Tag Archives: Mountain biking

My race report of the @gardenroute300. @GarminSA @Merida_SA

When I left home for the Garden Route 300 it wasn’t only for one race but for a month long road trip which will include the Cape Town Cycle Tour and the Absa Cape Epic by the time I am done.6

My first stop was the harbour town of Knysna which hosts the Garden Route 300. This year’s edition of the race saw a different format as only solo entries were allowed and stages were shortened to accommodate those who would go on to compete at the Cape Epic just 2 weeks later.

Stages one and three started and finished at Quay 4 restaurant on Thesen Island while stage 2 was held from the Garden Route Trail Park situated between Knysna and Sedgefield.

I had a very consistent race placing 3rd on every stage to secure my 3rd spot on the overall podium by the time all was said and done. Robyn de Groot won the ladies category with Catherine Williamson in 2nd place, both of their daily placings matching their overall results.

The Garden Route in the Western Cape is a beautiful part of South Africa. Every year at this event I’m thankful to Garden Route Events for organising a mountain bike stage race through the pristine Knynsa Forest. The race route with its 4560 m of climbing was by no means an easy feat but battling it out in beautiful surrounds made the physical challenge a lot more bearable.

Currently I am travelling down to Cape Town for the CT Cycle Tour. As Garmin is the technical sponsor of the event I’m sure it will be a busy week but more of that later…..

 

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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.

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My race report of the Du Toit @tankwatrek @GarminSA

After the national road championships in the Lowveld, it was a quick travel home to unpack, repack and swap skinny tyres for fat ones before travelling to the Boland for the Tankwa Trek 3 day mountain bike stage race.

The event took place just above the beautiful Ceres Valley which is well known for its fruit production.  Kaleo Guest farm was the hub from where each of the three stages started and finished. Here riders camped and got treated to delicious farmers food as they rested their weary legs after a hard day’s ride.

Each stage was designed by different local farmers whose land we traversed on that particular day. This intimate knowledge ensured that we got to see the best trails and scenery the Koue Bokkeveld has to offer. Over the three days of racing we covered about 250km which included 5305 m of climbing for good measure.

At stage races I usually participate in the ladies category, but this time around I decided to give mixed racing a go and partnered with fellow coach and mentor, Dr Mike Posthumus. This category has a completely different dynamic compared to the other categories. As expected the male participant would generally be much stronger than the female and teamwork is the deciding factor in getting the team across the line in the shortest possible time.

Mike and I are both quite inexperienced at mixed racing and to make the best of whatever happened, we decided to see it as a learning experience if nothing else. It was actually quite astonishing to witness, but from the moment we set off for the first 85km stage Mike’s knowledge and background of professional sport became apparent. He immediately grasped, and taught me along the way, what it required to get the best out of our partnership in order to do well in the race.

At 90kg of lean muscle, Mike is an extremely powerful cyclist and a very thoughtful teammate. When he wasn’t pulling or pushing me, he sheltered me from the wind. He continually made sure that I was eating and drinking enough, even stopping to fill our water bottles at the water points while I kept on riding and kept me motivated to push hard on the pedals.

I finished every stage completely exhausted, but riding with someone that gave 100% to the partnership made the suffering very worthwhile.

In the end we gained a lot more than just experience in the mixed category. We finished 2nd on stages one and two and took the win on the third and final stage.

The pairing of Candice Neethling and Craig Boyes (Team Asrin) took overall honours with Mike and me (Team Garmin) placing 2nd overall with Leana De Jager and Johan Labuschagne (Team Sasol) in 3rd place.

The weather and a partnership at a stage race has one thing in common – it can make or break your experience of the event and I left Tankwa Trek with a big smile on my face. Thanks Mike for being a great teammate and I look forward to more stage racing together in the near future.

 

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Race Report – Ashburton Series #1, Meerendal @GarminSA

Over its 12 years of existence the National MTB series has grown into the biggest and most prestigious mountain bike race series in South Africa. In 2015 the series took on a new title sponsor with Ashburton Investments taking over from MTN in the 7 round series.

The first leg of this year’s National MTB series took place at Meerendal Wine Estate on the outskirts of Cape Town on Saturday the 31st of January. This event along with 2 others (round 2 in Sabie and round 3 in Clarens) are UCI sanctioned events, meaning there are valuable UCI points up for grabs.

With acclimatisation in mind I flew to Cape Town 3 days prior to the race, arriving just in time to experience a bout of the region’s searing heat and humidity which is the norm during the summer months. There is no denying that Cape Town and its surrounds are beautiful but the warm weather gave me an appreciation for the milder climates we have at home on the Highveld. Fortunately on race day fine rain during the early morning hours made for much cooler and enjoyable weather conditions.

At UCI sanctioned events there are a lot more rules and regulations that event organisers have to adhere to and one of them was calling out the licensed riders individually to line up for the start 15 minutes prior to departure. After a tense wait the gates finally opened and the girls set off like race horses to cover the 70km distance that lay ahead. If I had packed different legs for the race, the start might have felt more like the beginning of a mountain bike race rather than a never ending sprint. I pushed hard on the pedals in an attempt to stay with the leading ladies but my heavy legs would have nothing of it and I was dispatched from the lead group despite my best efforts.

I told myself it was only the opening kilometres and I just had to keep on riding so that my legs would loosen up and I could make up some lost ground. Unfurtuanelty my poor state only regressed and instead of improving I was left fighting a deep, inner battle. My heart wanted to put an end to it all by stopping but my head was telling me to continue and that learning the route and getting in the training hours will be beneficial sometime in the near future.

After a 4 hour slog I crossed the finish line relieved to get the race over and done with. If I managed to escape my predators at the USN Cup event the week before, this time around I was served on a platter.

We all have our good days and our bad days but what matters more is what we make of it so I am doing my best to see the positive lessons learned from a less than ideal outcome.

Swiss star Esther Süss went on the take victory at the first round of the Ashburton National MTB series while Ariane Kleinhans and Robyn de Groot completed the podium in 2nd and 3rd place respectively.

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Photo courtesy of SnapSport Media