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.