Monthly Archives: November 2015

Momentum 94.7 Cycle Challenge

The Momentum 94.7 Cycle Challenge is by far the biggest road cycling event in Gauteng and the 2nd biggest in South Africa.  Now in its 19th year of existence, the race attracts well over 33 000 participants and these cyclists get to ride or race their bikes for 94.7 km on closed roads through the streets of Johannesburg.

This year there was a lot of excitement around the ladies race and for good reason. A first of its kind on South African soil, the ladies race was granted UCI 1.1 status. This meant valuable UCI points were up for grabs for female racers and countries wanting to strengthen their chances for a place at the 2016 Olympics and this was sure to attract a strong local and international field.

Even though my main focus has been on mountain biking the last few years, I couldn’t let the opportunity to race in a local, ‘international’, event go by and I relished the opportunity to race on skinny tires against strong competition.

With UCI status comes UCI rules to which the event and its contestants had to conform. Any female who wanted to race in the UCI Elite Ladies event had to be part of a 4-6 member team. The South African Woman’s commission went about organizing these composite teams so that more ladies could be part of the race. I formed part of a team consisting mainly of ladies mountain bikers and it was nice to be in their company as we lined up for the start.

Multiple previous winner, Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio, was the hot favourite on the day and her teammates played their roles as domestiques (a cyclist who works for the benefit of his/her team and leader, often sacrificing their own chances to win) perfectly. They kept the race together, nullified attacks and upped the pace where needed while Ashleigh only used her energy when it was really required. Despite crashing during the race Ashleigh went on to confirm her role as leader by taking a superb win for her Bigla team after all their efforts.

In my entire road cycling career I could never just sit in a bunch and wait for the sprint.  I find it much more rewarding to finish an event knowing I gave everything on the day instead of saving energy and gambling for the win in the finale. This means I end up animating the race whenever possible and it was good to see that it was still the case, although I did regret not riding a touch more conservatively in order to have a bit more energy for the tough finish. In the end I crossed the finish line at the back of the leading break to finish just outside the top 10 in 11th place.

I could only be pleased with my result considering the calibre of international competition and the amount of road racing I’ve been doing lately (or the lack thereof). More importantly, I really enjoyed the experience and it was nice to represent Garmin on the road for a change.

It was great to be in an event where the girls raced positively, due in a large part to the international riders. I really hope the event will keep the format and international flavour for 2016. If they do, I will be back and do my best to keep my powder dry for that demanding finish!

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My race report of the Wines2Whales MTB stage race. @GarminSA @w2wmtb

My final MTB event on the 2015 South African racing calendar drew me to the scenic Western Cape for the FNB Wines2Whales MTB stage race. This 213 km journey started at Lourensford Wine Estate in Somerset West and finished at the beach front in Hermanus 3 days later. Along the way we camped for two nights at Oak Valley Wine Estate just outside of Grabouw.

After a long season of competing, travelling and in my case rehabbing you don’t really know what to expect from your body towards the end of the year. Still, I was very excited to be back racing this event alongside NavWorld’s Alan Gordon.

Despite starting right at the back of the A-group, Alan and I had an optimistic start to Wines2Whales. We worked our way through the field to eventually lead the mixed race with around 15km to the finish of stage 1. Here our race took a turn for the worse which forced us to adjust our strategy over the coming days.

I’ve been fortunate enough to never have struggled with leg cramps before, jokingly saying that you need muscles in order for them to cramp 😉 A few kilometres following the long portage section up the Gamka pass suddenly there I was fighting off cramps and boy do they hurt! The unforeseen restriction forced us to reduce the pace and we could only look on as Asleigh Moolman Pasio and her husband Carl Pasio regained their lead and went on the win the stage.

Fortunately I had a good teammate by my side and Alan did everything he could to get us across the finish line still in 2nd place.

On day two we adapted our racing plan to suit my constricting leg muscles and stayed below the cramping threshold as best we could. I learned to suffer on a whole new level but luckily our strategy paid off and we were relieved to finish the stage in 2nd place to hold on to our second place overall.

After having battled through stage two I didn’t have much left to give on the final day and had to dig very deep to keep our spot on the podium. Sadly we lost our 2nd place but still hung on to 3rd place overall in the mixed category. The Pasio’s went on to win the mixed category with Carmen Buchacher and Andreas Studer finishing in 2nd place with a very consistent, strong ride. It was encouraging to see that the mixed field was so competitive despite it being the one category where there was no prize money.

I can’t thank Alan enough for getting me through some rough patches and eventually across the finish line at Hermanus. As I’m sitting here writing my race report I still can’t make sense of the cramps. Was it thanks to the “hike a bike section” on day one, dehydration, a set of loan pedals which were differently setup to mine, the toe cap of my one MTB shoe which got bent in travelling, too much gym work in the final couple of weeks before the event, too little cement for breakfast or a combination of the above….

Regardless of the challenges we faced during Wines2Whales there was still lots to keep us smiling. The trails were great, the camp site comfortable, the ablutions spotless and the food courtesy of Food Lovers Markers absolutely 5 star.

Next up I’ll be swapping my fat tyres for skinny ones as I take part in the 94.7 Cycle challenge this coming weekend and I look forward to reporting back on the experience.

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