Tuesday, March 31, 2015

First things first

There is a guy we often see riding up and down Camps bay drive dressed in full winter kit in the middle of summer, with seriously deep section yellow mag wheels on a road bike from the late 80's. Up and down he goes, racing everyone for an 100m burst. He will go against a granny on a MTB this way, turns around and races back against a neo-pro on his 150km tempo ride the other way. I think his name is Paul and his wheels remind us of bananas. We call him "Banana Paul." He is a legend.

There are a few premier MTB events on the South African calender every year and unless you are a sponsored rider, it is difficult to afford each and every one of them. Choosing which events to do, can be a challenge in itself...if you have entered anything longer than a 3-day stage race, then careful planning is required to use some events as a build up to those bigger ones. So at a social-competitive level (reads...think you are Julien Absalon but ride like banana Paul), one tends to use events as building blocks to bigger ones.

The Nedbank Sani2c is one of the premier 3-day MTB stage races in South Africa. In fact it is the largest. It draws its numbers from a week of three, 3-day events, namely the Trail, The Adventure and The Race. It caters for almost 4000 mountain bikers who ride in teams of two, from Underberg to Scottburgh via the most awesome manicured single track the Natal coastal region has to offer, including a 600m floating bridge and beach finish. It is seriously oversubscribed and the waiting list is lengthy. I was asked by a friend to team up with him this year and of course I gratefully accepted. We are roughly 7 weeks away and are eagerly training and preparing for it. We are both very excited.

So although the Wines2whales has been entered for October this year and the Cape Epic pegged for next year, we still have Sani2C to do in May. I will also do various other things that will pop up during the course of the year, Knysna MTB marathon, Karoo to Coast, Nissan Trailseeker series and various PPA events. But for now it is Sani2c...first things first.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Absa Cape-Epic 2016

On Monday 23rd March, one day after the finish of the 2015 Cape Epic, 100 out of 600 early bird entries were up for grabs precisely at 15h00 for the 2016 event. Those early bird entries sold out in nine seconds. Considering that an international bunch were sitting at their devices, waiting to press go and pay the R60k team entry fee, that's pretty impressive. Whats more impressive, is that I am one of them.

So as the fact that I am R60k in the red, butterflies at the prospect and the realisation that i'm "in" sets in, I have resolved to up my game and in the process, convinced myself that I have enough time to prepare...yeah right ha ha! Actually I am so happy and very lucky. This year I have entries for Sani2c and Wines2whales...two events that are premier cross country endurance mountain biking races. These aren't anywhere close to the scale of the Cape-Epic but are perfect for building up. I am 6 weeks away from Sani2c and the training is going well. With the Epic entry confirmed, motivation is at an all time high and to top it all, my Sani partner has just splashed out on a brand new carbon full-sus 29er. I am so stoked for him. There is nothing better than doing a premier event on a new bike!!

Meantime my efforts to encourage a regular bunch of guys to ride from Rhodes Memorial around Devils peak and back have been helped along by some committed regulars who are keen to ride in the mornings, despite the darker starts. We leave at 6:30 from the lower gate and despite experiencing fierce winds sometimes, it is fair to say that it is an established ride. The committed few will always be there. The ride is about 1h30 and returns to the start via the single track. We seem to have created a habitual "photoshoot" spot and when recently asked why we always stop for photos, we realised that we don't have a choice. You would be hard pressed to find a backdrop that is as moody as Table mountain and hence every ride feels like a photo opportunity.

Representing my feelings about the 2016 Cape-Epic entry, here is this mornings photo of the mountain...calm, passionate but uncertain.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

The sun sets on the 2015 Cape-Epic

The sun has set on the 2015 edition of the Absa Cape-Epic. I am sincerely moved and motivated by the accomplishment of every rider who took part, from the triumphant pro, to the enduring amateur across the line. Well done everybody!

For the last 10 years since 2005, at about this time of the year, I start convincing myself that I will do the Cape-epic "next year". The hype gets me every year and I honestly get super psyched. In 2005, after the second edition of the race this is exactly what happened and with a healthy dose of ignorance, a nudge from friends and an overflowing sense of self belief, I entered for 2006. In those earlier days it was certainly cheaper, but it felt like we were embarking on a journey. The route took us from a cold wet Knysna to a hot and humid Stellenbosch. Those who wanted to ride it for the sake of mountain biking through some of the most beautiful terrain the garden route and Western Cape has to offer on a limited amount of training could still wing it. The distances were long and 2006 still holds the mantle for the year of "big climbs", but somehow it felt easier, more "do-able." But was it? Every year people will tell you that the epic is getting tougher. Back then I was 36 and could get away with training about 8 hours a week with my big weeks being about 12-15 hours. We came well in the top half (203 on GC out of roughly 600 teams) and in that year there were 177 non-finishers. We did it on 26" bikes, many on hardtails. It was tough and there certainly wasn't as much media hype as there is now. I'm pretty sure that comparisons will be made every year and there will be a lot of "My Epic was tougher that your Epic", but in my opinion there is no such thing as an easy Epic. Having watched this years Epic closely and listening to the comments doing the rounds, I do think this epic was a particularly tough one...but that said, who am I to take away from a finisher from last year, or the year before? Remember, ones man's mountain is another mans valley, every year.

So I am not comparing but for one reason and one reason alone...and like I said, at this time of the year I start convincing myself that I will do the Cape-Epic next year and for that reason, I actually "need" to compare. This year I saw some really fit riders taking serious strain in the hot, rocky, dry and dusty conditions and I have to factor in that I will be 10 years older. But that also is a good reason though to consider it...10 years on from the first time I did it, 2006 and 2016.

Besides the physical challenge, there is still the mission of securing and entry, in a now internationally oversubscribed event and assuming you do, obtaining the funding to do it. It is out of my budget to fund something as big as this out of my own pocket and as I mentioned before, my hype goblet is genuinely overflowing right now, but will it be in 2 weeks or 2 months time?

But although the sun has set on the 2015 edition of the Absa Cape-Epic, the dawn light is still glowing on the 2016 race and right now, to be frank, I have never felt more moved to go for it in 2016. Maybe even determined, maybe convinced.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Action on Table Mountain

Table Mountain and specifically Devils Peak has seen some action over the last week.

The 2015 Cape Epic prologue was held on the trails that we ride on a regular basis. These snake from Rhodes Memorial just above UCT around Devils peak into the main Table mountain "Deer Park" bowl, back up to the Kings blockhouse and down vie Plum Pudding hill to UCT again. We rode a big part of the prologue route backwards on Saturday, the day before the Cape epic started and had the privilege of riding past some mountain biking legends. We rode past (note...not passed) Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesj√•, the winner of the women's cross-country gold medal at the 2004 Olympic Games and multiple World Champion. Then we saw Kevin Evans, local National champion and general South African MTB icon and his race partner, Max Knox. We saw the entire Topeak Ergon racing team and a further wide variety of men and women racing teams. They were all doing a recon of the route. 

Then of course, more action was to be had in the way of our regular bunch of friends that ride on that part of the mountain on Tuesday mornings. The wind was howling and it is getting darker, but 5 of us showed up and had a very windy but awesome ride. Coming back towards Newlands, it felt like we were doing wind tunnel testing for Formula1. Most of us pitched up with lights...a sure sign winter and darkness is on its way...not quite yet, as it is still warm, but you can definitely sense its close.

With Tokai and Silvermine closed because of the recent fires, I predict the action on Table mountain and Devils peak to increase.

Here are some pictures of the boys on the mountain on Tuesday morning...


Saturday, December 7, 2013

Post Burger 2013 stuff

Ok, so the Burger Sanlam 2013 has come and gone...jeez, "You've got to be an old ballie to still call it that!", I was reminded by a mate who probably also calls it that, although he didn't admit it! Well I am an old ballie, so even though it's now called "Die Burger cycle tour", it doesn't sound right without Sanlam thrown in somewhere ha ha. Lekker race, was seeded in "A" but started in "C", a good strategy because I almost got dropped on Hellshoogte, but managed to stay with the bulk of the group until the end and did a 3:00.01...yup not 2:59.59 or something...I should have kicked in the last 50 metres, but I was just glad to be done. Still, 3:00.01 is a bit cruel.

So now we go back to December chilled riding, coffee stops, lots of hours, fun, coastal rides, weight management and lots of wind. Oh yes, this last week I have tried 3 times to do a leg loosen-er but no, this bliksemse Southeaster wont let that happen will it? Every ride has been a slog into the teeth of the southeaster. Yesterday I got stopped dead by a gust going downhill from Llandudno to Oudekraal...the okes driving past must have been canning themselves.

So what coming up to train for? Argus for sure, RE:CM 200 again and a host of 2014 MTB events...perhaps a late entry into Sani2C? Who knows! With PPA not letting on to the 2014 summer calendar, we have to look beyond that.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Karoo to Coast build up

In the build up to the Karoo to Coast 2012 and ultimately my goal event, the Wine2Whales in November, I have been spending a lot of time in Tokai forest on the weekends. We have been riding up to the mast, Silvermine, Ouwapad etc etc. Obviously, what goes up must come down and Tokai has many different single track sections to get you to the bottom. Needless to say, ones technical skills improve and slowly but surely you start doing some things that you normally wouldn't do. The confidence that has come with the 29er and the full suspension has got me going over all sorts of things I would have done in the past. This picture, taken by my buddy, Dave, on his trusty cellphone (and then pimped with filters), is of one such moment.

This weekend is Karoo to Coast, 100km, from Uniondale to Knysna. Its a boys weekend as the wives have all decided to let us enjoy the mud wrestling by ourselves this time. I'm really looking forward to it, I've put in the training and should be interesting to see how the bod responds to the longer (but not too technical) terain. Monday is a public holiday so we will make our way back to Cape town on Monday morning. Some interesting observations...This wil be my fourth K2C. My first K2c, it poured the whole way. My 2nd and fastest time (on a 26er), was 4:27 and I may have a chance of beating that if the weather plays along and if my legs feel good on the day. The 3rd one was 4:34. Oh yes and there is the famous "Ghost of Uniondale" that we will have to put up with on Saturday night...heh, heh, heh.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Goodbye Green Tiger, Hello Black Mamba!

Since the Burger MTB challenge on my 26 inch GT Zaskar hardtail (aka Green Tiger), I've been riding up a storm, on average between 6 and 8 hours a week with the odd 10 hour week thrown in. I have since sold Green Tiger and after loads of research, shopping, web-browsing and deliberating, I ended up buying a Specialized Epic Comp 29er. I got a good deal from the LBS and so far am loving it. The very first ride I did was a baptism of fire. We did a 4h30 ride in and around the Tokai, Simonstown area but I had decided to ride to the start and back again, adding on at least another hour to the ride. Got home a bit broken but very happy with the new bike. I've since done the PPA Idea Fruit MTB race (55km) and came 3rd in my start group and 38th out of 84 in total. I'm still getting fit again so I was happy with the result but what really stood out was the confidence and speed I had on the new bike. Going from a hardtail carbon 26 inch to a full suspension 29er has made a huge difference to me...a little bit like going from a Bic razor to a Gillete Mach-3...the Bic is light and nimble but the Gillette, although heavier, cuts 3 time more with one smooth effortless stroke! Anyway, the new bike has subsequently been named Black Mamba.

Here are some pics of the Burger MTB challenge and also of the new 29er.