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October 20, 2014

Cape Pioneer Stage 5: Fly on the wall

Its 2:30am and my right elbow is not letting me rest peacefully. Every turn wakes me with a wince of pain, but I suck it up and imagine it will all be 100% in the morning. These falls that seem nothing at the time, often linger a little longer than we want.

It looks superficial – scratches and some bruising but overall, it looks like a 4/10 all day until about an hour before I head for bed and look at the difference between my left and right elbows. One is normal and the other looks like it has half an avocado placed on it.

Again, I tell myself by morning it will be 100% as I am game to race again – my legs are feeling better every day and there are only two fast days left.

Adding to the motivation is a friendly rivalry between myself and a Belgian lad, now only 6sec apart on the Solo GC for 8th and 9th, I am keen to play with him over the next few days and tomorrow is the only time to make a difference.

We get a sleep in as the falling rain destroys the single-track around George shortens the race, but the race will be short and sharp today. I am amped for the day. During my warm-up, I get some shivers but I put it down to the cold air and make my way to the start-line, fired up.

At the end of the neutral zone, Scott Factory Racing attack properly up the Montagu Pass and the bunch is in tatters. I get up to keep up with my Belgian friend, but the legs are not there. It’s like there is a 4th gear but no 5th. I am already sweating like a trooper and all of a sudden, I realize that this little knock to my elbow, which now has a ¾ avocado on it, is going to slow me down today.

I just make it into the leading ladies group. All week, I have out climbed them in the first few hours of the race easily, and my tempo would drop the group but today, I am on the back, hanging in and my tempo is their tempo.

Quickly, I adapt my plan for the day to hanging with the ladies and having a group to ride with – riding solo feeling like death warmed up is just not what the doctor ordered. It would be an interesting fight between them all day, as it turned out.

Asrin set the pace initially and Candice & Cherise bridged about 2/3rds of the way up, with Robyn & Jenny being dropped for the first time all week. I got into the back of the first group and not wanting to alter the race at any given time, I sat on their wheel for the downhill into WP1 and then offered some help once I saw Robyn & Jenny were back on. The girls were clearly recovering on the flats as I rode off the front, thinking they were all still there.

I gave a little 1min test on the legs to see if it would be worth continuing, but they were still empty, so I sat up and waited for them to rejoin and then set a slightly more moderate pace for the group to follow.

On the first real single-track climb, Candice and Cherise went at it to split the group again and got a gap. I was sitting with Asrin and mixed teams from Bell Racing, watching it all unfold. Candice forged the break and Cherise solidified it beautifully. As they are not an overall threat, Asrin let them go as Robyn & Jenny were off the back again, Jenny clearly not her usual self.

We set a great tempo for a while and then the mixed team saw the leading mixed team up ahead, and incentive was provided.

They really wanted it and worked for it. I knew I couldn’t offer any assistance and just sat in. At one point, it looked like they had given up the fight and I made a move to bridge, but only got halfway before I ran out of gas again. I sat up and waited for Bell Racing to come back and let them pass, as they were hauling for the win now.

We were inside of 1km to go as the catch and pass happened, and they made it stick. Cherise & Candice must have been about 60seconds ahead of them and I was maybe 10 seconds up on Asrin.

And so, a very uneventful, average-feeling ride is over in 2hrs and 30minutes.

While there is nothing wrong with my elbow to keep me off my bike, it is swollen and sore and tender and is just holding me back a little. I have to admit defeat here, as the marginal gain by damaging my immune system to race with the Belgian is silly. I have Ultra Trail Cape Town next weekend, then Wines2Whales a little after and Double Century to close the year.

All things being equal, I am going to end up 9th overall on the Solo GC here and I am pretty cool with that as this was a very last-minute decision and I came to find my legs, which seemingly, once the angry elbow recovers a little, will be there.

So for the rest of today, we are going to drink a few beers, enjoy the sunshine and celebrate the last two days a little. While we are here racing we are also here to enjoy the scenery, and a day like today is a fresh reminder to not get too serious about anything.

Now onto the photos from today.

Just a normal morning then.

Just a normal morning then.

Montagu Pass - looking back at the riders behind me

Montagu Pass – looking back at the riders behind me

Chasing hard, these two were and closed the gap quickly.

Chasing hard, these two were and closed the gap quickly.

Nearing the top, I almost got dropped but made my way back again.

Nearing the top, I almost got dropped but made my way back again.

The tussle between the leading ladies was pretty special.

The tussle between the leading ladies was pretty special.

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