The essence of this UCI World Cycling Tour event for those that do not know, is for amateur cyclists over 30 years old to compete against their own age category riders in order to qualify to race in the UWCT (Masters) World Championship. Ages are split in 5 year intervals up to 75 and I fall into the 30-34 age group. Qualification would mean that I would then race in the final event (there are various similar qualifiers worldwide for other countries) to be staged again in South Africa. Although anyone could enter and qualify in another country.
I entered both the Time Trial and the Road Race. (Road Race Update Below)
Since I had no TT bike I converted my aero road bike for the job, with Zipp clip on TT bars and my trusty 404 firecrests. I slid the saddle forwards and mounted a shorter stem to bring the reach back enough. No revolution there. I had my Giro TT helmet still and I got hold of a skinsuit.
Rob Quinn and I flew up to Durban early Friday morning to make sure we have enough time to pre-ride the course. It was a bit rough, winding and certainly not flat. The advertised 34m of climbing swelled to 250m and the amount of potholes and debris meant choosing a line was going to be crucial. Our homework paid off, and we arrived on race day well prepared and managed to ride the route one more time on race day, this time without the afternoon breeze. It made a difference.
I was off third last, with Quinn two minutes back. I went out easy and I tried to make sure I didn’t fill up with lactic acid too early and burn the entire time. Time trialling is like walking over hot coals, whoever can walk the furthest wins. The early part of the course was flattish, and relatively smooth, slightly downhill to start, then the turnaround was a sketchy gravel corner, then back up to speed but not too hard on the rise, it was false flat back to the 1st left turn, tempting to go too hard again. I concentrated on staying aero and conserving energy.
The next section was technical, some bumpy sharp corners, short rises and included a long drag uphill, again I had to trade speed and try push hard but not overly so, I kept myself in check with my Quarq powermeter. I shot under the bridge, missing the dimly lit potholes and onto the last climb of the this sector. I could give it stick here as there was along recovery area to follow. I cornered well over the ruts and speed bumps and out onto the smoothest part of the circuit. I was begging for a 54 blade that I could not source anywhere in Cape Town at the last minute over this highway section. It was open and fast and had a tailwind. I rolled easy conserving energy and using alternate muscle groups. The joy ends with a slight rise into Camperdown which was way shallower at full speed, another kicker slows you down but again there was sufficient recovery to follow so I kept my speed up at the expense of energy.
I was in the last sector now and it was just a case of holding on, putting out everything I could. The final 4km contained the biggest climb, it stung and it sapped speed which is very disheartening to see when speed is all you care about, it dragged on seemingly forever and then the flat on top felt much longer too… time stood still as I ground the pedals begging for the finish line, the last km was false flat again and almost a headwind. I held my power and just watched the watts finally the route broke into a downhill sweep to the line and I felt relief crossing the line in 40:28.
I didn’t time it, but I peered back down the finish area waiting for the danger men behind me. Agonisingly the proceedings took forever to get times out, but once I’d seen my name on the top of the list I was elated, relieved and happy. The pain was worth every second, I had won gold and will represent my country at the UWCT final. I’d also posted the third fastest time overall of the day, and the fastest on a road bike.
Now I need a full TT setup again, complete with disk, some time on the bike fine tuning my position and I’ll go even faster. Watch this space.
The Road Race:
After the elation of the TT I didnt really mind what happened in the road race, we drove the rent-a-racer around the course and the more I saw the less I wanted to see. It was a brutal course of huge rolling hills with little flat and wide open spaces for the wind to hit you. What made it worse was it started with a big 7km climb and finished over the same in reverse. Ouch.
My legs felt pretty good but the TT effort had clearly taken the sting out of them, I had big ITB problems off the bike, but on the bike I wasn’t in any pain. The race was 126km long and thankfully the bunch respected this stat and took the first climb pretty mildly, I was still at 95% HR but I wasn’t built to go up hills. The bunch rolled over with Cobbett off the front in a ballsy move that saw him away the whole day.
The bunch remained together but climb after climb was taking its silent toll as I rolled up on front and slide backwards each time. This was the ploy and it was working until 48km in when DGarrett launched on a long roller, the last of the big ones on the way out. I kicked but i was out of luck and there was nothing left in my legs to up the pace, I maintained my speed in the hope they would fade and i would catch up, but there was no help, the attack shattered the bunch and I could not claw my way back through the field.
I rolled up the Chris Botha and Luke Hardiman, two strongmen that could help my efforts in chasing and I towed them up the hill in the wind, shetlering them so they could recover and help. We picked up a few more survivors and worked feverishly to regain the next group ahead. The crosswinds were not helping us, and to make matters worse the roads were rough, it was hot and dry. I gritted my teeth and kept pressing forwards. We were slowly catching up and this encouraged me to drive harder, even though the rest of the bunch had all but given up. Eventually we caught up, after a solid 15km of chasing.
The bunch was the second group chasing the split ahead, the time gap was significant and no-one was interested in chasing. We all rode in the gutter. From here on it was a long haul, we still had a huge roller to conquer and then it was a great section of downhill. We drove through the climb but crack were developing, I fought off cramps and ate and drank all I could. The other guys were suffering too. Rob Quinn had shot off earlier and rode solo for a good few kilometers, but eventually came back to the bunch.
As we neared the final climb riders took on last drinks and now with the wind, we baked in the heat of the day. On the early slopes the gradient was a bit steeper and riders that still had some energy attacked the bunch, the surges saw me dropped, but again I stuck it out in my TT style and clawed my way back in the big blade while they took turns hurting each other, thankfully I didnt have to deal with accelerations and the gradient was shallow enough for me to work alone. I caught up again nearing the final 2 kays of the hill and could hold a wheel and spin out of the wind. I fought off more cramps, but managed to hang on until the descent.
The downhill renewed my energy and the breeze helped cool me down, riders attacked one by one trying to force a gap, including me this time as going down hills is more my thing! It was all in vain as we cruised through the town section together and set up for a sprint. I knew my legs were not going to go round very fast and I tried to be smart about it, but in the end I got swallowed by the sprinters left with more punch.
I finished 13th in my age category, and 20th overall in the SV’s. As yet, I am still unsure if this is enough to qualify but I can only hope I get to ride again in the Worlds road race. I’m sure by then I will be leaner and meaner and can specifically train to suit the course.