Summer leagues 1st event is a much feared affair. 8 climbs and 1245m of climbing in only 85km with a hilltop finish, this is definitely one for the gravitationally defiant. This does not describe me.
The weather was superb, a slight NW would hold up the climbers in the hard bits for me and I looked forward to the prospect of hanging it out later on. The bunch was big so there would be plenty of place to hide and a decent long string of wheels for me to let slide on the climbs and still go over in the pack, I’d start each hill near the front and then just ride my own pace as riders passed me, then blitz the downhills and reposition for the next one.
The group was skittish at the start, I was far back in the pack with Rob Q after an emergency warm up rear wheel change, I couldn’t move forward very much before Boyes Drive, and once we were on it there was no room to move either. I didn’t like to be that far back, especially on the brakes in the narrow descent… after safely negotiating the back markers on Boyes I settled in on the way to Black Hill, Rob Q had slipped off the front with a few guys and I could sit on the front easy. Once on Black Hill the prevailing wind held up the front and our bunch tempo’ed nicely over the top, again I hit the gas on the way down with Maties on front who had missed the move. They were clearly from outta town as they went straight through the 4 way stop at the bottom while the rest of us turned left! We sat up and waited for them to re-organise and when they did we sat in while they took turns and by Ocean View there were only two out of eight guys left.
I hit Slangkop on the front and chose to sit my own pace early rather than follow attacks, this paid off later as I still went over in the tail and set about the flat section at misty cliffs. The early break had been caught and a new one had formed, we had some team mates in there too so, I could relax relatively on the uphill drag to the Red Hill triangle.
Once that was over the hard work for me began, I had taken some strain on the fast ascent but I quickly got into the big blade and worked forwards, I closed the gap for our bunch and rejoined my team mates on the front of the 2nd pack, the task was to take Carl up to the break or close the break down to make sure we had Carl up there. I hit the front and buried myself, topping 50-60kmph and closing. I could hold it for a km or so then let some guys roll through and I rested a little before resuming. Carl tried to bridge the gap but misjudged it and was soon brought back, we kept the tempo high and once I was reduced to a small pile of rubble the lighter RSAWEB boys took over and ground out the pace on the uphill parts I was less effective on 🙂 I sat in the rest of the way and also on the descent of Smitswinkel. We had caught the break successfully and I rested until my 2nd task for the day would have me crushed again.
The pace was quick all the way through to Simonstown and I was surprised at how easy the two hills that I normally fear (at Millar’s Point, and the golf course) were conquered, I felt good again and moved up the ranks collecting Carl on the way, I also picked up Ed, but he was boxed in and he couldn’t follow too closely. Rob and I kept a very high Tempo on the front which made it difficult for any teams to intervene. The plan was to deliver two climbers to the base of the Maritime hill, fresh and in the top 5, and also with their pick of line going in because of the potholes. With 1km to go I was burning up, Rob and Peter were too, I tried to ride a little out of the slipstream to take up more road and looked back for our climbers, who were sitting pretty. It couldn’t have gone better, except for Ed who didn’t get a full tow in but still came past me on the first bend like I was looking for parking. Carl got in perfectly and Jos was in too.
Rob and I, took a breather and rode as widely as possible to firm the break. This hill hurts when you’re fresh, and I was killed. It took ages but I managed to go over with a nice sized bunch in the end that we could hold to the finish. I set the pace downhill again and all the way through Da Gama. Black hill was thankfully still into a headwind and some other soul had volunteered to pull us over. I pushed up the pace on the way down again and lead into Noordhoek, with a few guys rolling through, the miles went by nicely. The bunch was chirpy and conversational, happy not to be going guns blazing. We maintained this way almost all the way up Ou Kaapse Weg to the finish, where a Matie surged a bit and I followed, the gap grew and Rob and Peter came over to us. I was dead and couldn’t follow all the way but we’d taken some time from the rest and I felt happy about that. My legs were completely numb but this point and just as I went through the mats, my hamstring cramped! Perfect timing!
RSAWEB picked up 2nd and 4th overall in the end and it made my efforts worthwhile, we’re 2nd in the Team competition and things are looking good.