Sabie, a Race of Attrition.
As a new Lowveld local, I knew it had been wet for the past few weeks and with solid overnight rain it was sure to be a mud bath of note! The Sabie Classic has been a highlight of every year for since I started racing. This was my 4th Sabie Classic but 1st ever in these conditions, I was looking forward to the challenge!
Because Sabie had been selected as a UCI sanctioned event all the biggest names in South Africa and even some international heroes such as Bulls riders Karl Platt and Urs Huber were lined up ready for the battle against each other and the elements! Looking around on the start line made me nervous, my goal: top 10.
There was a slight drizzle which was a relief since I know how swelteringly hot it can get here. After the neutral zone (by which time I was already doused in mud) we started to go up. We then continued to go up for what seemed like a lifetime and a day. The uphill part of the race took up the most part of the first half of the entire race with the Mamba switchbacks slap-bang in the middle!
My legs were screaming at me and I found myself in 9th place. “Focus Doogle!” I told myself, “keep pushing, anything can happen.” I passed Dalene Van Der Leek and shortly after, Janine King in the technical “Eagle Run” I was now lying 7th. I tried to keep my teammate Samantha Sanders in my sights but she slowly pulled a gap on me. When I reached the Epic Sports tech zone, I breathed a huge sigh of relief, it was almost downhill from here! I picked up 2 fresh bottles and had my chain nicely lubed for me.
A few k’s of climbing later the next challenge began, the steep Rocky Horror descent. The rocks are jagged and treacherous on the best of days, never mind in this wetness. Shortly after the descent began I had a sinking feeling when I came across Sammy who was off her bike holding her arm. I stopped to see if she was ok but she had crashed badly and her race was over. I took a small tumble on the way down but got off lightly grazing my elbow and knee. I knew that today was not a day to take risks and took it slower and more carefully than I usually do in the technical sections. I was now lying in 6th but kept in mind that in conditions like this you can’t get complaisant. I must say that although I came short a couple of times I thoroughly enjoyed the technical sections, the slimy mud making it particularly challenging!
I passed Lourens Luus twice, he had suffered two sidewall cut and was forced to retire. Shortly after I came across a walking Darren Lill who had also sidewalled. I then passed Erik Kleinhans who had no breaks and a sidewall cut. Waylon Woolcock, Charles Keey and Max Knox were all forced to pull out due to mechanicals. It was carnage out there, left right and centre were riders who had crashed out or stopped to fix a mechanical.
Half way down a technical descent, I found a shaken Yolandi Du Toit who had crashed and landed head first, she still finished the race like a trooper. This meant that I was now in 5th. I pushed on feeling motivated to keep my spot in the top 5. At about 45km in I caught up to Candice Neethling and passed her when she had problems with her chain up a climb. I pushed harder, knowing that the tech zone was in a few kilometres and then the final stretch to the finish.
When I reached the tech zone I was greeted by my cheering support crew. My coach Bosseau expertly got my bottles to me while ordering me to peddle backwards as he lubed my chain. As quick as I was in I was off again, a new wave of motivation washing over me. About 3 km later I spotted Cherise in the distance as I passed her I saw she too had suffered a sidewall cut, my belief in my Conti tyres was sealed! Oh my goodness, this meant I was in 3rd!! By this point I so ready to see the finish line. There was one more biggish climb before I eventually reached the final piece of single track where I could hear Max Cluer doing what he does best. I kept peering over my shoulder as I counted down the km to the finish, still in 3rd! The single track spat an Amy shaped ball of mud out into the finishing straight and I was greeted by an amazing crowd and Max welcoming me to the end of an incredible day in the office!
I went into the race hoping for a top 10 and due to perseverance, some luck and some mad skill, I pulled off a 3rd which is far more than I had hoped for. I was super happy! Frans from Powasol was ready and waiting to give my unrecognisable Scott some much needed TLC, it came back looking good as new!
My move to Nelspruit has been a great experience. I can feel my form coming along with the help of my coach Bosseau Boshoff from Infinita and the endless k’s of kick ass riding at my back yard! The Valencia crowd is full of awesome people and I am loving being part of their family.
On that high note, next up on the Calendar for me is XCO provincials this coming weekend.