OK… so I am little (lot) behind in my blogging and will do some catching up over the next few days! Firstly a small matter of the Tour De Boland 🙂
I ended off the league on an unhealthy note, with sciatic pain in my right glute and very little training time as a result, my form tapered off very sharply in the three weeks I suffered with it. I eventually consulted with Ronelle Rust from Body and Bike, and she treated me with a technique called dry needling. Two visits was all it took.
That said, I was not in the form of my life for the tour and the miles were going to hurt. Lots of climbing each day, and every SA Pro Team and a German international team was entered.
Day One 135km
This should be the easiest day but Bain’s Kloof pass only 20km into the race would certainly change my day. We hit the climb together but I was soon left gasping for air in the trail behind the pro team onslaught, 30kmph on the steep sections and over 45kmph on the top false flats left me loads of work to do. I found a smallish group to work with and we set about climbing together. Once we’d crested there was not even a convoy in sight, we rode hard on the descent but still could not see anyone ahead. We regrouped and caught some other dropped riders to form a decent gruppetto. we had about 90km to ride alone and set about it working hard. There was a headwind that turned into a nasty crosswind after the Nuwekloof pass. We took the pace down a notch with about 30km to go and tempo’ed in together. This was still a hard day in the saddle.
Day Two 146km
Two passes included on this day so climbing to start and climbing to finish, we headed straight out of Paarl and up Du Toits Kloof after just 5km of warm up. I was struggling with two things, my legs were not responding well after day one, and my contact lens was giving me grief in my right eye and needed to be removed, I had heat rub on my hands and this went into my eye. Eventually the team car arrived and my wife helped me out. I was already solidly dropped and set about a rhythm in chase. I caught a few riders and the group was looking very familiar to day one!
Over the top we hooked it down but were about 1km off the convoy. We took turns working flat out in chase. the headwind wasn’t helping us much, and we could still see the peloton. We churned out km after km and then hit Worcester and turned left, now with the wind we worked with renewed vigour and the pack got closer, we caught a glimpse of catching and worked even harder. My fear was that we’d catch only to get dropped again over the back of Bains Kloof, but it turned out worse. We caught the peloton, but going through the car convoy we got blocked by a team car that was attending to a puncture, the peloton soon departed and back into the headwind we could not re-catch them, or even hold onto the car convoy. The hard work had now taken it’s toll too and I could not even stay with our chase group, but halfway up I was alone and also out of water. I got a 500ml bottle of water from the policeman shadowing me like a vulture and pressed on. I tried to catch on the descent but didn’t get close enough.
I rode the last 35km alone and dehydrating, mentally drained and having internal arguments about stopping. I carried on, losing more time on the day and also losing 7 minutes to my grupetto. I was still in the race though having made the cut off time!
Day Three 135km
This was supposed to be a 175km stage, but there was a fire on Bains Kloof which meant the route needed changing at very late notice (actually 15km into the race already) we stopped the race, changed plans and set off again towards Franschoek pass. This is a beast of a 7km Climb and I knew that I’d get shelled again.
I found my same group of merry chasing men again and set about the day. We had a headwind out to Villiersdorp and then a turnaround point and back again over the same route. After the turn we were caught by the Cat2 leaders and we had some encouragement to up the pace. We sat with them all the way home so it was nice to have some racing and more company. Franschoek Pass is a beautiful climb both ways, but not with sweat pouting into your eyes. More miles though so I was happy to just be on the bike.
This was revolutionary stage for South African Road racing – 4 km gravel pass per lap included in a criterium stage of 5 laps of 8km.
Coming from a MTB background I was actually looking forward to this, but after riding the course in a warm up lap my hopes were quickly dissolved. There was so much climbing in the gravel that in my current form I would be useless. Nonetheless I rode as hard as I could, and took solace in the fact that only half the field started this stage and half of those pulled out after lap one. I rode three laps before getting swept form the course and I watched as Darren Lill destroyed the field to win overall.
Overall i had a positive experience and benefited hugely form the miles I could get in during the week, next up Argus Cycle Tour