventually see the bridge that signified the end of the race, I ramped of the other side and pedaled over the finish line. I rode through the hall with a smile, 3rd at Crater Cruise and 2nd in the series! I was happy and I knew I had done my best. The 29er definitely made the bumps more bearable and I was grateful that the Dogma ran flawlessly for the 103km, helping me along! 

I got of my bike only to find my left foot was in spasm and I could barely walk. I must have looked like a complete wreck as I hobbled off to the fountain where a few other broken looking cyclist were cooling off and comparing notes on their race. The water was a manky brown colour with floating grass and other unidentifiables but I didn’t care, it looked divine! I slipped in, dunked my head and chatted to a few guys I knew. It didn’t take long for the slimy floor and floating things in the water to gross me out. Time to get clean and start feeling human again.
I am happy with my result at Crater Cruise, it has been an up and down year and it was good to end it on an up! 

My main goal for the day was achieved; I kept my 2nd place overall in the series and 1st in my age category. My fasbyting and consistently “ok” results throughout the series paid off! I have learnt a lot in this season of marathon racing and am looking forward to using my experience to kick ass in next year’s season!

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Provincial XCO #3 Thaba Trails 18 May 2013

I had heard rumours of new, technical trails having been built in Thaba Trails, and pictures of a scary looking gap jump. My poor span maaitjie, Jacques Pretorius took a bad tumble when he over shot the gap and landed on the other side of the berm the Thursday before race day. The crash resulted in a broken helmet and slightly rearranged face but he is fine otherwise and even came to cheer us on!
Not having seen the course before, I was racing “blind” this could be fun! I looked at the gap, took some advice and knew if I could do the gap at Cascades, the chances were good that I’d make it. 

For some reason I was in a heavy gear on the start line, so I got a really bad start (which I got teased about) and got into the first single track in about 4th place. The race starts off with a long and steep climb.

I quickly got into 1st place but struggled to get into a rhythm in the first lap and felt like I was hitting every rock. I took a tumble that opened up an old scab which bled profusely making it look a lot worse than it actually was! Halfway through the first lap, I had a good lead but still was not feeling comfortable. Finally, I reached the gap, and with a small tug of the handlebars flew over and landed smoothly, yeehaa! That was fun!!
My second and 3rd lap were easier as I got into more of a rhythm, but in the 3rd lap, my back wheel kept going flat.

I got to the tech zone, where Stephan quickly and efficiently swapped the wheel and I set off for lap four, the last one. We usually have 5 or 6 laps in XCO races but I was glad that this was only four.
It is definitely a toughy! I am glad I got to race the course before next weekend’s nationals!

MTN National marathon #5 Wellington 11 May 2013

My new teammate Stephan Reyneke and I are both doing quite well in the MTN National Marathon series and decided it was worthwhile going down to Cape Town. We also decided that driving down would be the most economical by a long stretch!

I have cousins in Cape Town who always welcome me, and whoever is with me to stay with them if we have a race. They were hugely accommodating as I gave them 2 days notice, thanks cuzz’s :P
The Thursday prior to the race began our long journey. Stephan picked me up at 6am, and eventually reached my cousins at 22:00, after getting slightly lost in Cape Town. We were exhausted from the trip, so after introductions and some catching up, we headed straight to bed.
I must have slept ‘til about 9am, it was fantastic! We took a spin around the beautiful suburbs, with a few sprints to loosen up the legs and rested for the rest of the day.
We had to leave for Wellington at 6am to get there in time to enter and get ready. I had flash backs from last year’s race in Wellington when Yolande and I were driving in the dark with pouring rain and howling wind. This year was much more pleasant, it was a sunny cool day without much wind. There was a much bigger field that day than there was at Clarens, I could see that it would be a hard day of racing!! 
The race starts on a steep climb and the pace quickly increased. To my surprise, I dropped Catherine Williamson, and then Cherise Taylor. Mariska Strauss, Robyn de Groot, Jenny Stenerhage and Sam Saunders were just ahead. I settled into a steady pace, knowing full well the hard climbs I still had to conquer and down hills that required focus!
The downhills had names like “Roller Coaster” and “Rodeo” and were crazy fun on the Pinarello! The uphills were less fun but also aptly named, like “The Wall”. At about half way through, I saw Catherine closing the gap behind me, nooo! We rode together for a little while and I tried to get away but she is so strong, and dropped me like a rock. I put my head down and tried to not let that get me down, when a few km later Cherise came past. 

We played cat and mouse for a while, and worked together on the flat bits, but she too pulled a gap on me eventually. After taking my third High5 energy gel and sipping sparingly on the High5 2:1 in my bottle, I seemed to get a second wave. I reeled her in bit by bit, but she always seemed just out of reach. I didn’t give up and even though my legs were screaming at me, I gave a last push towards the end. She seemed to be sitting up, and when I sprinted past her on the finishing straight, she didn’t respond. Which, I found out later, was because she didn’t realise we were competing for age category. Sorry Cherise J
I came 6th overall and 1st senior lady.
Stephan had a great first race for the academy, also coming in 6th overall and 5th U23. He too had tough competition against the local Contego team and a strong international rider or two! Overall, we decided that it was worth the mission and long trip, the riding was pheonominal, and we are both doing better in the overall standings, which is where consistency is key!

Next MTN National is in Rooiberg, and inbetween that is Provincial XCO, National XCO, SA Marathon Champs and a USN Cup I think. 

Busy busy busy! :D

MTN National marathon #4 Clarens. 4 May 2013

I did Clarens for the first time in 2010, it was my first big Marathon. My previous experience included, the very tough, Babbas Lodge J. To my dismay, I noticed that I was seeded in one of the last batches. This was unacceptable, I re-seeded myself into the A Batch where I belonged, with the Elite ladies, after all, I had won Babbas Lodge! I got dropped, in the neutral zone. I dug deep for 78km, only to get passed by riders the whole race, EVENTUALLY the trauma ended. I was broken.
I regard that race as my biggest wake up call race, I finished 1 hour and 12 minutes behind the leading lady, Yolande Speedy... I had work to do!! In retrospect, I’m not sure what I expected, with a few hours of spinning a week as training and a 13kg steel bike. But anyhoo! I missed 2011 due to my full time job and 2012 due to a broken collarbone. Now, in 2013, I would be back with a vengeance, now a sponsored rider with an amazing team and a kick ass Carbon Pinarello 29er!

Paul Cordes, Marcel Marais, Edwill O’Niell, Jacques Pretorius and Arno Du Toit went down as representatives of the ASG MTB Academy. Paul, Marcel, Sarel and Marietjie (Marcel’s parents) and I stayed with Arno’s parents in Ficksberg, who were super hospitable and friendly. We had an amazing home cooked meal and I passed out early on what was one of the most comfortable mattresses on the floor I have ever slept on!
Our breakfast discussion the next morning revolved around the temperature gauge in the kitchen which read “-3” Ouch.
When we arrived at Clarens, it was still cold but bearable, I was excited for the exhilarating trails that Clarens is renowned for. I got my racing machine, the Pinarello Dogma XC ready and begrudgingly peeled of the many layers of clothing I had myself covered in. After a quick warm up, I headed to the start chute where I instantly got cold again.
The lead motorbike led us out in the neutral zone which was about 8km and as soon as we turned onto the district road, the pace increased. The group quickly split up with 4 of us in the leading bunch. Sam Saunders, Christine Janse Van Rensburg and myself taking turns to lead as there was a strong head wind. Kendal Ryan sat comfortably behind us happy to let us do the work. After about 20km I saw Sam, Christine and Kendal slip away, I fought to stay with them but just didn’t have the legs. For a long time after that, I was alone against the wind on km upon km of boring district road.

Eventually the fun part came: the infamous sand stone climb with the most amazing technical descent down the other side! I managed to ride up much easier than I expected. The descent, along with the sight of Kendal in the distance brought on a second wind. I used my technical skill to my advantage, careful not to make mistakes, and passed Kendal. I tried to get as big a gap as possible before the next flat road. Slowly she reeled me in on a district road, the wind was pumping and I was struggling to keep up the pace and was starting to loose heart as she was sitting in my slip stream and had not helped once. This gave me a 3rd wave, I managed to shake her and opened a gap between us in the last 10 km. I pushed through, determined to keep my 3rd place. The finish line was a welcome sight.
3rd is a good result, but I wasn't happy with my time. A lot of the fun technical sections weren’t in the race which was disappointing, but I still had fun on the parts that were!

Next year I’ll be back with another vengeance!
Next up: Wellington!

Monday, 22 April 2013

Riding a rainy running race and winning a mountain bike race: cold, wet, muddy fun!

I was prepared and strangely excited for a rainy day at the Cradle Mountain Trophy, I love the riding out there and the rain and mud would just add to the challenge! However, waking up to the sound of torrential rain, I poked a toe out from under the blanket and quickly retracted it. It was freezing!! I would be lying if I said that curling back up into bed didn't cross my mind a couple of times. But no, I said I would do the race and I knew I would enjoy it once I was out there, so I dragged myself out of bed and phoned my friend Michelle awake. We were going to do this! The drive along the N14 was treacherous, we had to leave at 5 30am and it was pitch dark for the entire drive, the rain was still pelting down and the roads were full of aqua planes that couldn't be seen. Eventually we arrived at Maropeng, the sun had come up and rain died down, but it was still freezing cold. I heard that the start had been postponed ‘till 8, maybe the rain would clear up by then. A lot of people who made it to the race changed their mind and went back home, what ever happened to HTFU?

Day 1 was cancelled anyway due to overflowing rivers, not even the support vehicles could cross them. I was really disappointed that it we weren't going to race, I was all psyched!! Chatting to Rob Jackson from Leverage Corporation and the other race organisers, they were getting ready for the trail run and needed a lead mountain biker. “Amy will do it! She’s crazy enough.” Couldn’t argue with them there. I’ll do it! May as well, I was all dressed with nowhere to go and this would be fun, something out of the ordinary and at least I’d get to ride!
Michelle volunteered to ride as the sweeper for the 8km, soon after we agreed to this the rain started full force again and we were shaking with cold. An impressive die hard bunch of 50 runners gathered under the start gazebo. There were two distances, 8km and 16km (2 laps). All I had to do was ride ahead of the leader and follow the blue arrows, easy enough! Luckily the leading guy was so fast, he won by miles and even had some breath to chat, we finished in 1:10 minutes but they needed a sweeper for the rest of the 16km runners, so off I went again, lap 3, caught up to the last runner / walker and kept him company till the end, turns out he is an Epic Sports club member and keen mtber. I must say, I haven’t been that cold in ages and a hot shower, lunch at Papachinos and nap was the best thing ever!
Leverage Corporation made the best compromise they could for us, postponed the 75km for the 2 day riders till Sunday and kept the 45km for the 1 day racers. I was happy we at least got to do the 75km.

Sunday morning was nippy and shrouded in mist but soon cleared up and turned out to be a stunner of a day! The neutral zone was a long stretch of tar road, finally we turned onto a dirt district road where the pace went up and the small lead group consisting of Lourens Luus, Henry Uys and a few other guys disappeared into the distance. I kept a comfortable pace, 75km in Magaliesberg is not to be underestimated! I made sure to start eating and drinking my High 5 early on to avoid bonking. After a super fast start on the district road, we headed into some awesome single track with river crossings and a portage section over a bridge crossing a river. My Sidi cycling shoes were wet and muddy, so I had to tread carefully carrying my Pinarello Dogma XC over the slippery bridge and onto a cement wall which had a massive gap in it, most people could probably step over it but short legs me had to hold my breath and jump across, bike in hand. Phew, made it! I scrambled up the muddy rocky uphill that followed and got back into a rhythm through some more single track and had to portage up a section of another rocky climb as my muddy tyres slipped out from under me.

At about 49km in, I saw an arrow pointing down a small road off the district road we were on , it didn’t seem right but I went down anyway. I carried on for a km or 2 and when I saw no one behind or ahead of me I turned back, uphill the whole way. At the split, there was another confused cyclist, not sure what to do, we waited and got passed by a guy who told us not to go left but carry on straight. I was super frustrated at all the time I had lost but I was still winning luckily. After the race I heard that loads of people made the same wrong turn, due to a badly placed arrow. That was comforting; I wasn’t going completely mad ;).

I was happy to cross the line in 1st place. The route had a great mixture of single track, river crossing, challenging technical sections, rocks, mud and fast district roads. My Pinarello is looking forward to a good TLC session with the trusty mechanics at Epic Sports!
Overall I really enjoyed the weekend, the Leverage Corporation sure know how to run an event! The running race was an interesting experience and, if anything, makes for a good story J. The mountain bike race was just amazing, riding the Pinarello is dreamy :D.  

Next up is Clarens, yiesh! Until then, later!

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Night Rider Series #3 Respect the dark.

There is something so magical, almost taboo about night riding. When everyone else is performing their mundane night time routines; sitting down to dinner, watching TV, or tucking the kids in, we are riding our mountain bikes, having an adventure, with only a small mounted light as a guide.
The night is alive with the sound of crickets and evening birds and the steady crunching sound of our tyres against the gravel. It is a totally new world. Mere trees during the day become ominous shadows of night time monsters, watching with beady eyes. A rock during the day is a rock, solid and unmoving. But at night, they come alive. They play tricks on you, one will hide in the shadow of another, popping out just when you are about to go straight into it. You have to be quick, you have to alert, you have to respect the dark. If you don’t, or lose focus, (like I did almost a year ago, breaking my collarbone), you will come out second best!
Every Thursday, our night ride used to be the highlight of my week, followed by a scrumptious meal and a few beers at the famous Ed’s Diner! Our title sponsor; a[s]g Sports holds a monthly night race at Rosemary Hill in Pretoria. I was ecstatic to hear that I was entered and would be representing our a[s]g MTB Academy, this would be my first night ride since the crash, I couldn’t wait!
The weather was chilly but the vibe on the start line was electric, everyone lined up with their lights shining, chatting away keen for the challenge ahead. There were hundreds of riders participating; I imagined that the the start chute must have looked like the Milky Way from above!
When the gun went, the front guys set off in what seemed to me to be a flat out sprint. I went out hard but kept it steady. Up the first drag, I somehow found myself alone, the leaders a few hundred meters ahead of me and the galaxy of blinking lights a few hundred meters behind. This was how it was for most of the remainder of the race. I passed a hand full of guys but otherwise it was just me, and the magic of the night! The single track was twisty and turny with about 5 bridges; the corners would catch me off guard at times adding to the thrill! There were a few minor drops, some stairs, some challenging rocky parts and loads of fast forest single track, My Pinarello 29er was lapping it up! After the floating bridge, I started to worry that I was lost. I could literally see no one behind or ahead of me, so every a[s]g reflective arrow came as a relief. I was still on track! Or was I...?? It can get quite ominous out there!
It seemed far too soon that I rode through the gates at Rosemary Hill; 21km was definitely too short for that much fun! As I rode over the start line, the commissure congratulated me for being the 10th man in, uh excuse me? I decided not to take it personally and blamed the dark ;)
I was greeted by a group of my fellow Academy members, Arno had come third in a sprint finish with Adolf Krige, Byron Ferreira taking the win, just 10 seconds ahead of them. Marcel had an excellent result, coming 4th, Kyle Wool was 6th, Jacques Pretorius 7th and Edwill came 9th. I was happy to see Angie come in 2nd and Petru 3rd, the ladies podium was fully fluo!
As usual we had our “Chill Zone” the Academy trailer set up with Epic Sports gazebos and chairs. There was coffee, refreshments and food for sale, and bonus: there was a bon fire which was a saving grace as I was freezing!

After prize giving my friend Jason and I went to join my old night ride group at Ed’s Diner for a scrumptious dinner and good catch up session.
A well organised event with great company and, of course, awesome mountain biking made for a really fun night out! Thanks to a[s]g and our Academy, I am looking forward to the next one!

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

ASG Tyger Valley MTB Challenge

On Saturday The asg Tyger Valley MTB Challenge took place at Tygervally college in Lynwood, Pretoria. Being only 12km or so from my parent’s house I chose to ride to the race and back to save petrol and get some “secret” training in ;). The route would be very similar to that of the the first Nissan race held at the same venue, so I knew what I was in for: fast, furious and pedal pedal pedal all the way! I was feeling confident, the little Tigress (my Pinarello Dogma XC 29er) had just had a quality service from Mike the mechanic @machanicmike at @EpicCycleShop, and a pre-race mtb ride on Thursday proved it was ready to rock and roll!
 When I arrived at the race I was happy to see my “span maaitjies” and our a[s]g PYcycling team trailer, everyone looking fit and ready to race! I did a quick check on my Continental tyre pressure, put some Squirt on my chain and made sure I had enough High 5 2:1 Energy drink and gels to keep me going throughout the race.
When the gun went, we had a bit of a “neutral zone”, with people bashing handlebars, fighting to get in the front of the pack. I was grateful for the first climb as it sorted out the riders pretty quickly. I soon got into a nice rhythm, and found myself getting stronger and passing guys as the kilometres ticked by. I knew that I had a decent gap on the other ladies but didn’t want to get complacent and pushed myself hard for a good time. Besides, there were so many male egos to hurt ;)

I really enjoyed the single track though Rosemary Hill and the forest sections. Single track and technical sections are always a relief as it gives you time to catch your breath back. Most of the race consisted of flat district roads with little climbing which made it super fast, but all the constant pedaling with a head wind does get a little tiring!
The sun started beating down and I felt ready for that finish line! One mean little climb marked the “you’re almost there” spot. A few kilometres later I was welcomed by a cheering crowd and awesome supporters. I was super stoked to hear that my teammate, Arno Du Toit, had won the men’s category, beating Andrew McClean by just 30 seconds! Other teammate, Jacques Pretorius won the 40km overall. Academy member, Heirich came 2nd in the 40km, Andrea de Boer came 4th in the ladies race and Edwill was 6th in the 70km.

An awesome day for the ASG MTB Academy!!
A big thanks to ASG for putting on a fantastic event and of course for being an awesome title sponsor, making the ASG MTB Academy possible.

Next event is the Provincial XCO at fountains next weekend.
Until then, keep the rubber side down.
Amy Beth

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Gauteng Provincial #1
The first leg of the Gauteng XCO provincial series, held at Thaba trails in Johannesburg South. The last few training rides on my new Pinarello Dogma XC have been awesome, it is really fast and I feel super comfortable on it! So I was excited to put it to the ultimate test; a cross country race. I was also feeling anxious, as the last cross country race I did was SA champs last year in July and I was worried that I had “forgotten how”. Thank goodness it came back to me, kinda like riding a bicycle ;)

Standing on the start line, I could see I had tough competition with Yolande Speedy and Yolandi du Toit next to me. The start was only about a 100m sprint before we hit the single track. Yolande got in first with me just behind her, she went slightly wrong on the first left turn, so I zipped in front of her, only to get passed again a few meters later. Yolande and I quickly got a big gap on the rest of the field. I managed to catch her and got into the lead about half way through the first lap. My CyclOps GPS was showing my heart rate in the red, and I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to maintain it. I got into a rhythm, keeping a high cadence and making sure to enjoy the single track and few technical sections that are the reason I love mountain biking so much!
I was surprised at how fast I was riding, it felt good, all our tough training over the past few months is paying off, the Pinarello definitely helping out!

The laps went smoothly, with almost no errors or crashes, my heart rate maxing out all the way! My lap times were consistent which is the most important thing. I looked behind me at about 3 km to go and saw Yolande catching me. I had a few sub vet men in front of me who were slower in the single track, I forced my way past them (politely) and pushed hard to the end. I was ecstatic to have won and pleasantly surprised by my performance!

My team mates, and the rest of the Academy members all did excellently, killing it with 8 out of the 12 getting podiums, and a total of 5 wins for the day: Arno du Toit: 1st U23, Paul Cordes: 1st sub vet, Joel Hieber: 1st Junior and Neville Ackermann: 1st Master.
This coming weekend is the first national XCO in Cape Town.
Until then, keep the rubber side down
Amy Beth

Training camp blog.

To kick off the 2013 season with PYcycling, Paul Cordes and Yolande Speedy organised a 7 day endurance training camp based at Matthys Beukes’ farm in Oudtshoorn. The crew consisted of Paul, Yolande, Arno Du Toit, Marcel Marais, Neville and Patsey Ackermann, Edwil O Niel and myself.
We decided to get the 12 hour trip done in one go, and left Pretoria at about 4:30am on the 27th of December. The ride was long, accentuated by my constant suffering from TB (Tiny Bladder) luckily the company was good, Paul was in his cowboy hat and him and Yolande played some arb wildlife spotting game that I still don’t understand! Entertaining none the less!

For the training camp, I would be riding two Cotics: a Cotic X cyclocross bike for the road, and a Cotic Rocket trail bike for mountain biking.
We started each day’s training at 5:30 to avoid the worst of the heat and allow for recovery time.

   Day  1: 28th December
Our legs were not feeling too fresh having done a long ride the day prior to a long day’s travelling, so we kept it easy, 3 hours out and back. In the distance loomed Swartburg Pass, a massive mountain shrouded in clouds. It reminded me of the road to Mordor. That’s where we would be training hills the next day, gasp!

The hours after the ride was spent chilling, eating, swimming, sleeping and relaxing. The sun sets really late in Oudtshoorn which allowed us to go for a “trail jam” session at about 5:30pm. Matthys has built an amazing xc course around the property which we played around on for about an hour session before dinner which worked up a good appetite! This trail jam session was my first mtb ride since I broke my hand at Burg n Bush. It was also the first time riding the 26” duel sus Cotic Rocket, I fell in the first 50m. My skills were sketchy but I’d get the hang of it and it felt great to be back on the trails again!!

Day 2: Swartburg Pass
We took an easy ride up to the base of the pass and kept a steady tempo heart rate to the top. Although it was long and pretty painful, I managed to keep a good, steady heart rate up both sides and I can say that I enjoyed the challenge and views!

Day 3: Robertson Pass
It was Yolande’s birthday, to celebrate we rode up and over Robertson Pass on the road, we had breakfast at the bottom and back again. The weather was great, with the pass was covered in mist which made for a pleasant ride. The tough part came in the last 20km where we did a 20 km individual time trial. Most of the TT was downhill, so it was fast. I enjoyed the speed and getting my heart rate up and I felt strong! This was one of my favourite days but I was tired and looking forward to the rest day. The afternoon was spent legs up, napping  and chilling. I skipped the trail jam that afternoon as I am suffering an Achilles tendon injury and didn’t want to put more strain on it. That evening was spent at a restaurant called Pal Jas where we ate Ostrich and drank red wine, chatting and laughing and reflecting on the past few days and the days to come.

Day 4: Rest day (New Year’s eve)
A well-deserved rest day for us all entailed 0 riding, just rest and recovery. It was New Year’s eve and Marcel was sick, Edwil had left and the others opted to sleep, which was definitely the wise decision! Arno and I hit the town, which was rather disappointing as there were only a hand full of people in each of the places we went to, dodgy characters at that! Never the less, we had fun but with only an hour sleep, 5 hours of riding the next day would be interesting.

Day 5: Base ride (New Year’s day)
Unlike the previous days which were spent in sweltering heat, today was cool and drizzly which was a relief. The terrain was undulating I enjoyed the ride. I spent the rest of the day catching up the lost sleep from the previous evening. When I woke up it was trail jam time! This time I felt more comfortable on the bike, I came off once pretty hard but otherwise it was great fun!

Day 6: Swartburg suffer fest (Paul’s birthday)
Today was by far the hardest day of the training camp for me, and one of the toughest days on the bike I have had! Paul’s birthday present to himself and us was a ride up Swartburg Pass, down the other side, then up for half an hour, down, and up again. My body was fatigued and Achilles tendon aching. I was far off the pace and my heart rate was 10% - 15% lower than it was the first time we did the pass. I pushed through, but man was I glad when it was done and I was in the pool! The rest of the day was spent in a state of near comatose. I felt better after resting and we celebrated Paul’s birthday in a more conventional manner at a great restaurant in town. The pain was forgotten as another awesome evening with excellent company was had.

Day 7: Steady State intervals and pace line.
The pain was remembered. Four 5 minute intervals on an uphill and a pace line back to the farm. We could all feel the past few days in our legs. The intervals were hard but good and I was surprised to see I was getting stronger with each interval! The pace line was a different story, I had never done one before, and clearly have a lot to learn.
Thanks to Cycleops, we were able to record each day of riding and analyse our data accurately every day. Paul and Yolande for organising the camp. Matt De Jongh from Cotic for giving me the Cyclocross and Rocket to ride. Matthys Beukes and family for accommodation and trail jam sessions. Paul, Yolande, Neville, Patsey, Arno, Marcel and Edwil for great company, awesome rides and fun times!
I am really happy with the last training block that Paul has put us through; it is exciting to start the 2013 season strong with a solid base! I am looking forward to riding with PYcycling for team a[s]g  Pinarello. I think the team is strong and plenty of successful races and mountain biking adventures are to be had!