This same time last year we went road tripping with Team RSAWEB up to Bloemfontein, I decided I liked the race and organized the same trip for the Aurecon Boys. Along for the ride were the two Jacques van Zyl’s and JP Jacobs and myself as designated driver. As last minute entrants we managed to squeeze in some comedy for the duration of the trip in the form of Carl Pasio and Edward Greene, which also brought back that road trip nostalgia.
We hit the road on Friday evening and made a lot of pickup stops to collect all the riders, pack bikes and get fuel and food, but eventually arrived to overnight in Beaufort West in some neat accomodation. We set out fairly early the next day and made it into a windy Bloem by late morning. We registered on arrival and got a bite for lunch then made our way to our guest house.
We wanted to scout the route for the race and get kitted up only to walk out into a thunderstorm, we undressed and waited it out and it cleared faster than we thought. We got on our bikes and headed into the maze that is Bloem – I have never been so lost in a town in all my life and I couldn’t get any sense of direction, nevertheless we found the route and rode the climbs to see what was in store for tomorrow. We got aught in another storm and sheltered under a garage roof to wait it out again. Eventually we made it back home and got cleaned up for dinner. I had left nothing to chance this time round and booked way in advance with Primi Piatti for dinner at 6:30pm. We found some other Cape Town teams had also traveled up and invited them to join our table. Sure enough the food was fast and plentiful, the service was spot on and we were fed and ready for the next day. We hit the hay early and had a long day ahead.
The race itself started at 6am, the sun was up and we rode to the start, again getting lost and warming up a few more km before latching onto a local for directions. In the start chute it was evident that we were going to be well marked, we got interviewed on the microphone and couldn’t play the underdog. it showed in the racing too as all the teams looked to us to make the racing. The start was painfully slow, even though we took a wrong turn in the race off the start and had a two man breakaway to chase, Jacques Caledon pretty much reeled them in on his own, then it just died… so much so I thought the vets would catch us…
I had decided to race for JP, so I attacked, and sure enough I was soon chased by an arrowhead of riders, some trying to cross and help and some just to reel me in. I carried on with a few more, gaining some ground and taking a few allies but nothing substantial. We kept the pace high and rode the freeway sections until the tensed up for the three hills. The route twists and turns through the town and you need to be alert or you could be popped off the back. I tried a sly break 5km before the climbs which was shut down too and then I just sat, I towed JP though some of the known danger sections I had experienced before and positioned him well into the climbs.
Where the fireworks were supposed to begin, there was little more than a fizzle, JP rode away up the climb like it was a speed bump, at 20% it wasn’t but the rest of the field just went nowhere. I accelerated to entice more enthusiasm and ended up going over the climb in second place to JP, not really what I was expecting, so I tapped off and allowed the others to chase. What came was a half hearted chase that saw JP almost waiting for them to arrive and me following them back to him. I attacked as they closed and we’d halved the field. Now only 31 riders in the group and with all 4 Aurecon riders present I told the Van Zyl’s to keep the pace high so that the remaining bunch doesn’t return, it would be better to sprint in a weakened field without the hangers on, especially in this finish as it ended in a right hand turn with an island and could get messy. Soon enough they had disappeared and we entered the final 20km of the race.
I was gearing up for the sprint, but still some riders tried to breakaway, more by attrition than anything and a gap opened up over a roller on the N1 highway. I spotted some danger men including JC Jooste and Dimitri Le Roux that could drive it and I wanted a part of it. I went hard over the crest and down into the dip closing the gap in the tucked position and up the initial grades of the next roller, which turned out to be quite long. With the size and strength of the break now we were being hunted down by the other teams, I helped drive it but we were soon caught. JP in the meanwhile had had a free ride since the climbs and was feeling fresh, there was still a third of the climb to go and as we got caught, JP simply rolled away in a solo break that took confidence and big nuts as we still had 10km to go, and it was windy. It should suit a bigger chase, but he gained ground so rapidly that no-one could get across, and by the looks of things when he went were too tired to react in the least.
Soon he was a speck in the distance but the guys were organized into a chase, I didn’t think they were gaining though, and he was out of sight, off the freeway and heading on a slight decline home. I smiled. “He’s Gone” I said to JC and he looked at me knowingly. I just had to follow wheels now and finish as high as I could. I was dehydrating in the altitude and finished my FiT bottles early. It was cat and mouse into the final kays and I hopped from wheel to wheel.
In the end I launched early, 600m to go, I decided to try jump and hold a gap, the corner was sketchy and I didn’t want to end up crashing. It was too early and I got overtaken in the last 100m to finish 5th. The result of the day though was JP in a solo win by miles. Job done.