Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Stage 2....Rain, Mud and Mechanicals

To give you some idea of the mud....roughly 60k of todays race was this sort of conditions!
 The rain actually started about 9pm last night. It finished around 10:00am this morning.  I woke a couple of times during the night to hear the pounding of the rain on the roof. We probably had 25mm of rain. This is going to be ugly I thought to myself. Like the stage in 2012 when Johnny Miller and Mark Hardy got exposure due to the cold and wet.
Early 5;30 Breakfast before the big ride
Team Hampton in the start chute

We arrived at the camp around 5:30. Pouring rain. I also wasn't feeling too well and had cold sweats all night and also feeling very nauseous. I had the chills and wasn't relishing the thought of 5 hours riding in the mud and rain with a chill.

In getting dressed, I put 4 layers of clothes on. A thermal vest, ride shirt, ride jacket and lightweight raincoat. There was no way I was going to be cold.  The gun went off at 7 am and we took off.  From the first wheel  rotation, it was carnage.  The water was streaming across the unmade farm tracks that we rode for the first 10k’s.  A cocktail of red African mud, farm fertilizer and cow dung was sprayed into our faces, our eyes and by the end of the race, into every opening on the body (and I mean everyone!!).  As I had contact lenses in, it was even more difficult.  The lenses would get a swab of mud on them, and I couldn’t see a think.  Not a good sensation when you have a couple dozen riders around you, elbow to elbow at 40k an hour  in mud and puddles of brown water.
Give you an idea of the mud at one of the transition stations
I was closing one eye at a time, waiting for my eye to water up and clear the dirt from my lense, then alternating eyes.  Wheels were slipping and people were falling into the mud all around me.  Once again it took about 10k for the carnage to settle down and groups to form.  Buzz and I as well as Damo and Rusty along with the Manly SXC racing boys were altogether.  We came over a little rise over a hill and I lost concertation for a second and lost the last wheel of the group.  Now there is no feeling in cycling more lonely than being dropped and hanging just off the back and not able to get on.  In a rare error of communication, Buzz and I weren’t close to each other and he thought I was ahead of him.  The second worse feeling is when your teammate thinks that you are up the road and he starts chasing, and in reality I am 200m behind him chasing hard.  I stopped briefly to throw up my breakfast which made me feel a lot better and off I went.  After that I rode a lot stronger, so it may have been something I had eaten or drunken?
Not much to do when you are waiting for new brake pads - loosing time!!
It took me about 10k to catch him and we also caught the Hampton boys. Then disaster struck.  The mud had worn away Buzz’s breakpads and with the mud had fused them onto his rear wheel. He could only pedal with a huge effort.  We lost contact with Damo and Rusty, never to see them till the end. The SXC boys were also suffering with  mechanicals and punctures
Pretty grim conditions - and this wasnt the worse of it
We stopped at the first feed station, and Buzz got the mechanic to change his brake pads.  We lost about 25mins there, standing around, which is the last thing you want to do in a race like this. Time was ticking away. There goes our top 10 Masters result.  We took off again and had a good second section. Later David said we were closing on Damo and Rusty, however we then had a puncture in Buzz’s rear tyre, which resulted in a couple of stops to put air in it as we were only 4k to the next drink station and another 15mins wait while we fixed the tyre.
Damo and Rusty had a great result and came in 68th overall and 13th in Masters.  We were around 120th and 30th in Masters and the SXC boys about 30 seconds in front of us.  Without the mechanicals, we would have been about the same time as the Hampton boys, however that is the luck of the draw in a race like this. In fact, the pro team actually leading the race, had a cracked frame today and they rode with us as they nursed the frame to the finish.  Their chance of winning – gone.
One of the rules in the race is that you cannot get any outside assistance,  except your teammate.. Even handing someone your jacket or asking how far to go will land you a heft time penalty. So the pro’s cant change bikes like you see in the Tour De France.  You have to finish on the bike you started on
We were all covered from head to foot in mud. In some places the mud was 1cm thick.  Some people pay a lot for a mudpack at the beautician, but I can tell you my skin is glowing at the moment!!
Rusty is under all that mud
We showered at the pay showers at the race finish. The showers were caked in mud when I was finished.
I have never ridden in worse conditions than today.  It was much wetter than the 2012 stage, but not as cold. We were talking later and we estimated that around 60k of the 104k we rode today was in slippery 10cm mud that just sapped your energy and completely wrecked your bike.
Buzz was hurting over the last 10k today.  It is strange as that was me yesterday.  Shows we are a good team,  when you look out for each other.
Me and Buzz coming into waterpoint 3
Tomorrow is reported to me the hardest stage in this years race. This is going to be a killer then, as the 2 stages to date have been brutal!!
134k from Robertson to Greyton.  And yes, they are predicting rain in the morning.

You can tell they have done some work today

Hello....anyone home???

Buzz did it tough over the last 20k today - change of roles from yesterday

Team Fixed wheel cooling down and cleaning up

1 comment:

  1. Conditions look crazy! Great effort Team Fixed Wheel, keep it up.