That was what awaited us this morning. It is touted as a world-class stage, making sure the best cream rises to the top, and they aren’t even half joking at that.
I had a real mixed bag day, at times strong, at others, just empty, and its a sign that indeed, for a while, I may have been suffering from the Dunning Kruger Effect when it comes to estimating my cycling ability.
While I have no regrets on wedding, honeymoon, new business ventures, overseas trips and general business, today I realised there is work to be done between now and Double Century if I want to be able to help out in the last 30km. In fact, it has been a year since Cent Cols Challenge, probably the last time I did a decent block of sustained work on the bike.
Know your limits was the theme today, and for the first 25km, I hung in there like a champion, at the back of the front group, doing my best to ride smoothly. I knew it was borrowed time and the front guys would be off when we hit the first real climb, and I was quite happy to guage my effort a little better today.
This meant I got to experience the first long, sustained climbing sections with a little less grit and the views were incredible. So incredible, in fact, that I didn’t even take the camera out to take any photos. DOH!
As we popped out onto a district road, I decided to see if it was possible to bridge groups and get to the leading ladies who were about 2min up the road, by estimations.
I had a buddy for the bridge which was great – thanks for the pulls Francois – and we got across with about 10min of sustained effort, and the legs felt great.
There was a long hike-a-bike section just after we bridged and I managed to get ahead of the majority of the group, forming a little group with the leading ladies into Waterpoint 2.
There was a big carrot for them to be to the top of the Swartberg Pass today and the energy lifted my spirits, and I got on the front of the group and set a great tempo, with 4-5 teams sharing some workload and we made our way steadily to Waterpoint 3, near the base of the pass, with some really fun, fast sections through some game farms in the area.
I got through the Waterpoint smoothly and the legs felt good. Sure, I was tiring, but we all were, I thought. With 5km to the base of the pass, the lights just went out.
It was like someone turned the gas off and there was still half-cooked bacon in the frying pan. I went from doing long turns on the front to being spat out the back in an instant.
Know your limits – clearly, I got caught up in what was going on, not listening to my body and voila, we had a 14km crawl up the Swartberg Pass to the finish. I was gutted as it was all so close and yet, a fresh reminder that indeed, there is work to be done.
I stopped twice to take some photos on the pass as my motivation wasn’t there to hurt myself and by the time I got to the top, was feeling a little better.
The stage finish is right at the top, but there is a 20km ride down the other side of the pass to Prince Albert, where I am sitting typing this update.
After 2 very tough days in the saddle, I am hoping for a little respite tomorrow in terms of sheer vertical. But then again, this is the Cape Pioneer. Don’t be fooling yourself – its not a walk in the park and I expect every day to have its challenges.
Here are some of the photos from today: