Finally an event on my home turf and I could get to ride, I would have liked to enter the Ultra for the miles and challenge, but the 75km event forms part of the WP XCM series for which colours are awarded. I entered the 75 and decided to chase some more stripes 🙂

There was some bad weather during the weeks lead-up and talk of mud on the route was disheartening, I left my Mud tires (Specialized Fastraks) fitted but in reality there was almost no mud at all and the renegades would have been a faster option. The weather was crisp and clear and pretty cold to warm up in, but as the sun rode so did the mercury and a leisurely 8:15 start was plenty to get things toasty enough to ride in summer gear only.

Out of the blocks the climbs began and didn’t let up until the 10km mark. My lungs were burning and I spun as much as I could to stay with the front group. I managed to hang on until about 700m to go to the KOM point when the elastic snapped and I tapered off the back. I didn’t lose too much ground and stayed around 14-15th position. Fellow Team RSAWEB rider Rob Q had come along  to support my quest and assist me where he could. He was climbing like a demon and cleared off with the top 5. I set about a chase downhill and the windy singletracks suited me, there were a few humps and ruts and I hoped that would slow some front runners. I caught and passed 2 guys and then caught Rob. His spoke had snapped under his immense engine torque and I could hear it flapping through the chainstays. I alerted him and swung by still chasing the front pack.

I began the next series of climbs and Rob had made his repair and steamed back up to me on the flats and put the hurt back into my chase. I held on for all I could, only limiting myself when I knew I would catch him in the singletracks. He’d pop over before me and take a head start and I’d enjoy coming to fetch him down the tricky stuff. So it went just the two of us, reeling in the ladies that had a head start on us and demolishing Ultra distance competitors on the flats and rollers. We cruised until the 45km mark where Rob’s legs decided to put on the brakes. He was cramping and riding through it, I offered up some drink and my FiT antilac tabs. We took the pace down a notch and I took some time to try rectify my front derailer. It had overshifted and twisted the whole contraption and rotated on the frame clamping band,the carbon band has a really low torque and moves but only forwards under severe stress. I’d been trying to kick it back for about 10km (of annoying chainrub) but now stopped to give it more attention. Eventually twisting it back with my hands.

Finally I had a semi-silent drivetrain, but now we were being caught from behind at our new pace. Rob couldn’t up the pace and urged me to go ahead.  I rode a quicker tempo but stalled for Tim Osrin who would catch me anyway. I pressed a little every now and then to test his legs – They were no better than mine, I thought I had some advantage and it showed on the inclines. I planned to ride with him and team up on the flats, but on my enthusiastic downhilling over some rutty jeep track my chain derailed again and sent my front derailer into a 30 degree angle, worse than ever.

More kicking ensued, I was very annoyed but I would have to stop. I pulled over on a flat section and tried to leave enough time to catch Tim. The bolt was concealed, I had a tiny multi tool and bottle cages were in the way, I could only move it 1/8th turn at a time which made my repair painfully slow, and I overcompensated to make issues worse, but I couldn’t waste more time and rode it like that the rest of the way. Tim now had a 3 minute lead and Rob overtook me. I rejoined the race and retook Rob and set after Tim I was closing but not fast enough, I was making mistakes too and misjudged one or two singletrack corners wasting more time remounting. I never caught him.

My legs were feeling decent and were coming into their own again during my chase, I stopped for water and took a Supergoo, and just ground out a steady pace. Surprisingly I caught and passed a stranded Neil Bradford suffering with cramps. Then even more surprisingly I could spot a Contego rider, who turned out to be Louis Bresler Knipe. He looked broken and must had blown. The last 5km were a joy and thankfully down hill,  I caught and passed him and pulled away with relative ease to come home in 11th place and 6th in the SV competition. I’ll take the series points for now and gear up for the last two events.

Kudos to the organisers for a stunning yet testing route with something for everyone!

Gravel Travelling