Monthly Archives: February 2015

My race report of the Ashburton Investments Series #2, Sabie Classic @GarminSA

From the ancient rock formations at Tankwa Trek to the lush green forests of the Sabie Classic, it feels as if I’ve been racing and travelling in two different countries during the last week. We truly are fortunate to live in a country as diverse and extreme as South Africa.

The 2nd leg of the Ashburton Investments Series was held in and around the sleepy little town of Sabie. With the event carrying UCI status it was sure to attract the country’s top riders as well as some internationals seeking to gain UCI points and podium glory.

In a positive change from Meerendal the Elite Ladies started 5 minutes behind the Elite Men’s field but more importantly 5 minutes ahead of the Open Men’s field affording us a chance to race without any interference from the other categories.

The 72km marathon route basically consisted of a 30km climb, followed by a technical descent before a final sting in the tail drained whatever you had left in your legs.

My body felt good on the day but my mind was still battling fatigue from all the racing I’ve done in the last couple of weeks. I found myself not concentrating fully on the job at hand racing more defensively rather than attacking the course.

For a change Sabie was quite dry but even so there are forested sections which never seem to dry completely. These sections made me quite nervous as it is an unpleasant feeling having your bike slide underneath you unexpectedly. Memories of last year’s mud fest at the same race didn’t help my confidence as I remembered how people crashed on straight roads which were as slick as ice.

It only took one proper slide off the trail before I decided to rather limit the risks and get home in one piece. Of course I knew this would cost me some time but sometimes you have to know where to draw the line when mind and body isn’t 100% synchronised. I crossed the line in 6th place not too pleased with my technical performance but at least knowing where I could improve.

Arianne Kleinhans had no such problems and took her 4th consecutive win at the Sabie Classic. She was joined on the podium by Robyn de Groot (2nd) and Jenny Stennerhag (3rd) as a trio of national champions (Swiss, South African and Swedish) stood on the box.

At the moment I’m travelling down to Knysna for the Garden Route 300 three day mountain bike stage race before heading on to Cape Town for the Cape Town Cycle Tour (formerly the ‘The Argus’). I look forward to reporting back about my next adventure from the ocean front.

My race report of the Du Toit @tankwatrek @GarminSA

After the national road championships in the Lowveld, it was a quick travel home to unpack, repack and swap skinny tyres for fat ones before travelling to the Boland for the Tankwa Trek 3 day mountain bike stage race.

The event took place just above the beautiful Ceres Valley which is well known for its fruit production.  Kaleo Guest farm was the hub from where each of the three stages started and finished. Here riders camped and got treated to delicious farmers food as they rested their weary legs after a hard day’s ride.

Each stage was designed by different local farmers whose land we traversed on that particular day. This intimate knowledge ensured that we got to see the best trails and scenery the Koue Bokkeveld has to offer. Over the three days of racing we covered about 250km which included 5305 m of climbing for good measure.

At stage races I usually participate in the ladies category, but this time around I decided to give mixed racing a go and partnered with fellow coach and mentor, Dr Mike Posthumus. This category has a completely different dynamic compared to the other categories. As expected the male participant would generally be much stronger than the female and teamwork is the deciding factor in getting the team across the line in the shortest possible time.

Mike and I are both quite inexperienced at mixed racing and to make the best of whatever happened, we decided to see it as a learning experience if nothing else. It was actually quite astonishing to witness, but from the moment we set off for the first 85km stage Mike’s knowledge and background of professional sport became apparent. He immediately grasped, and taught me along the way, what it required to get the best out of our partnership in order to do well in the race.

At 90kg of lean muscle, Mike is an extremely powerful cyclist and a very thoughtful teammate. When he wasn’t pulling or pushing me, he sheltered me from the wind. He continually made sure that I was eating and drinking enough, even stopping to fill our water bottles at the water points while I kept on riding and kept me motivated to push hard on the pedals.

I finished every stage completely exhausted, but riding with someone that gave 100% to the partnership made the suffering very worthwhile.

In the end we gained a lot more than just experience in the mixed category. We finished 2nd on stages one and two and took the win on the third and final stage.

The pairing of Candice Neethling and Craig Boyes (Team Asrin) took overall honours with Mike and me (Team Garmin) placing 2nd overall with Leana De Jager and Johan Labuschagne (Team Sasol) in 3rd place.

The weather and a partnership at a stage race has one thing in common – it can make or break your experience of the event and I left Tankwa Trek with a big smile on my face. Thanks Mike for being a great teammate and I look forward to more stage racing together in the near future.

 

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Race Report -South African National Road Championships @GarminSA

The annual South African National Road, Time Trial and Para-cycling Championships were held around Mbombela stadium on the outskirts of Nelspruit. This prestigious event ran from the 2nd until the 8th of February and promised to showcase the top South African athletes battling for the coveted national titles.

After my performance at Meerendal I was a bit apprehensive about my participation at SA Champs, but every cloud has a silver lining and with the advice and unwavering support of my back-up team I regained the courage to start the elite ladies event.

The undulating 14km road race lap contained 3 hills followed by steep descents which we would cover 8 times for a total of 112km with 1896m of climbing. At the bottom of each descent a traffic circle would steer the course in a new direction and the sweeping bends were the highlight of my race. With full road closure, newly tarred roads and the accumulated speed from the descent, one could really dive into the corners without reservation.

The elite ladies set off at 1pm on Saturday afternoon and if the racing wasn’t going to be aggressive the route and soaring temperature would definitely make it a race of attrition.

The undisputed favourite in our race was world class cyclist Ashleigh Moolman Passio. The moment we left the start line she was marked so closely that some riders would literally be following her around in the bunch, pulling brakes to make sure they could stay behind her.

Despite this Ashleigh kept her head and actually lay her cards on the table every time we hit an incline. She would attack from the bottom of the steepest drag out on course and keep the pace high until reaching the summit. Doing this repeatedly, she sapped the field’s energy and on the final lap she put this blue print in ink by breaking clear from the field to solo in for a well-deserved victory.

I went into the race knowing that I’m not fully prepared for a road race. You can carry your fitness across from mountain biking, but the race intensity is quite different. In a mountain bike race you ride at a constant high tempo whereas in a road race there are a lot of surges. With this in mind I made my goal to go out, give my best and race positively. For this reason my emphasis wasn’t on Ashleigh but on the racing that lay ahead of us.

I tried to animate the race as best as I could and paid for it at times by getting dropped and having to chase back to the leaders. In contrast to the previous week, my body embraced the suffering this time around and I was able to get back to the front each time. On the final lap I was still in the front group of eight riders and by just being there, it meant I had exceeded all my expectations. I crossed the finish line in eighth place, while An-Li Kacheloffer went on the finish in 2nd place with Lynette Pieterse in 3rd.

I’ve been to a few South African National Road Championships albeit a couple of years ago and the 2015 edition was definitely one of the better ones. A big thanks to the organisers for doing an excellent job in hosting the event and even more so for having it in the beautiful Lowveld region.

SA Champs

Race Report – Ashburton Series #1, Meerendal @GarminSA

Over its 12 years of existence the National MTB series has grown into the biggest and most prestigious mountain bike race series in South Africa. In 2015 the series took on a new title sponsor with Ashburton Investments taking over from MTN in the 7 round series.

The first leg of this year’s National MTB series took place at Meerendal Wine Estate on the outskirts of Cape Town on Saturday the 31st of January. This event along with 2 others (round 2 in Sabie and round 3 in Clarens) are UCI sanctioned events, meaning there are valuable UCI points up for grabs.

With acclimatisation in mind I flew to Cape Town 3 days prior to the race, arriving just in time to experience a bout of the region’s searing heat and humidity which is the norm during the summer months. There is no denying that Cape Town and its surrounds are beautiful but the warm weather gave me an appreciation for the milder climates we have at home on the Highveld. Fortunately on race day fine rain during the early morning hours made for much cooler and enjoyable weather conditions.

At UCI sanctioned events there are a lot more rules and regulations that event organisers have to adhere to and one of them was calling out the licensed riders individually to line up for the start 15 minutes prior to departure. After a tense wait the gates finally opened and the girls set off like race horses to cover the 70km distance that lay ahead. If I had packed different legs for the race, the start might have felt more like the beginning of a mountain bike race rather than a never ending sprint. I pushed hard on the pedals in an attempt to stay with the leading ladies but my heavy legs would have nothing of it and I was dispatched from the lead group despite my best efforts.

I told myself it was only the opening kilometres and I just had to keep on riding so that my legs would loosen up and I could make up some lost ground. Unfurtuanelty my poor state only regressed and instead of improving I was left fighting a deep, inner battle. My heart wanted to put an end to it all by stopping but my head was telling me to continue and that learning the route and getting in the training hours will be beneficial sometime in the near future.

After a 4 hour slog I crossed the finish line relieved to get the race over and done with. If I managed to escape my predators at the USN Cup event the week before, this time around I was served on a platter.

We all have our good days and our bad days but what matters more is what we make of it so I am doing my best to see the positive lessons learned from a less than ideal outcome.

Swiss star Esther Süss went on the take victory at the first round of the Ashburton National MTB series while Ariane Kleinhans and Robyn de Groot completed the podium in 2nd and 3rd place respectively.

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Photo courtesy of SnapSport Media