It’s the middle of nowhere. In fact, it’s the middle of the middle of nowhere.
Ahead of me by 3minutes is a group of riders, walk/riding their way up another loose, and technical, sandy, rocky, steep ascent. They were 4minutes ahead not so long ago. I am making progress.
30seconds behind me is another small crew, but I have dropped them and they are slowly losing ground and I know I can lose them on the descent.
We are 50km into the 107km of the day, and the day has been the normal routine so far. We took off at ridiculous speed today. I am not sure how these guys ride so fast in the first 20km, but we are averaging around 40km/h on the rolling dirt roads and I am in the 2nd group, with the leading ladies.
It’s all I have, really – enough speed to keep up on the flat stuff with the leading ladies.
A reminder to get a coach to work on these things if I want to be competitive in these things.
We veer off the open gravel road into some jeep track and there is quite a bit of sand and I easily move from the back of the group through the front and VROOM I am off the front, setting tempo waiting for them to catch as I negotiate the sand and river beds. But no catch happens and before I know it, I have 90seconds on the group.
There is a headwind, scale 5/10 but its not too troublesome.
The terrain is open, wild and pure Karoo. It’s a long drag, and I have a goal to bridge within 10km. This is my game and suddenly, I am back in control. The body feels great and I get my act together and up the tempo.
I give my partner some silent applause for his sand-riding skills and get to set the tempo to bridge to the two riders ahead. By the first water point, we are together with another two guys who had a flat, but I move quickly through WP1 and take only the two Swiss dudes with me. We make our way to the base of the climb mentioned right at the start here where I now have a gap.
For the first time all week I can see Ant & Stu – 3min ahead. Motivation.
I pick good lines going up the climb and walk as little as possible. The climbs here are really, really loose and if you don’t pick the perfect line over the loose rocks, you are a walking with friends.
Over the back and its MEGA techy down the back end – like a rock garden for 4km before riding across a river bed again and again to WP2. While its certainly not good for a rhythm, I have dropped those behind me and I am pretty certain I am making ground on the guys ahead of me.
WP2 comes and I am told its 2min30 to the group, and to my utter disgust, we turn onto a tar road, and the wind is now 7/10 and I am on my own.
In this scenario, 6 beat 1 every single time as there are turns to take by 6 guys and me – Han Solo into the wind, my partner complaining about the wind already.
I chase as hard as I can, but I can see the gap growing. The wind is kinda sorta sideways now and to my complete horror, we turn off right INTO THE FREAKING WIND AND UP A 10KM FALSE FLAT.
I am going full tilt, just short of full retard, and going 13km/h. I can see the guys behind me have regrouped and 4 dudes are chasing me, 90 seconds back. Its not pleasant. I shout at the wind, telling it to leave me alone.
Somewhere inside me, I set a challenge to get to the top of the last climb ahead of these guys. Even if its 10seconds, I can put time into them on the descent to the finish. In my head, it’s a long, 20km descent through the valley on beautiful single track.
I make it to the top of the hill with about 45seconds and I get a smooth tempo down the hill on the pristine single track.
5km later I turn onto the tar road and I figure, hold on as long as you can, as once again, the wind is a decent 7/10 and RIGHT IN MY FACE WHERE IT HAS NO PLACE.
I curse again. I realize its been 70km on my own, and in my focus, I haven’t taken more than 1 picture, so I take another to distract myself from the DISGRACEFUL WIND and then I get a little angry, so pedal harder and harder until I am going 40km/h down the hill into the wind.
Riding racing lines, middle finger to the wind, I commit to getting to the line ahead of the chasers.
I turn up the hill to the finish line and they are nowhere to be seen. I am so over the wind it’s a joke and I just want to lie down.
The day is full of successes, as I felt much better than yesterday. I was able to ride on my ace, into the wind, for 85km and handle it the whole way, keeping all the chasing bunches off.
In terms of failures, I need to work on my first 30min speed. I suck.
Tomorrow we head into the Place Which People Do Not Name. It’s the biggest, toughest day of the entire Pioneer, if not the entire human existence, and we may have rain, to add to the fun, so right now I am going to sign out and get my ass some rest in lieu of it performing as it did today.
The entire camp is nervous about tomorrow.
How bad can it be?
Here are the very few photos I took today and I do apologize – photography was very far from my mind today as I battled THAT STUPID WIND. I will do better tomorrow.