What hasn’t been said about the Kamannasie stage of the Cape Pioneer? Crisis I still have the scars to show from last year’s epic stage in the wet.
So it was with some apprehension that I woke up this morning knowing it was going to take bringing the best version of myself to the party today. Today is one of those days when it requires being better than the usual version of yourself:
– More patient.
– More understanding.
– More kind.
But mostly, today is a tale of risk management and the fine line of adventure versus ordeal.
If you’ve ever pushed your bike up a hill you’ll know that its tough. Now imagine pushing your bike on a loose rocky road that rises at 30% for 3km and imagine the 45min it took us to get that done by adding in rain and wind, fog and general misery.
But I didn’t start this way. It actually started in the very most civilized way. We rolled out of Oudtshoorn in a very chilled manner. The front guys set a decent tempo that I would say half the field could manage.
We even had a neutral ‘natural break’ at around 20km.
At 30km, through the first water point, the pace was lifted and soon there were maybe 20-30 of us off the front. I just made the break but I was in the back, having to respond last to any attacks. Less than idea, but this is all new territory for me, so I am actually just happy being there.
On the first kicker of the day I got dispatched out the back with my Germans and the Exxaro boys. I figured the front 4 solo guys were in the move ahead, so I worked my flipping rear end off to try and get back into the group ahead.
We chased through some of the most beautiful landscapes but it certainly didn’t make it any easier.
I chased through to the 2nd water stop but the gap had grown from 20sec to 3min and I was pretty exhausted, so I figured it was best if I sat in to the base of the big climb and just managed to save something for it.
A quick look back and last night the route planner said he rode the entire climb on his bicycle.
I call bullshit. In fact, I would pay money to watch him do it again. I reckon even with a triple chainring up front and a 45 tooth on the back, he would fail.
It hovered close on ordeal for a while there. I had to exercise every little bit of patience I could muster and kept trying to find little positive things to keep me going, some which included:
– Being grateful for the mist, so I couldn’t see the top.
– Being happy to be out in the wild, rather than my office this morning.
– Being able to push a bike faster than the guys around me ie be happy you’re a triathlete and not a pure biker, RDJ.
I alternated this with various expletives and shouting at myself, mostly. Taking The Monster for a proper walk this morning indeed. He was supremo happy with the various rants I was throwing out there and at some point he backed off, and let me ride over the top and down to the 3rd water point.
A very careful descent on some very sketchy roads saw me pass 3rd place again – Richard Damant is a massive talent and his tyre hassles today really hampered his efforts but I know he will be back. At this point I actually figured I was now in 3rd and I hit it as hard as possible on the district roads to the finish.
If you’ve ever charged on empty into a headwind on a seemingly endless series of rollers, you will know it wasn’t pretty. There may have been some frothiness involved and I may have grunted a few times over the top as I protected the back tyre on the Pyga which I had burped on the descent and was nursing in.
I had visions of being caught inside the last 2km and missing out on a podium spot – my first podium spot – in a MTB Stage race.
I let out a big groan as I rounded the final corner and gingerly made my way up to the finish line, needing a little sit down when I got there, to wait for mates who had been having various forms of admin along the way.
It was a huge day out.
Immense, I would even say.
Risk versus reward today.
Adventure versus ordeal.
Let’s get into the images, shall we: