Monthly Archives: March 2015

My race report of the The Absa Cape Epic @GarminSA

As I was making my way to OR Tambo International Airport for the Cape Town Cycle Tour event,​the news came through that I would​ be competing at this year’s Absa Cape Epic. Obviously at the time it was surreal to think that in less than 2 weeks time I’d be standing on the start line of an 8 day stage race, ready to take on the 739 kilometres and 16 000m of climbing which lay ahead. In stark contrast, the excitement that suddenly started to grow in me was undeniable!

This opportunity came about when two of the girls on the Sasol Ladies Racing Team had to pull out of the Epic for different reasons. Sasol asked me to step in as a reserve rider and with the blessing from Garmin, I grabbed the opportunity with both hands.

For the 12th edition of the event I was paired with my Epic partner from last year, Leana de Jager. Leana and I have completed several stage races together and have a very good understanding of one another both on and off the bike. Consequently all our focus and energy could be spent on the challenges the route, the terrain and the weather conditions threw at us.

From the 21km prologue that traversed Table Mountain to the final finishing line that awaited us at Meerendal Wine Estate, we barely changed our racing rhythm and strategy. The aim was to ride consistently and cautiously throughout the Epic and this approach saw us moving up from 10th place on day one to finally placing 7th overall in the ladies category by the end, and the 3rd all South African ladies duo.

The Epic is very demanding on your body, mind and equipment and getting through the Epic without any hassle is a rarity. Like the team we were, Leana and I shared in the little hiccups as Leana punctured on day 2 and had a small tumble on day 3, whereas I contributed with a broken chain on day 4. Taking into account that we spent 42 hours and 50 minutes on our bikes over eight consecutive days of racing, you’ll agree that it truly was just minor setbacks.

The Absa Cape Epic’s mobile race village is quite an impressive setup as it is able to cater for all the needs of the riders, supporters and staff members over a period of 8 days. The organisers provide daily meals, a bike wash service, laundry service, tented accommodation and ablution. On top of this you can get your bike serviced at various bike shop stands, get any bike part that you might need, get food and much more from vendors albeit at your own cost. Despite being able to get whatever you required at the campsite I couldn’t help but miss the warm hospitality you find at some of the other events in South Africa. I guess its kind off the same as visiting a capital city compared to a small town in the countryside. You might not always find what you need in a small town but the hospitality surely makes up for a lot and vice versa. Obviously it’s great to be able to experience both city and town but some people are just more attracted to the one and some to the other.

 

The Absa Cape Epic is surely one of the toughest stage races in the world as it takes you way out of your comfort zone in so many ways. For me this year’s edition was more a mental challenge than a physical one as the daily routes were very long and tedious. Spending most of the day on the bike didn’t leave much time to run errands such as washing clothes, bottles, shoes, helmets, preparing nutrition for the following day etc. and eventually you have to give up some of that much needed sleeping hours to be able to get everything ready for the next day. Having said that, we still had it ‘easy’ compared to most riders and especially the heroes at the back end of the field. Sasol provided us with lovely accommodation during the Epic, our bikes got looked after by Morne Greyling and the rest of the Cycle Lab Lynnwood crew and our broken bodies got put back together daily by two Physiotherapist that travelled with us the entire way. Sasol is doing a lot for ladies cycling and should be commended for their efforts to establish equality between men’s and ladies cycling.

As there is so much that happens, it’s impossible to write about my entire Absa Cape Epic experience in one newsletter, but If I can sum it up I would definitely say I would do it all again tomorrow….

A big thanks to the Sasol Racing team, my teammate Leana de Jager and my Garmin Team for giving me the opportunity to be a part of this year’s Absa Cape Epic.

Cape Epic

My race report of the Cape Town Cycle Tour (formerly known as ‘The Argus’) @GarminSA

After returning from the Garden Route 300 in Knysna, I spent 2 precious days at home before boarding the plane to Cape Town for the ‘mini’ Cape Town Cycle Tour.

My visit to this scenic part of our country would include a whole lot more than just participating in the race itself. At the beginning of the year the Discovery Health medical scheme introduced a new running and cycling club to its members named Team Vitality. This newly formed community has various benefits, one of which is having access to their exclusive VIP hospitality tents at any of the events on the Team Vitality race calendar.

As Discovery Vitality’s fitness partner, Garmin was invited to experience the début event on their Calendar, which was the Cape Town Cycle Tour.

Team Vitality activities included a Cocktail Party on Friday night to welcome its members. This was followed by a picturesque 2 hour bike ride along the coastline on Saturday morning and on Sunday Team Vitality’s activities concluded with a hospitality tent near the finish where riders could relax, refuel and share war stories. This is a unique and fun concept from Discovery Vitality as its members get to interact at events, share in a vibrant team spirit with a very professional setup whilst being outdoors and active. I really enjoyed being part of Team Vitality during the Cycle Tour and by joining in on all their events I certainly got a much richer experience from the Cycle Tour.

The race itself took place on the Sunday morning and was shortened from its original 109 km format to only 47km, due to the tragic fires which raged through Cape Town’s south peninsula in the week leading up to the event.

Standing on the start line in anticipation of our 6:17am departure, it was nice to see the shortened route hadn’t dampened the lively spirit of the Cycle Tour. After the usual choiring of WHOOPLA from fellow participants, we set off to tackle the out and back route on the M3 highway. This year the ladies were given their own starting batch which made for a much safer finishing sprint than at previous editions, but unfortunately it also made for very slow speeds.  I tried to animate the race as best as I could with repeated attacks and even got to test out my sprinting legs at the finish. I slipped across the line in 5th place which was a pleasant surprise, especially considering my sprinting abilitiesJ. Lynette Burger took the victory on the day with Cherise Stander and Maroesjka Matthee finishing behind her in 2nd and 3rd place respectively.

It’s been a while since I last stood on the start line of a Cycle Tour and it was great to see that the event is still as energetic and popular as ever. A thought that crossed my mind as I made my way to the start on Sunday morning was that I’m very happy to be riding and not organising 34 000 people into their starting chutes. A big well done to the organisers for hosting such a big event despite the challenges they faced earlier in the week.Cycle Tour

 

Cycle Tour

My race report of the @gardenroute300 @GarminSA

This past weekend’s racing saw me travel to the sea side town of Knysna for the Garden Route 300. The 3 day mountain bike stage race traversed the beautiful Knysna forests covering just less than 300km, hence its name.  Although long in distance, the real challenge lay in the amount of climbing – 6200 m of ascent over the 3 stages.

Initially I was going to ride in the solo category, but after my positive experience in the mixed racing at Tankwa Trek it was an easy decision to accept Johan Labuschagne’s invitation to team up at the GR 300. The Labuschagne brothers are well known for their kind and gentle nature and this was confirmed during my three days of racing with Johan as partner. Thus far I’m really enjoying mixed racing and feel privileged to add another good experience to the list.

Stage one, 90km and 1950m of ascent

On day one we woke to falling rain which barely let up throughout the day. This made route conditions very tough, especially the last 30km when my brake pads were worn to the point of binding on my rear disc. Imagine pedalling your bike while pulling the brake lever…. not ideal!

It took a hard effort from both Johan and myself to reach the finish and we were proud to win the first stage and take the leaders jerseys.

With the extreme conditions and tough course there were three things which were obligatory to survive the day – Squirt lube on your chain which meant I never had to stop and re-apply lube, my Merida Big Ninety Nine Team Full Suspension that made riding over bumps and roots seem effortless and Continental tyres that always work come rain, shine or rocks.

Stage 2, 100km and 2400m of ascent

Our efforts from day one caught up to us on stage two and the 2 km portage section across the Homtini river/valley hallway through the stage was the final nail in our coffin as we settled for 2nd on the stage and relinquished our overall lead to Nizaam Esa and Catherine Williamson (Team Asirin).

Stage 3, 86km and 1800m of ascent

Our mechanical misfortunes resurfaced on the final day when Johan’s gears malfunctioned without warning. Although I wanted to race for first place, deep down a small part of me was slightly relieved with the ‘easier’ riding.  We finished 2nd on the stage again, securing our 2nd place overall behind Team Asirin. Piet Stopforth and his wife Ischen rounded out the podium in 3rd place.

Garden Route 300 is surely one of the more challenging 3 day stage races on the South African calendar. Every day’s hard work was rewarded with fine dining at the Quay Four Restaurant on Thesen Island, which also served as the home of the event. Thanks to Louise Wilson and her Garden Route Events team for hosting truly unique events in a beautiful part of our extraordinary country.

Next up is the Cape Cycle Tour (formerly ‘The Argus’) and a weekend where Garmin will be doing a lot as new fitness partner to Discovery Vitality. Come say hi if you are at the Cycle Tour Expo.

GR 300 IMG-20150301-WA0013