Monthly Archives: September 2017

Read all about #TeamGarminMTB’s experience at the the Bestmed @jockcycle Tour.

The Bestmed Jock Tour, presented by Rudy Project is arguably one of the toughest road races in South Africa. Staged in and around Nelspruit, Mpumalanga, the tour makes use of the toughest roads in the area to create a 320km course with more than 6000meters of ascent over 3 days. The stages are divided into a 27km Individual Time Trial on Friday afternoon, a 154km stage on Saturday and finally a 138km stage on Sunday.

The Mbombela stadium on the outskirts of Nelspruit hosted the event giving race registration the feel that something big was about to happen. ASG Events made good use of the opportunity with an expo showcasing some of the ASG brands such as Tour sponsor Rudy Project, High 5 supplements and Pinarello bicycles.

After race registration it was a long wait until we started the afternoon time trial from Nelspruit straight up a mountain finishing at the quaint little town of Kaapse Hoop. The ladies were first to go and Yolandi flew up the mountain winning the time trial by almost 2 minutes and taking the leaders jersey in the process. I couldn’t quite follow up that performance, but finished in 9th place about 3.5 minutes behind stage winner Brendon Davids. The next race was to get home and recover before the 4am wake up call for the next day’s marathon stage.

Stage 2 took us from the Mbombela stadium to White River, on to Sabie over the well known Long Tom pass and back to the stadium. In the men’s race a breakaway group was established soon after the start with the Team ProTouch riders driving the move while Team Road Cover kept them in check along with Kent Main from the Dimension Data Continental squad. As Kent was wearing the yellow jersey he was forced to do most of the chasing and despite a little help he was isolated on Long Tom pass where Brendon Davids attacked. It was a chase all the way back to Nelspruit with Jade Julius just hanging on for the stage win from the original breakaway and Brendon Davids a few seconds behind. I rolled in with the 5-man yellow jersey chase group, happy to have the day done with.

The ladies race was a test of patience with the small field quite intimidated by the long distance and ascent making everyone afraid to put their nose in the wind. This meant that they only reached the 50km mark after more than 2 hours of racing. Although it was against her better judgement, Yolandi couldn’t linger any longer and started to pace in an effort to get home. Of course this left her vulnerable to inevitable attacks but Yolandi countered, finally getting away with Carla Oberholzer. Carla refused to work with Yolandi as they left the field behind, eventually attacking her on the Spitskop climb. From there it was an individual Time Trial of sorts with Carla taking the stage ahead of Yolandi.

Stage 3 was from Mobombela stadium out on the N4 highway, over the ‘Boulders’ climb towards Kaap Muiden, on to Barberton and back to Nelspruit. The men’s’ race was very controlled with Team RoadCover setting the tempo all the way to the top of Boulders and shedding the peloton of some ‘deadwood’ along the way. At the bottom of the tricky descent there were a few attacks with Team ProTouch being very aggressive. Team RoadCover brought calm back to proceedings leading the bunch through Barberton and back to Nelspruit. There were a few tough moments in the crosswinds where we earned our keep in the wheels, but we reached the final climb up Hilltop still together in a group. From here on in it was every man for himself as the bunch (or what was left of it) split into pieces on the lower slopes. James Fourie won the stage just ahead of Kent Main and Brendon Davids giving the breakaway group two wins out of two, but Davids walked away with overall tour honours. I started the climb slow but accelerated throughout, cresting the hill with Gregory de Vink which was a blessing as his big frame and strong legs made short work of the mostly downhill run into Nelpruit while I helped where I could but tried not to get in the way too much. Together we finished in 7th and 8th on the day for an overall 6th place for me in the tour – a result so unexpected I appeared on the podium in non UCI regulation shorts and Team Garmin T-shirt!

The ladies race was again a slow going affair with 3 girls riding off the front on the approach to Boulders and the bunch ambling along behind them. Over Boulders Yolandi set the tempo with only Cherise Willeit able to follow and they made contact with the 2 leaders at the bottom of the Boulders descent as they turned on to the Barberton road. Team tactics came into play again with no one willing to ride with Yolandi and Cherise, allowing the group to swell again. The reduced ladies peloton haphazardly made their way to Hilltop where Cherise attacked drawing Yolandi and Carla away with her. The 3 of them took it all the way to the line with Carla winning the sprint ahead of Yolandi and Cherise mirroring their overall tour placements.

A standout feature from the Jock Tour is the competitive nature of all the categories. As the race is so tough by nature most people that turn up for the event are pretty serious about their racing and each category win was vigorously contested. Of course this doesn’t mean there is no place for fun and quite a few riders completed the event purely to conquer the challenge that was set.

From an organizational point of view compliments should go to the commissaries (judges/referees) and Road Rangers who go out of their way to make the roads safe for us. These people drive their motorbikes and rental cars into the face of mostly indifferent, oncoming traffic for scant reward other than an occasional gratitude from riders. If it wasn’t for them and the other ground staff who tirelessly work behind the scenes an event of this nature and magnitude would not be possible.

The saying goes that you only grow outside of your comfort zone and although road racing isn’t necessarily our forte, it was good fun to race our road bikes in this beautiful part of South Africa. The data gathered by our Garmin Vector pedals proved that we had indeed been beyond the borders of our comfort zone and hopefully that will stand us in good stead as we head into the final part of the season.

#TeamGarminMTB reports on the Ride Crater Cruise.

The Ride Crater Cruise has been an institution on the SA MTB calendar since its inception in 2004 when it was designed and billed as the ultimate challenge between MTB and road cyclists. The race slowly evolved to be more of a mountain bike race, but always maintained its characteristic corrugated road sections, flat-ish profile and less technical nature.

Last year the race did not take place due to land access issues, but this year it was back on the calendar with a new route and venue. The Koedoeslaagte Trail Park and Venue situated on the banks of the Vaal River was the start and finish venue this year with the course going out the same way as always but starting about 25km into the old route omitting the neutral zone through town, the opening hot-spot sprint (on tar) and the fight for position leading into the first corrugated section.

Although these established features were missed there were a few new sections which added fresh flavour to the race route. Chief amongst these was the new singletrack section shortly after the start, the extra loop through the Grootkoppe Nature Reserve and the traverse of the Thabela Thabeng Kloof. Although the new route is a breath of fresh air, it still needs some refining and if the organisers stick with it there is a lot of potential for future editions to reclaim the stature that the race used to enjoy.

Self seeding at the start saw riders lining up in 3 batches according to their fitness level and/or ambition for the race. This meant ladies and men started together but as always a fast start sorted things out pretty quickly.

In the men’s race Arno du Toit was the early aggressor attacking from the start with the Day brothers using their road racing acumen and tactics to keep everything in check behind. Melt attacked on the Espach climb combining with Arno on the open roads that followed. The second half of the race was a tough affair being mainly uphill on jeep track and cattle paths. This is where Melt made a break from Arno maintaining his lead to win the Crater Cruise for a third time.

 

I followed the pace as best I could from the start often riding alone or in small groups but always maintaining a steady pace knowing how tough this event is. Starting with the men made the race a lot more aggressive and equalled the

playing field as it added to the depth of the field in comparison to a ladies-only bunch. Everyone was a rival and the route was the real challenge with nowhere to hide. Despite strong challenges from Cherise Willeit and Sylvia van Tromp I managed to take a 4th victory in this race which has such a special place in my heart.

One of the biggest challenges on the day was the heat, exacerbated by the longer than advertised race distance (10km longer!) which made the waterpoints further apart than expected. The fact that the final 7km was on fun singletrack next to the mighty Vaal River was lost on most, as it was so close to the finish that the commentators voice could often be heard in an agonising case of so close, yet so far…

In the end The Ride Crater Cruise was the usual slug fest which suits our style of racing and we were happy to come out on top for Team Garmin!

 

#TeamGarminMTB reports on the @NatMTBseries #NatMTB6.

The penultimate round of the Ashburton National MTB Series took riders to Dullstroom, situated on the edge of an escarpment 2000m above sea level. The altitude was a big factor affecting performance but being one of the coldest towns in South Africa, the weather would also have its say.

The venue at Dunkeld Estate was covered in fog as riders lined up for day 1 of the 2 day event. As always the new, shorter format made for aggressive racing from the start as riders jostled for position in the yet to be established pecking order.

As the fog lifted a howling wind came up that made the going difficult on the district roads and jeep track which characterized the 71km route of day 1. Candice Lill (Team Dormakaba) was on a storming ride winning day 1 alone despite suffering a flat. Behind her the ladies bunch had disintegrated and they were all chasing solo with only some ego-driven males stuck to their rear wheels. Sam Sanders (Valencia) finished 2nd on the day with Yolandi in 3rd and still in the hunt for overall honours on the weekend.

In the men’s race the Pyga/Eurosteel boys were duelling with Team NAD leaving the rest of us trailing in their wake. Only Gert Heyns (Ascendis Health) could keep up and he made it count escaping in the final singletrack to win ahead of Nico Bell and Philip Buys.

I was in a 4-man group battling for 5th spot when my pedal came apart at the top of a lo

ng technical descent. Luckily for me the one and only tech zone was at the bottom of said descent, but unlucky for me none of the mechanics had a compatible spare pedal. Despite some help from Team NAD’s Nadia Bell, I reluctantly decided to call it a day and loaded my bike in their team bus. As we waited to cheer for Yolandi who would pass by shortly, Bradley Potgieter from Team Road Cover pulled into the tech zone with a flat tire. His race was done, but his pedals were intact…

Queue a quick pedal swap and I was back in the game doing my best to salvage some sort of result. I snuck in 20th, but just finishing was a moral victory!

Day 2 dawned clear but ice cold as a layer of frost covered anything and everything unlucky enough to be situated in the shade. Although shivering at the start we were up to race speed in no time, warming up quickly as we tackled day two’s 51km course. The route was much faster and much more fun than day 1 with plenty of singletrack and well ridden trails making for easy going with only the relentless pace responsible for the perpetual discomfort!

In the ladies race Samantha and Candice stuck together all day with Sam winning the stage in a sprint, but Candice taking overall honours for the weekend by crossing

 

the line only seconds behind Sam. Yolandi only just didn’t have the legs to go with them at the start, but she continued her consistent showing by finishing 3rd again despite riding alone for most of the day and claiming 3rd overall for the weekend.

The men’s race was once again dominated by Team’s NAD and PYG

A/Eurosteel with Matthys Beukes coming back from a puncture on day 1 to win ahead of Philip Buys and Nico Bell. This changed the overall standings for the weekend with Philip Buys taking overall honours ahead of Nico Bell and Gert Heyns in 3rd.

I managed to keep my bike in one piece and with a loan pedal from Andrew Grobler I battled with Tim Hammond, Dylan Rebello and Wessel Botha for 6th place out on trail. I just lost contact with this group at a water crossing/road underpass – a mistake which cost me dearly as I was left to chase about 1 min behind them for the second half of the race. I never caught them and finished in 9th place on the day, but only a minute off the pace giving me some measure of redemption for day 1 with a 12th place overall for the weekend.

Next up for us the Crater Cruise and we look forward to racing on the Free State flatlands!