We decided to drive up to to Bloemfontein, not because we loved each others constant company, but because flights were ridiculously expensive to the lush brown capital of SA. We split the trip into two parts to minimise fatigue and stayed overnight in Beaufort West. The three of us, Ed, Jos and then drove the remainder of the way through to Bloem the next day. We arrived around lunch time and set off to find out hotel and get sorted for a training ride around town. The Hotel was in the …um…business end of town, and we kept our stay there to a minimum, although the rooms were perfectly fine. After our ride we set about a wild goose chase for some Future life cereal for Ed and Carl, while I played taxi. Once we decided bloem had never heard of such a thing nor staying open beyond 5pm on the weekend that thousands of hungry cyclists turn up we headed home for a shower and change and then out to dinner. I wont elaborate again but see below to see who came to the rescue.

The start was very early, 5:30 am and we could ride to the start area from our hotel to warm up, for got up at 4 so had plenty of time to doodle around once we got there. The weather was great and I expected a fairly uneventful day as it was pretty flat aside form the two back to back 14% grades that would attempt to kill me later.

From the gun the race was very fast, averaging well over 40kmph we cruised along mostly in the gutter at the will of MTN who clearly had early flights home. The constant gutter split the field and saw us all in the tail end… we moved through to the front and gave chase. i tried to keep my work to a minimum but eventually had to lend a hand in the pacemaking. We caught.

We sat in for a while until the next fast gutter and managed to get split off again as dead wheels ahead couldn’t hold the pace, this time a much longer chase was needed and when we got back there was a break away from the lead group and they had all sat up. We chased with some other teams but in the end we couldn’t do it all and sat up and let someone else do the work for a change. The gap grew.

The kays has ticked along very fast and now the bunch was easing up in anticipation of the double climbs at 75km, I rolled to near the front and hammered it as we hit the climb but my legs had nothing, I just went backwards. Edward gave me a shove or three and tired himself out in the process, I went over in touch but the second roller did more damage and the field had been shattered. The 3 man breakaway was now joined by 2 more as they caught up over the climbs and a group of 20 or so gave chase. It was Carl’s turn now to pull me over and we went over with the team cars and tail of the pack in sight. We hammered it so hard for ages and were closing the gap between us, but we could only manage so long. We caught and passed riders as they fell off the lead pack, now still in the gutter. Jos was up ahead after making the split. Carl and I couldn’t get back in. The pack turned into the final stretch and we were into a headwind.  We relented and slowed to a manageable pace to finish.

In the End Jos got 18th place in a tough bunch sprint, and I was still the 1st SV 30+ man home but they didn’t cater for my category here. It was great hard and fast racing and all adds to the teams experience. Learning each course through the year will bring better results each time we revisit.

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