This is not my favourite race on the calendar, and for good reason. It’s a very hilly race with little time for recuperation and usually means a lot of time spent chasing, and then going backwards on the climbs again. It’s a climbers race and for me to have any chance at all I’d have to wear them down on any flats and then still spend a lot of time in the red on the hills, it’s a tough task.
Thankfully the wind was up again and in my favour. The start from Reddam House was easy paced and we all got up onto Boyes drive without a hitch, I placed myself well on the longer slope to go over in good contact and I started hitting as we crested. I accelerated on the descent and had a few chasers. The twisty roads and sharp corners suit me and I had a small gap going down to the main road. I didn’t force the pace and the group came back together.
Up black hill 1 the prevailing NW wind was a headwind, and this was good news for me as it held up the climbers and I could sit in and go over without too much trouble. On the way down I hit again, opening a small gap and taking more meters through the 90 degree turn at the traffic lights. A few riders had come with me and we drove a small break for a km or two while the rest played catchup. The headwind was still in effect so I didn’t waste too much energy here, but kept the pressure on if they went to sleep. Slangkop was coming up and the bunch caught their breath.
Up Slangkop around Kommetjie lighthouse the headwind turned and the climbers piled on the pressure. The bunch drew out and a long line of riders filtered up and over. I managed to stay in contact going over in the tail and set about moving up the bunch on the rough and chattery shallow descent into Witsand. I had made my way to the front by the intersection and hit immediately taking Warren away with me. We drove off the front and didn’t allow any rest to the others either. As we toyed off the front, I was fishing for any other riders to join us and work away, but the chase was on and the whole bunch came after us. I sat up.
Perfectly timed, Steve and Robby hit immediately, the bunch had just heaved a sigh of relief and they came flying past me and Warren over 10kmph faster than us. The split opened and they rode hard to keep going away. Warren and I slowed the pace and waited for the other teams to take up the responsibility of bringing them back.
Eventually Cape Storm tried in ones and two’s and Anderson lent a hand. This was ideal as they could take all the wind for the rest of us in the long uphill drag to Smitswinkel. The rest of Team Aurecon sat in, while the work got done. Eventually chasing turned to attacking and the break was brought back under the extra pace injections of the constant darting off the front. Once Steve and Robby were back in the fray I began attacking again myself, going just before the crest with Pieter Calitz. We descended with speed, in gusting winds that now turned into tail winds, again I wasn’t going flat out, but testing the waters. We regrouped, Warren hit, I went with him but the speeds were too high to get away. So we cruised along until the next rise in the road at the Black Marlin. Marius Nel jumped away and rode away solo as no-one put in a chase. I rested as I knew I would need to work hard to get Clive into the brutal navy climb in a good place.
The elbow rubbing started at the Simonstown golf course. Anderson took control and I laid in wait, Clive was already on my wheel, Steve was also well placed behind him making room. The pace from Anderson slowed as we entered Simonstown central and I took over the pace making so we didn’t get swallowed up again. On the far end of town the battle reheated and we rode in a parallel pace line tot he climb’s base. It was quite a distance far a leadout and I was happy to have Steven lend a hand with the pace making. Clive was doing a great job of holding my wheel and I took him to the inside curb as we entered the pothole strewn road. I made sure he knew the right line and sent him on his way.
I went backwards through the group and Steve dropped a chain. I rode as hard as I could with the legs I had left to try get into some sort of bunch for black hill. I went over the broken concreted climb on my own, but Steve was just ahead with another rider, and a small group ahead of them. I chased, and tucked in tight as I could to catch by aerodynamics rather than using up more energy. I managed to get back to Steve by the main road and turned left onto Black Hill 2 to begin the climb together.
We worked well together and Steve was out climbing me so he took the larger share of the work. We had four team mates up ahead in the main pack as the front split on the navy climb had merged. Over the top I was back in my element and lead the charge downhill and by the time we were through Sunvalley we were back in contact with the front guys and in time to rest into the headwind towards Noordhoek. The bunch was only 30 guys strong by now and I was hanging on for dear life, with two climbs to come I was not looking forward to the next section of tarmac either.
I started the ascent of Silvermine road that links into Ou Kaapse weg in contact for the most of it, but the steeper last section was the deal breaker as the climbers launched their end-game. I faded back and gritted my teeth for the final 3km of Ou Kaapse weg to the hill top finish. Anderson had two riders in contention with JP and John climbing well, Clive was on the gas too and gave chase, but Raynard Tissink had snuck away and was being closed down by John, who caught him in the end for the Win, followed closely by JP and then Clive. I crawled home in pieces in 18th, disappointed that I couldn’t climb better but happy considering the shape I am in.