Friday, August 20, 2010

Trans Baviaans 2010 part 2

The Start

The vuvuzelas sounded and the race began... slowly...

To get 1000 riders in 350 teams out of the start area was always going to take a while. When we finally got to the start blimp, people were going around it, through it over it... no, not really over it :-)
It was quite cramped though...

There was another whole mass of people off to the left of the blimp which you cannot see, because they are not on the photograph :-)

Finally reaching the blimp, I went through it and blasted off down the road in chase of the leaders. The team was on my tail, and we caught and passed the leaders at that stage in about 45 seconds.

Oh wait... That was the dream I had the night before...

What actually happened, is in the start confusion, I managed to sneak through the crown fairly quickly, and promptly lost the rest of the team, who are obviously not as adept (rude?) as I am at crowd swimming. So I rode along at a nice easy pace waiting for them to find me, which they eventually did - about 1km later :-)

We toured through the town of Willowmore, down the main street and the turned off onto a rocky jeep track, which would eventually (at 7km) spit us out onto the main dirt road leading through the Baviaans Kloof. On this road we would stay for the next eternity.
This would last until about CP2 at 110km, with Hammer Nutrition CP1 at about 50km. At CP 2, we had sent our light ahead in the race box 1, so we spent some time refilling energy drinks, lubing chains and attaching lights. Then we were off again.
We rode along one of the most beautiful riverside jeep track, with plenty of small river crossings, just enough to get your feet wet...
Some small climbs, and then the first "biggie" for the day - Up to the top of the Baviaans Back. Not high by any means at about 200m, but fairly steep and at a time in the race when the climbing legs haven't really done anything yet, so it comes as a shock. Also, we hit it about 16:00, meaning it was actually quite hot. But it was quickly dispatched, and the a rocking downhill the CP3, with box 2. Here we ate a quick supper of sosaties and potato and coffee, with some orange slices thrown in. I didn't eat too much, as I am prone to and not particularly fond of cramping. Fortunately, it was starting to cool down a bit as the sun dipped below the mountains.
Then we hit the fangs: two short sharp climbs of about 100m high and 1-2 km long each. They were almost over before they began. By this time it was starting to get a bit darker, so the light were beginning to come on.
We had finally reached the MAC - Mother of All Climbs. It is 500m high stretched over 10km. All I can say is that the granny gear was used copiously. I put my head down and just went, eventually cresting after running out of water about 4km from the top. I had a bit of a wait for my team, and then we hit CP 4 where we had soup and sat at the fire trying to get a bit warm. It was after all, after 21:00. Luckily we had sent all our warm clothes here in box 3, which was gratefully donned.
In the dark...

We pushed on to CP5, which was reached after an awesome descent in the dark, with lots of switchbacks. It was amazing to look back and see the lights coming from almost directly above us. CP5 also heralded our first meeting with our SuperSecretSecond Support driver. I caught an energy dip here though, and it was decided, quite unanimously I might add, that we were going to have a sleep here for a while. Long story short, I slpet for about 30 minutes in a camping chair freezing various parts of my anatomy off, while the rest of the team slept in the Sharan, fogging up all the windows...
I went to warm up at the fire, and managed to bum a piece of game sausage off the people there. I also consumed copious amounts of Energade or some such, not really sure what it was, and I didn't really care. I have to say, some of the people there were also "well lubricated"...
We finally left for the final stint to the finish. We still had another 50km or so to go, and were finally beginning to smell the end. A bit prematurely, as it turns out though.
As we hit the Never Ender, a climb which is not steep specifically, but stretches over approximately 18km with 400m accumulation, we also got caught in a windstorm, with gust of up 80km/h, if I had to guess. This wind came from all directions. You never knew when it would come from where. It almost blew me off my bike on more than one occasion. To make matters worse, Cat-I was seeing some seriaas sleep monsters, which were threatening to put her on the ground and keep her there for a while. She did manage a 10 minute snooze while I changed a battery, and we finally made it to the unmanned CP6, which was at the very top, and earlier than expected based on the route instructions.
CP7 Followed soon after, and here we had Jaffles, Coke and coffee and Cat-I had another good snooze. The people manning the refreshment table said that the last person who laid on the ground like that was put on a drip by the medics. Cat-I, however, said just leave me, I wanna sleep :-)
Much refreshed we attacked the last 22km, which turned out to be the only piece of singletrack. OK, it was a narrow dirt road come jeep track, but it FELT like singletrack :-)))
One climb of note, which was rocky and technical, then we were back on big dirt roads. Finally reaching the main tar road going past Jefferys bay, one could literally feel the spirits lifting. We were almost there!
We turned off into Jeffreys Bay and rolled into the finish after 18h42min.
The Finish - YAY!!!

We gratefully munched the complimentary Spur burgers (who knew they could taste that nice?) and went off to our campsite, which our SuperSecretSecond Nicolien, henceforth known as Kattemaaier ;-) set up while we were still busy with the first half of the race.
Funny story... Kattemaaier is an ardent amateur photographer, as I mentioned in part one, and part time mudskipper. The lack of proper photos is due the the fact that she tripped and fell in the mud, covering herself and her camera with mud. I hope it's fixable...

Yes, we were at the sea
Mudskipper Pan

 Thanks to all for a very memorable time. I would race with you guys anytime anyplace.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Trans Baviaans 2010 part 1

This weekend past the long awaited and prepared for Trans Baviaans took place. It happened to coincide with the Leadville 100, a 100 mile MTB race in Colorado at high altitude (see Fatcyclist's blog here and here - well worth the read...)
The Trans Baviaans is somewhat tougher.
Yes, it's at low altitude, and yes, the climbing is similar (slightly less, in fact) over a longer distance. This sentence, however, also contains the reason for my statement. A Longer Distance. 65km longer, to be more precise.
This race is billed as the the longest single stage mtb race in the world. This may have been true at its inception, but now with Sani2C nonstop and Desert Dash, it may have lost its claim. However, because Desert Dash can be done solo, and many do it, it can also be done as a relay, and Sani2C Nonstop seems to be a bit erratic in taking place, I'm going to claim that we finished the longest single stage mtb race in the world. There is no halfway, no team relay.
You just keep going. And going. And then you go some more :-)
But man, what a beautiful piece of country. I tell you the truth, SA must be one of the most beautiful place in the whole flipping world.

The Journey

Anyhow, the team (Adri Ferrari, Carine Cat-I, Brendan DuctTape, Nicolien Without-Nickname-yet and I) drove down to Willowmore (the start) on Friday. It's a long drive from Gauteng. It took about 10 hours to get there from picking up the girls in Jozi, and another 2.5 hours before that for us guys to pack and travel to them. This of course includes lots of stops to rest eat and take photos (Did I mention that our designated SuperSecretSecond and support driver Nicolien is an ardent amateur photographer and part time mud-skipper?)

We came from there...
We're goin there...
We also discovered just about how far a VW Sharan TDi can go one a full tank... Pretoria to Willowmore... 1050km on 80l with 5 people and four bikes...
We made it with a fume to spare :-)

The Accomodation

Registration and Race Briefing were dispatched  with jovial informality, and then we were off to our accommodation for the evening. A bit of a drive back along the way we came, but we weren't scared of a little thing like that. We were booked in to a guest farm owned by Cobus and Louretta Lotter. It should be noted here, however, that they own TWO farms, one which is the guest farm previously mentioned and one where they themselves stay. We were supposed to go to the one where they stay. Of course, the gps coords were for the other one...
Luckily here in Africa we don't trust high technology, so we also had paper directions. Luckily.
The place where we were to stay is nestled in between the Witteberg and the Skoorsteenberg mountains. It makes for spectacular views and a slight minority complex. Of course, it also makes for excellent cellular reception... NOT!!!
Our hosts were incredible.
We arrived there in the dark, and were immediately greeted by various dogs as we stepped out.
then Tannie Louretta came out and welcomed us in and ushered us to the dining room where she had prepared a meal of epic proportions for us. There was enough food. Now, we are a bunch of cyclists (OK, actually adventure racers) and, as everybody knows, only a true cyclist is a bottomless pit when it comes to food (and I'm willing to extend this to adventure racers as well), AND given the fact that there were at least 25 of us between the two farms, AS WELL AS the fact that the food was scrumptious I must give all praise here. And all this with no electricity supply. That was taken care of by a generator!!! These people know how to host. Really well.
View past the farmhouse
We slept like rocks after sorting out the race checkpoint boxes. It's amazing how quiet it is when the nearest tar road is 16km away, and there is no light pollution. We awoke the next morning refreshed.
I climbed up a small koppie to the north of the farmhouse to watch the sun come up. It has actually become a special time of day for me.

Race Day

We had breakfast, another awesome meal where we couldn't finish all the food, packed the car, and drove off to the start.

Adri Ferrari
Carine Cat-I

I can't really wheelie...
Brendan DuctTape

Arriving without major incident (apart from a slight tire blowout) at the start, we get ready (mostly lubing bikes and placing purple alice bands on our helmets) we get to back of the start group and wait for the start in slightly nervous anticipation. For me anyway. At this stage, let me mention that my previous longest ride was 114km and my wife thought I was dead (she kept checking my pulse while I slept just to make sure I wasn't  :-) )
So this was at least double the length of anything I had ever tried.

But we were full of determination to see this through. Quitting is not something any of us take lightly, even with injury.
After the national anthem was sung (a first for me at any race, and a very nice touch), the vuvuzelas were sounded and the race began... be continued :-)