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.