I have been looking forward to this series since we finished up the last round. It’s a great racing format and spectator friendly too, we just needed more competitors last year. It looks like the advertising and word of mouth has worked; we turned up to a pretty full car park despite the weather.
I was watching the forecast all week, this course at Zewenwacht Wine farm was round three last year and it was mucky, and muddy and treacherous – I binned it 5 times in 5 laps and still finished 2nd. This time round the weather was wet again all week, I hoped the course would at least drain OK. I was in for a treat though… the course was dry despite the rain coating the Cape. The course had changed with added singletracks and some nice new sections of jeep track, but included a beast of a climb in the first 2km.
The SV lineup was well supported with about 25 entrants including the vets. The wind was icy and we all froze on the start line waiting for the gun. my legs were dead cold as we hit the dirt, I was in about 5th position and 2 riders were off like a shot and already had a 30sec gap into the big climb. I shifted early and got the jump on the other guys to climb in third place. I recovered over the plateau and set about chasing the two riders in front. After the first singletrack section I could see them up ahead about still only half a minute away, but as I popped out the second track I could see I had made up time. I chipped away again in the third singletrack section which was more technical and made more time. Through the next plateau section and some smallish climbs I caught the 2nd placed rider and sat on his wheel a while to recover through the start finish and up the climbs which were into the wind, I could tell he wasn’t tuning as fast as I was and I gapped him on the plateau to put in some distance between us in the singletrack. The plan worked and I had some breathing room and could set about chasing the leader.
He was out climbing me, so I made an effort to climb steady and then push it in the tech bits, I rode loose but kept it as smooth as possible. I was gaining. I gauged my efforts and pulled back time on the flats as well, but the climbing was hurting. By the end of lap three I was on his wheel and hung on to rest a bit. He pulled a few seconds on the climb and I made them back in the singletrack but couldn’t pass. I followed him but made a few mistakes by not taking my own lines. He was still ahead when we hit the next succession of climbs and he pulled out a bit more. I made the time back and we were neck and neck going into lap 4 again, he only had 20 seconds on the top of the climb but I was at my limit and fading. I gave it everything but could not get back onto his wheel. I rode ragged in the singletrack with tired arms and lost time in my haste, so I settled back into a neater rhythm and recovered a bit.
On Lap 5 he was still ahead by less than half a minute, I had to stop and get a water bottle through the start finish, and felt my front skewer loosen on the steep climb so I stopped to tighten it. I knew he was gone and that I had a huge lead over third place. I slowed so as not to cramp, but kept up a decent pace in case he faltered or had a technical issue. Neither occurred and I came home in 2nd place overall.
I was pretty happy with that after worrying about my fitness with flu in the household and having ridden pretty hard the day before which I wouldn’t normally do for a premier event. This is a great series and I’ll support the rest, just a pity the next round overlaps with WP TT champs 😦