Monday, 26 March 2012

The Prologue-And we're away

Daybreak over the carpark at the Prologue

 Buzz and I were up early....4.50am. Today was the big day. The prologue.  The format is that each of the 600 teams does a 27km time trial, leaving at 20 second intervals. The first team of the day left at 6.45am and the last at 11.30am.

We had already arranged Breakfast at the hotel. Cereal, Yoghurt, Fruit, Bacon, Eggs, Toast, and a cup of tea to wash it all down.  It was going to be a big day so we needed all the energy we could muster.   We met Johnny and Mark at 6am and packed the cars. We were sorry to leave the 5 star luxury of the Bay hotel, and the accomodation tonight would be the Robertson Orphanage dormatory with shared facilites, so a bit of change in the accomodation!!

setting up the bikes for the race
Riders head down from the start ramp
We got the the course at Meerendal Winery around 7am. The first riders were already out on the course. I was having trouble with my front derailluer, so first job of the day was to get the mechanics to sort it out.  Job done, Buzz and i got changed, filled our bottles and packed our "goo" (which are 100gram shots of caffine and carbohydrate in a sticky sugary mix) and had a warm up ride.  The plan for the day was to make the A/B start for the first stage tomorrow. Todays result in the prologue determined if you started in groups A to H.  We thought we needed to ride quicker than a 1hr 40 mins to make the group.  As the race only really starts tomorrow, a couple of minutes wasnt going to make much difference. 
Mark and Johnny, Team Weatherzone
head out on the course

This is what we will be racing over tomorrow
We watched Johnny and Mark leave the start, about 40mins before us.  Before long it was our time.  We climbed the ladder to the start shoot where the offical starter starts each team with a 5,4,3,2,1 go and the riders ride down the ramp like you see in the Tour de France.  As we stood on the start ramp, I couldnt believe 2 years of planning was coming to fruition. All I wanted now was a good safe race with no mechanicals.  We rolled out and the adrenalin was pumping. We passed the 2 teams that had left immediately before us in the first 500m.  Buzz called me to back off a bit.  He was right. It is a long race.  We were riding well and I felt strong, however we were getting held up by slower teams in front of us.  We were riding smoothly and were one of the fastest groups on the course to date.  They were doing split times on the internet, as well as showing the prologue live on Sth African TV.  TV cameras, crowds yelling as we climbed hills, Helicopters overhead, it was all very exciting.  We settled into our rythm and picked off the groups in front. No one caught us from behind, so we backed off a bit, safe in knowing we would be in teh A/B group providing we didnt have a fall or mechanical in the last 10k.  The day was getting hot. It was around 35c by lunchtime, so we kept the fluids up and pressed on.  With 800 very steep metres to go, all of a sudden my left crank and pedal fell off!  I jumped off the bike and without thinking started running with the bike up the trial to the finish. 

This is what I had to run up!!!. You can
just see the finishing arch at the top
Buzz came next to me a grabbed the bike, taking the load from me. I ran behind him riding one bike and pulling the other. It isnt easy running up a rocky dusty hill in Mountain bike shoes. I could feel the blisters forming on the backs of my feet as my riding shoes rubbed. This isnt going to be good I thought.  We managed not to lose too much time, and crossed the line in 1hr 40mins, which gets us the start in the first group tomorrow which was our objective. Johnny and Mark from team Weatherzone also had a good ride and came in 4 mins behind our time, but they also made the first group. 
This is what happened to me!!!!

I then had to ride back off the hill with no crank, not an easy feat!  Luckily most of the riders have their own mechanics, and we also had a our own mechanic, courtesy of Christelle, who arranged it for us.  I dont know what anyone else who is not riding this race does if their bike breaks down this week, as every bike mechanic in South Africa is working at this race. 

The Mechanics work all night
if required

After we got back to the start area and got the bike to the mechanic, we started what will become a ritual for the next week....refuelling.  We will  not be able to eat enough, so one benefit of doing an event like this is you can eat as much as you want, as often as you want!  We had milkshakes and egg sandwhichs, along with muffins and bananas immediately after the race. We then stopped as we drove to where we are now, a wine town called Robertson, 140k from Meerandal, and had more to eat, including hot cross buns.  We then had a couple of meat pies when we got to where we stayed as well as a full dinner and desert after.

Buzz at the huge tent city
We then spent the rest of the afternoon getting ready for tomorrow stage.  It takes a couple of hours to redo all our food that we take on the bike as well as get our kit and spares ready.  We will be up around 4.30 in the morning so we have time to shower and eat another huge breakfast before being on the start line at 6.30am for a 119k smashfest!!  It is going to be 35c so it will be a very tough day in the saddle.

1 comment:

  1. Epic analysis - keep the posts coming Mike. Good luck for tomorrow's stage!