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.