There has been a lot of actual racing omitted from my blog in recent months, while I’ve been keeping myself busy on the bike testing products and having fun recently a lot of my year went into the preparation for SA Champs. I sacrificed my road league season and supported fellow team rider JP Jacobs to win the title for our team. I cut time spent on the dirt drastically to avoid crash injury and I spent more time riding my road bike and training with power. I raced the Killarney season of criteriums and ended up 4th overall in a strong field but generally aimed to hit my peak later on in April.
The run in wasn’t without frustrations, and in the end my recon of the road race and TT routes hit me with a pinched nerve in my neck. It was mild during the WP TT, but I manged to push through to win the title again. Some rest and heavy medication later I was recovering and with the help of Body and Bike physio specialist Ronelle Rust I wasn’t off my bike long, and managed to limit the damage by riding the indoor trainer with a neck brace on.
By race day I was feeling good, nervous as usual, as tapering is a mentally challenging part of the sport where you always worry about form dropping, and tentatively ride to save the legs while keeping fitness. Its a delicate balance, but it plays with your mind big time. The day before my race was spent helping my other team mates in the higher age categories. The wind was gusting and variable direction as a storm brewed further south. I was hopeful of a medal on the course as the route profile suited me nicely, mostly flat or downhill and twisty too, I could try using my strengths to gain time.
The race started inside the front doors of the Kango caves near Oudtshoorn and ended in the town. a 28km flat out stretch. There were a few bumps to sap the speed and legs but it was a fast course. I took a gamble and fitted a 55T blade up front, the initial part of the course was steep and I could use the extra speed, but as it flattened out and opened up into the countryside near the town it would be difficult to turn.
My start went well and I hit my apexes in the early bends, I was holding 54km/h in the first few kays and still had and average of over 50km/h at 14km, after that the course flattened and the wind was coming from the side and a little head on slowing me down. Eventually my speed dropped and the final sector was brutally hard, speed was way down and it was just a case of limiting losses. I was lucky to not have any technical issues and my position was dialed in perfectly.
I came across the line perfectly spent and was announced to have had one of the quicker times, the defending champ was still behind me though and finished during my turn around, I figured he had me beat but i wanted to know the placings. A little disappointingly I checked the time keepers already knowing I wasn’t taking a jersey home.
I finished third, beaten by some extremely strong guys who were also specialists in this discipline, on the day I was at my best and was still beaten soundly, so I guess that’s as good as I was going to go… I was happy to be on the podium again though and a medal is still a fantastic achievement I’ll cherish.
The road race wasn’t my focus but I was in good shape and anything could happen. Luck was not on my side and the night before the race I felt sick. After lunch time I lost my appetite completely and could only force down 1 slice of pizza at dinner. My throat was on fire and my skin was sensitive, especially my spine. I went to bed early and took some painkillers for the nerve pain and to stop the flare in my tonsils.
By morning I was feeling OK to race and lined up on a frozen karoo morning. The early roads were flat and I used them to warm up not expecting any moves but sure enough at 10km in JC Jooste broke and Jacques Van Zyl from my team covered him, they opened 15seconds, turned the corner and opened more. On the climb they had 1 minute and it hovered there for a long time. We only caught them at 67km and I had managed to miss all turns on front, but i was taking shots. I could feel I was lacking any sort of endurance at high power and was getting dropped. On lap one the three climbs saw me off the back, but still connected, the second time round we were all together and JP hit the NOS button ejecting me from the peloton. I ground away knowing the long descent following the climbs would allow me to catch up. Eventually I did and sat back in. The TT winner launched an attack and I followed but nothing was getting any time now that everyone knew it took a long time to bring anyone back, the sprint was imminent.
JP was tired after attacking on the climbs and but he had one last go, perfectly timed from 8km out, there was a small rise and he blasted off the front while the other guys looked around for a pursuant. None came and the gap grew to 25 seconds. The chase came and teams worked hard to bring him back but not fast enough and he was still away in the final km. In the lead-up the pace ramped up and I was feeling the effects, I was without a lead out man as one team mate was spent in the break and had been dropped on the way in, and one was still up the road. I got caught on the wrong sire of the road and tried to follow a wheel while dodging potholes. It didn’t go well and I was forced out into the wind way too early. I faded as we caught JP going backwards at 100m to go, a valiant effort that would be close but no cigar. I crossed the line around tenth place.
Not long after the flu symptoms resurfaced and explained my lack of any top end power ,the drive home wasn’t pleasant and neither was the effects of the e-coli virus for days thereafter.
It was a great campaign for the team though, with 6 bronze medals and 1 gold amongst 5 riders.