Or should I say suffer fest? The details were simple, ride from Durbanville about 130km to Ceres and stay overnight, then ride home. No problem. I completely underestimated this ride and suffered worse than I have ever in my life on a bicycle. A series of events stacked up against me and hurt me bad…
On Monday afternoon I had picked up my new team bike frame, the Swift Carbon R838ISP. The frame looked awesome and I couldn’t wait to start building it. I set about work and had got an hour deep when I realised I didn’t have the BB30 bearing circlips. Damn… so I just measured up and rebuilt the SL3 to spin the next morning. On Tuesday morning I discovered the missing clips in a box at my desk…maybe luckily I forgot them as the frame I got was mistakenly supplied as a 56, and I needed a 54cm. Off the collect the next frame and planned a build for the evening. I had the trim the seatmast again so it took a bit longer than I would have liked, but things went on without a hitch and pretty soon it was taking shape. By the time I got to a test ride it was already 9:30pm and I was hitting the road with the team then next day. I packed up and hurried around the house packing for the next day and still had to take a shower. It got late…and I made a costly rookie error. No dinner.
I woke at 5am and packed up the remainder of stuff I needed and had breakfast, packed the car and got the girls up to drop me off in Durbanville by 6:45am.
I met the team and chatted about the route and we set off just after 7. Two hours later we hit Bain’s Kloof Pass. It was already blistering hot, and as we stopped for a puncture, I felt feint, sweat sheeted from my arms and legs and my heart rate was through the roof. We set off again and I struggled to get going, and then I popped not even 1 km up the road. That missing dinner would haunt me for 70km. The team soon disappeared from sight and I crawled uphill. I climbed for what seemed like ages but thankfully could use the big blade on the flatter top section and got back to the team waiting on the top corner. I was desperate for coke, but no shop on top, just a bottle of water. I ate both bars I had. I could feel my legs were wasted on the descent, no power at all. In my state even a car half in my lane around a bend seemed negligible.
On the flats to Ceres we had a tailwind but the false flats and team tempo of 35kmph took it out of me, I could just hang on, it was baking now and dry. We searched for an oasis, which only came at 93km. We cooledoff in a sprinkler while the 13 cokes I ordered arrived. I drank three and filled my bottle with half coke and half water. I was desperate for carbs, but I was already down the hole and there was no coming back. We set off to Ceres over the 4km pass. I fell off the bunch at the first sign of a climb and ground out the gradient as best I could. The team waited in Ceres.
20km of flats and rollers and 15km of climb awaited. I cringed at the prospect. The rollers took long and I suffered through every pedal stroke. I held on until the turnoff and then I told the team to head up the climb without me. They could summit and collect my in the team car later. My coke was now nearly boiling hot and I soon finished it. I was brought down to 9km per hour. I could only ride for 2km at a time and had to stop. There was no shade, and no wind and temps rose to 52 degrees. I kept on… the carbon tops of my handlebars were too hot to hold and I was too weak to hold on in the drops, it was a struggle to hold up my upper body at all. I was desperate and hoped for a car to collect me but nothing for over 30 minutes. Then a bakkie came up the road and I got him to pull over. He drove me 4km up the climb and I was thankful for a brief moment with air conditioning. He had to turn off so I jumped out and began the last 8km, it was a little easier going with some flats and downhills and it was cooler on top. I reached some trees finally and had to stop again. I rested a while then got back on my bike, 500m later a sign saying 1.5km to go was a godsend. I met Rob at the gate and he poured me a cold coke. I headed down to the Chalet. This is the worst I have ever felt on a bike. I hope I never go to that dark place again!
I set about recovery immediately, we talked some trash and discussed tactics. We went cherry picking and I ate straight from the tree. It was still super hot and we couldn’t swim in the dam because of baby leaches in the mud. Rob Q made us a dinner and everyone chipped in. All I could think and worry about was the state my legs would be in the next day.
We set off earlier to beat the heat at 6am, this was the downhill run, with yesterday being mostly climbing to altitude. 20km of descent was a good start for me and we raced each other downhill. Gravity likes me the most and I soon slipped away… but slowed to stay with the team. We averaged 40kmph for a good while, all the way out of Ceres and to the base of Bain’s Kloof. My legs felt better and I rode on the front for a while for the 1st time since bonking the day before. We rode steady initially and then when the gradient kicked the climbers set about punishing me again. I held onto Rob and Jos until 3/4 way up and then tapered off. The legs were beginning to crumble again at. We descended, again with me on front down the bumpy rooty surface into Wellington where we stopped for drinks and ice.
We were making good time and this way was 1 hour faster than the up leg. Out of Wellington we made a pace line and everyone took turns breaking me in half. It felt like I was in the gutter again in the Burger and the legs burned until they fizzled out in a pile of ash. I now had to chase and suffer again for 30km. The grill button had been pressed again and there was a headwind….awesome.
We called a truce in the last 10km (thank heavens) and we sat at a decent conversational pace for the rest of the ride.
130km each way and around 300m of climbing in total. 9 Hours of ride time and some record temperatures. Overall I can only take away one thing. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
This was also a shakedown test for the new team bike. The bike never faultered, it is very stable at speed and I’m happy with the stiffness. With my build it should comfortably be on the UCI limit. It looks the business too.