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!