For me the Lowveld embodies a cycling paradise and I still get excited whenever a race is held in this beautiful area. Fortunately for me there are 3 major events taking place on consecutive weekends in this region, giving me the perfect reason to stick around. First up was the Panorama Tour which took place from the 23rd to the 26th of April.
The 4 day Panorama Tour is a must-do event on any road cyclists’ calendar. The race is run from the Casterbridge Boutique Mall in White River and consists of three stages (80km, 107km, 113km) followed by a concluding 38km Time Trail on the final day.
It is the only road tour in South Africa where riders compete in a two-man team format similar to what you find at mountain bike stage races. This creates a more social racing atmosphere while the Lowveld’s mountainous terrain ensures challenging racing conditions.
Elmari de Wet from the Clover Ladies Road Team asked me to team up with her for the event and seeing as it was time I gave my Merida Scultura ROAD BIKE a proper workout, I was obliged to say yesJ. Jokes aside, the Panorama Tour’s rules make provision for professional cyclist to team up with amateur riders only. This unique concept creates a competitive amateur event and also gives professionals an opportunity to mingle with fellow riders in a relaxed atmosphere.
Although Elmari is a very good cyclist, she is also a full time engineering student at the University of Pretoria and this gave us a green light to pair up for the event.
We rode a consistent tour placing 2nd on all the stages except on day two where we took the top step on the podium. Our stage results finally secured as a 2nd place overall behind Anette Loubser and Desray Sebregths. Nicolene Naude and Machelle Bremer rounded out the podium in 3rd place.
I always enjoy the Panorama Tour as it makes for good racing yet it is so much fun. Having had a nice partner to share the experience with made it even more pleasant.
Next up I’ll do the short trek to Sabie for the 3 day Sabie Experience starting on the 30th of May.
The 3rd leg in the Ashburton Investments Series was held in the artist’s favourite little town of Clarens. This year the event doubled up as the South African Elite Marathon Championships, guaranteeing a strong field on the day.
Rewind first – During the penultimate stage of the Absa Cape Epic I had a silly crash which left me with an ITB injury which lingered longer than expected (or sought). This meant my training, or the lack thereof, in the following weeks was mainly focused on rehabilitating my injury. Fortunately I have a knowledgeable and caring Chiropractor in Dr Paul Birdsey who somehow got me on to the start line of the 2016 SA Marathon Championships.
I had no expectations going into the event as I didn’t know how my body would respond in its first race back since the Epic and the injury induced layoff. I was well aware and prepared that my race could go either way, but I was surely going to find out by racing as hard as I could.
Despite feeling pretty good during the first quarter of the 77km event, my racing ambitions were reined in when I suffered a mechanical mishap. Once the problem was sorted out I pedalled on for a short while in disappointment knowing that my race was done. That was until I realised that I could continue having a bad day or I can at least try and turn it into a good day. I chose option B so I stopped and waited for my dad who started a few minutes behind me. My dad is an infectiously positive and remarkably pleasant person to be around and anyone in his company will confirm this. If you’re feeling blue, go visit Francois du Toit – you will walk away smiling – guaranteed!
So it was that the two of us cycled the remaining 42km together making my once disappointing ride a very positive one indeed. How often does one get the opportunity to race alongside your inspiration!
I have always been fond of Clarens and its beautiful surroundings. Visiting the area is always a highlight and this time around it was no different. Of course it was disappointing not to be able to give my best on the day, but sometimes you need a setback to put things in perspective. After all, it was just a bike race…