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October 29, 2015

Cape Pioneer ’15: Stage 6 & Wrap-up

We need to start this report with the end of Stage 5. It was a pretty boiling afternoon & I spent it unwisely. My legs were pretty knackered from the Queen Stage and I was still getting a massage while my team mates / travel squad were eating dinner. I had also yet to find my accommodation, so the vibe was actually super chill – like the race was done.

We opted to ride in baggies on the last day – #baggiepower is a thing. Also, the idea is to take the edge off racing and throw some more fun at the problem – that being a 68km haul across to Oudtshoorn where the final finish line lay.

I was 4min down on 3rd in General Classification for the Solo race, but it was the furthest thing from my mind. The dude ahead of me was marking / blocking me and was a MUCH better flat land rider than I ever would be.

As I was driving across to my cottage, I spotted a leopard in the road. Literally just there drinking from the river, with the road running right into the riverbed. In. Sane. How often do you just spot leopard in the middle of a valley in the Klein Karoo?

Such a great way to ‘end’ the week per se.

I woke in the morning feeling a little worse for wear. My legs were aching and my head was foggy. I dressed slowly and put on some tunes to get the morning going. We were a little later than usual and I had a late onset of ablution time, so I didn’t even get to warm-up for the ride. I had zero foxes to give though.

To say I barely made the split in the group in the first 10km is unfair. I had to ride across as I totally missed the split initially. I nearly gave up. I figured why go so deep. But I went all in to get across and sat in the very back.

As we went into the first fun offroad stuff I just pedalled through the stuff, riding my way up the group a little and my GC guy was there, he clearly thought I missed the split initially as he looked surprised I was there. Honestly, I thought I would be happy to take it a little easier today and ride in with him if I could. This was his terrain.

I realised where we were and in the race briefing they said there was some great single track coming, so I moved to the front of the group and did a nice turn to get into the single track first to have a clean run at it.

I did not realise the single track was preceded by a very, very tricky 25m climb on very, very loose round stones, all about tennis ball sized. I knew if I hit it perfectly I would ride it as I saw guys walking in the group ahead so I just hit it flat out and somehow made it up, past the group which was walking, but most importantly I had about 20seconds on the group I was in.

Sometimes, when a moment hits you, you need to know it’s your moment. Time to throw it all at the issue here and see if it works. Worst case scenario was riding with the group and best case was I got across to the next group.

I figured it was 90sec across to my squad so I hit it really really hard through the single track. Fortune was on my side as the group I was hunting was temporarily hampered as one of the teams had a rider missing and were waiting for him. I could see him trying to bridge ahead of me.

Motivation was high and I was literally frothing when I got across to the group, who had just started doing turns again.

I rode up past Stu and he was like “Oh it’s on”

We were hauling across the Klein Karoo on the Ben-Melt express, the General was commanding the troops making sure we all did even turns, but kept the pace high.

I hung on for dear life at points, but also contributed at points. I didn’t look back once to see if anyone was coming. In a off-camber corner I got spat out the back as I got the front wheel tangled up in a wide line in some fynbos and never made it back up to the group. I was pretty much spent from earlier efforts and paying the price for those efforts.

Hauling through Water Point 2 I picked up another solo guy and instructed him (no point talking at this point) to work with me, I had motivation to put 4min into someone and it was going to be his first podium of the week.

This was enough motivation for us to pick up Rob Sim and Doug Brown along the way, do 2km turns each until we hit 3km to go where there was an unexpected steep little hill and I got ejected when Doug attacked us.

I knew I could ride the 3km in on my ace and rode as hard as I could, small cramps in both quads making sure I kept it a nice, steady effort. Head bowed I crossed the line and then the longest 4min of my life started.

Not since 2012 have I had to ‘race’ someone in a duel like this. It was exhilarating to say the least. I would happily have finished 13th for the same level of competition. It was the duel that was exciting, not the overall placing.

You vs the Other Guy. Such power in that.

Ultimately totally meaningless of course, but still, such fun.

6min30 was the stage difference and I snuck into 3rd, on a day where it was the last thing I expected.

Lesson: It’s not over till the final finish line.

It took all I had, but that was the point – better starts, better climbing and smart tactics. Watts on the powermeter didn’t win this one.

+++

Cape Pioneer 2015 has been a wrap for a few days now.

I’ve been through the post-race depression stage, and today I am soaring again. My legs are still tired when I climb a set of stairs, but I feel like I got the most out of that week. I was lucky with my travel squad, who brought out the best in each other and kept each other motivated all week.

I was pretty lucky with mechanicals in that I lost probably 8minutes in total over the week.

I was unlucky in missing a break here and there, but I will be honest and say I should have worked harder to get into them. All lessons.

The organisation of this race is incredible – they care about the riders! Route marking was superb! The food was above average, to say the least.

Have a look through all the galleries in their Facebook Page HERE and if you believe you can handle the route, which is proper, then don’t hesitate to enter this race in the future. Place it on your bucket list. Get stuck in.

A big thank you for all the messages and motivation in the week. I appreciate every positive comment, every note of encouragement you sent. Thank you.

I only snapped a few pics on the last day – here they are:

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