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!