November 29, 2011

When things don’t go to plan…

The day started like any other Double Century – nerves, a forgotten something and the sense that something great could be achieved today. We were 12 guys who had never all ridden together but we had a tight sense of community already after an evening spent laughing and discussing various strategies on taking a “natural break” whilst moving along at 40km/h. The team looked incredible in matching kit and as we set off, we followed our pace setter up the first hill, which is always tough, and found a rhythm once on the N2.

I have ridden in a good many groups in my life. Enough to know that this was going to be a special day. Gav Rossouw had us rotating like seasoned team mates who had ridden together for years within a few kilometers, a testament to his character and gentle guidance. We were cruising along at wonderful speed, every guy taking his short turn on the front and it felt like we were just cruising, no real effort just yet.

Up and over the first pass without a glitch we were on our way to the bigger pass on the day, where again, the team seemed to sail up and over the climb. There was a bit of a helping hand here and there, but we got over and through our first feed stop in great shape, ahead of schedule with a smile on every dial. This was going to be a great day.

Back into the pace line and we rode past a team and they just sat behind or next to us. Both teams were virtually equal strength and this posed a problem as nobody wanted to draft and get a penalty. We had also picked up 2 stragglers off other teams and now it was starting to get a little nervous. I had just done by turn when someone shouted CRASH. I thought it was the other team, surely, as we were riding ahead of them and they were hanging on. Surely not MY guys?

Looking back, two of my guys were in the road. Bike parts everywhere. The two stragglers were involved too. The other team just rode by, unscathed. They were both out of the race for sure. I could see what looked like bone in one elbow of Simons and the lack of attention in Brett’s eyes told me he had a concussion. It happens. To the best of us. The main thing I was overjoyed with was that everyone was conscious and not missing a limb. It could have been so much worse.

So we packed their stuff up from the road, refilled our bottles and got on our way again. Our support team would handle this like professionals, I was sure, so I was comfortable to get going again with the team and that was the consensus among everyone. We had skipped about 15min to get everything sorted, so now the goal was 6 hours ride time.

Not 3minutes down the road, we had a puncture. *&^^%&^%&^%&%. 15km later, the same puncture and we managed to swop a wheel with a weaker rider from our team and he let us go. Thank you Bunny.

That was fixed quickly and we were back on the road. The crash had taken it’s toll as adrenaline wore off, so did the legs on some of the guys. We were maintaining pace line, keeping the speed up. Once we started taking longer turns on the front though, we slowly diminished the group to 7 by the time we hit Bonnievale. You have to finish with 6 guys, so it`s important to have a safety net in case something goes wrong out there. I was determined to keep the 7 together.

By 165km, some were taking longer turns than others, but the effort was the same for everyone. As a team, we were still contributing equal. Our diesel engine, a master rider, 60 years young, was showing the youngsters how it’s done and I learned quite a bit from watching him ride, eat and live on the weekend, even though he may not know as much. We were all inspired by him and it brought out the best and most stubborn pieces of us, unwilling to let him go. We got to 180km and for the first time, confusion. Some thought Gav was ahead, others thought he was behind. When he rejoined though, we all rode as a perfect unit over those last 3 epic rollers into Swellendam. We motored the last flat section and according to my watch, came in just on 6 hours total ride time.

7 of us made it to the end together rather than the 12 guys who we had planned to go all the way. To me, this is no failure. Things don’t always go to plan. We rode hard, smart and consistently, despite the circumstances. When the chips were down, we recollected ourselves and made the best of a new plan.

What a day it was. Evident in the war wounds, the stories and the laughter shared over half a bottle of tequila and 22 bottles of wine later in the day was the fact that we still felt like a team. No animosity between any riders, no love lost as is often the case with these group events. For a bunch of guys who had never spent time in the room together, they were like family.

To the riders who lined up with me that morning, I salute you. The 2 Gavins, Brett, Simon, Peter, Karl, Bunny, Tristan, Brent, Gregor, Nic – I will take you to war with me any day, as long as that war is fought on two wheels, obviously.

To our support crew: Salute!

Double Century 2012 is already looking bright.

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