Friday, 28 March 2014

Stage 4 - More hurt being dished out today.

The chopper over the riders with the Mountains in the background
Stage 5 was supposed to be an “easy” day.  88k’s and “only” 1850 metres of vertical climbing.  Should be a cinch I thought.  However like every stage, they are all different and the main problem today was that about half the distance of the stage was single track. 
The boys before the start before we started this morning
The issue with this is that there is nowhere to pass.  So with 1200 riders out on the course, if you get a bad start or are following some riders that don’t have good bike skills, you will lose time.  We had both problems today!
We got up at 5am and had breakfast in the kitchen in the little B&B we are staying in.  I knew from the moment I got up, I was going to struggle today.  The body just didn’t want to go.  Rusty got up, however he looked exhausted after his tough day yesterday which saw him have three IV drips to rehydrate in the medical tent.  He made the wise decision not to come to that start today, and he went back to bed.  David would drop by later in the morning to pick him up.  This meant that Damo was riding by himself, 
Damo at the pointy end of the field
which is allowed. Damo gets a finishers jersey, but Team Hampton is out of the race. We were encouraging him to give it a dig today to see how he could go against the world’s best mountain bikers.
Looking back, all the signs of a tough day were there for me. I didn’t eat enough breakfast, we were late leaving the hotel and late into the start chute. When we took off, I knew my body didn’t want to go to the limits it had been over the past 5 days.  This is going to be a long day.  Buzz seemed to have his legs back after a tough day yesterday.  Today, it was my turn to hurt.
Damo took off from the start and we didn’t see him again until the finish. We were  with the SXC  Racing guys, however with the bad start, we knew we were going to be slowed down by riders in front of us who were strong on the open road, but couldn’t ride technical single track.
Some of the local African riders in the race
It is funny what you see why you are absolutely on the limit for the first 30 minutes of the race.  Someone’s  seat  in the middle of the road, then 100 metres further on a rider standing by the side of the road with his bike minus one sans seat!  Then 300m up the road, his partner pulled over, earnestly looking back, searching the rushing pack of riders, wondering where his partner is.  That’s why you don’t leave your partner.  The first 10ks is hectic, riders yelling at each other in Afrikaans, French, Flemish, Yiddish, German, Italian, local African dialects, and me and Buzz going “yep” to each other in broad Aussie accents which is our sign to know that 
Team The Fixed Wheel leaving feedstation 3. Me in the rear
as per all day
we are near each other without wasting energy looking around. You can’t see a lot for the dust, however you hear the “zip,zip” of mountain bike tyres from two bikes touching each other, hoping that they don’t bring themselves or a whole lot of us down.  You might feel a hand on your hip while you are bombing downhill as another rider warns you that you are getting too close to him. 
Finally natural selection takes over and packs form on the road or trail.  We had the SXC Racing boys next to us in the group we were in and they seemed to be riding well.  They had done a lot of training to be competitive and were having a great time in the race.  We were about 13k into the stage and just about to hit the single trails when we were on a bumpy old farm track tearing down a hill, Brian on the front, Wayne behind him, then Buzz and then me.  We would have been doing 45k an hour and at the bottom of the hill 
Team Fixed Wheel after stage 5
there was a 90 degree left hander, when Brian had a front wheel washout and ended up in a pile of dust on the side of the road.  He was clutching his arm in the all too familiar hold of “I have just broken my collar bone”, the worry of every cyclist.  I don’t know whether they finished or not, however on the results they made it to at least checkpoint 3.  I hope he is ok and they are still in the race.
Rusty being the tourist!
We hit the first big climb, I knew I was feeling the effects of the last few days.  Buzz waited patiently for me, however I was groveling.  Let me tell you, there is no harder thing to do than keep pedaling up 25% gradients that go for 900 metres, when your body and your mind are screaming at you to stop.  You start sweating cold, a sheen of sweat all over your body, your mind can’t focus and you go into a tunnel vision mode.  You don’t talk, you don’t look at anything, you don’t think how far it is to go or how long you have to the finish, you just ride.  Little things like making the feedstation, seeing your brother at by the side of the trail taking 200 photos of you in the hurtbox, become little victory’s that you tick off.  You are stuffing yourself full of disgusting tasting “goo’s” that are instant carbs so you don’t bonk.  At the feedstations, you are like an animal, grabbing, sandwich’s, cake, apples, anything to take on food and get some energy.  I was stuffing cake and boiled potatoes into my rear jersey pockets then reaching into a blended sweaty mix 
And I ride with this guy???
somewhere down the track and putting it into my mouth.
We eventually reached the finish. It is pure elation to stop the hurt. Why do we do this? Maybe it is because of the contrast of the physical and mental states that you get in an endurance event like this.
Tomorrow is supposed to be another tough stage. Another transition stage from Greyton to the Elgin Valley.  A lot of the trails we ride tomorrow are the same that we did on the cold wet windy stage from the 2012 race (remember Johnny and Mark??)
I hope the body is switched back on, or else it is another long day.  110km and 2900m of climbing.
It's not all hurt. These girls do a great job helping riders after the race
Having said all of that we were only 5 minutes today off a top 10 masters finish and on the overall  masters we are 16th in Masters and 95th overall.  Damo did a 4 hour 14mins today which would have placed him 25th overall if he was in a team and 3rd in Masters!!!  Oh, and by the way, the first 30 teams here are professional.  Rusty hung onto his wheel for 3 days before imploding.  Well done to him.
Tomorrows another day………3 stages to go

Some of the media that go up the trails for those action photos on the back
of motorbikes

And they are off!!!

Me in a little pack grovelling....Buzz somewhere to the left of the picture

Main Street of Greyton - Looks a bit Euro

Strange Hairstyle, David and Rusty getting a coffee while we were out there

Thank F@#k that is over!

Discussing the days stage with Damo

When we couldnt find Rusty yesterday, the girl from the
electronic tracking system found him as he had the tracker in his back pocket

Refueling and restup straight after we finish

Our accomdation in Caledon. Walls and locked gates everywhere.
You have to be careful around this town

Rusty outside an old peoples home. Look at the bars!
Those barbs are sharp

Local fried chicken shop - looks appertising!

This is one of the river crossing we do in the race.

1 comment:

  1. awesome read MIke. How do you find the time and energy to keep a blog up?! Keep it coming, loving it. Brad