Monday, 26 May 2014

SA XCO #3 - UCI Cat1:

With an unplanned for, but rather successful Sani2c experience behind me, it was once again time to prepare for another little 90 minute showdown. Round three of the SA XCO Cup Series, this time held at Mankele MTB Park just up the road from Nelspruit. 

I realised my team mate and friend Gert Heyns must have been bored with riding in George or very excited after he booked accommodation for us at Sudwala from last week Tuesday already. Even though I had the opportunity to practice the course like a mad man, I knew that Sani was still in my legs and tried my best to take it easy for most of the week.

Friday morning Gert and I followed Matthys Beukes (Scott) around the technical and rather old school 6.9km lap. Confidence was running high with a couple of guys racing World Cups in Europe, we all knew this was a chance to gain points and crawl up the UCI ranking list. With this in mind I decided to use the bullet proof Continental X-King tyres front and back.
Also the endless amount of grip wouldn’t do any harm on the kind of terrain we had to conquer.

The pro elite field was quite small, but I’m sure the racing didn’t disappoint. Between Gert and Brendon Davids (Trek) throwing punches at one another I just kept my head down and tried to stay in contact. Half way through the first lap Brendon had opened up a slight a gap over Gert and I, but we managed to bring him back on the downhill. 

From here on things were slightly tactical. I didn’t really play any cards early on, but with Travis Walker (Kargo) yo-yoing behind us and Matthys not far off, I knew we couldn’t sit and look at each other.

On lap 4 I started the climb in front hoping to set a steady pace, but Gert had a different idea. He sprinted past and as we went into a tricky section about half way up the climb in 1st and 2nd, we noticed whoever was following me had made a mistake.  Towards the top I looked back and saw that we had the other 2 under pressure with a slight gap. Gert let me through and I somehow managed to open a gap on the downhill. 

Rolling through the start/finish for the last time, I gulped down another High5 gel and after a quick look over my shoulder, I gave it all I had. After 5 grueling laps crossing the finish line of a UCI Cat1 XCO in 1st place was a very special moment for me. Seeing ASG MTB Academy team mate Gert right behind me in 2nd, made it even better.

 Big thank you to everyone who made it possible and for all the support. 

Till next time

Monday, 5 May 2014

Clarens - my first proper ultra marathon:

With the Marathon World Championships being hosted in SA a bit later on this year, I realized it will definitely be a good experience to take part. However you need to qualify which meant I had to finish inside the top 20 at a UCI Marathon series event. Basically the MTN National Marathon at Clarens was my last chance. As a XCO focused rider I would normally not event consider racing these ultra-marathons, so I was a bit worried about the time in the saddle and my ability to “vasbyt” for that long.

Last week Jacques Pretorius joined me in Ficksburg during his school holidays for a bit of a training camp. He also learnt how to work a spade. We fixed up some sections on my XCO course for the rest of the a[s]g PYcycling crew to look at on our pre-race ride on Friday. 

Saturday morning. 07:15 start. 120km with 2700m ascent.

 After a few nervous moments in the big eager peloton things started to stretch out as we hit the first climb of the day at around 20km or so. Unfortunately for me I got stuck in the single track behind some riders that couldn’t quite match the pace being set up front. As the group split I realized that I had to get myself back up there, but also knew in the back of my head that there was still a long way to go. 

The XCO mentality took over and for the next 5 or 10 minutes I gave it all I had to get back up there. Just after settling in at the back of the lead bunch I was ridden of almost straight away. I went to deep. With many negative thoughts running through my mind I lost ground with every pedal stroke. Soon though the next little group caught me and with some teamwork we got back to the sharp end once again. 

From the 55km tech zone things got real. Nowhere to hide. The group split up properly and according to my calculations after watching my Joule, I went over the summit roughly 4 minutes behind the leading trio of Karl, Nico and Erik. Descending back in to Clarens I was in my element. The Conti rubber gave me the confidence to really push on over the rough terrain and soon I caught and passed Timo and Brad.

All on my own I rolled into town, topped up the High5 and back out on the half marathon route. Back on the gravel roads with nowhere to tuck in I battled through another bad patch.

Eventually Timo passed me again, Rourke caught me and we then rode back to Timo on the technical stuff. By this stage I was really feeling the effects. The Epic Sports neutral tech zone at 20kms to go was a blessing. Mechanic Mike Squirt'ed my chain and after a quick picnic the three of us continued working together. Just before the finish we noticed Adriaan and Andrew not very far ahead.

As we hit the final single track I gave it my all to close the gap and maybe open a gap between myself and the other 2.
In the end it wasn’t enough, but I managed to cross the line in 6th place. With this being my first proper Ultra marathon, I was rather happy with this result.

Big thank you to Paul and the PYcycling team for all the support. Was nice having a couple of you in my valley for the weekend!

Till next time

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

UCI XCO World Cup #1 - PMB

As always with these big XCO races the build up to this event was enormous. With all the hard training efforts and physical prep done we headed down to Pietermaritzburg for the first round of the 2014 XCO World Cup Series.
Mentally I was in a good place after a couple of nice results the past few weekends here in Gauteng. Winning the 3rd GP Provincial and also the 3rd USN Cup was really good for my confidence before heading down to KZN.

After arriving at Cascades and checking out the course on Thursday with team mate Gert and coach Paul, I was slightly nervous to say the least. The course designers had once again out done themselves and created a tough and pretty scary loop.  Luckily we had lots of time to over think and over analyse every single corner and all tricky sections before the big showdown on Sunday.


I felt more and more comfortable with each day of practice. The Dogma handled this modern day XCO course very well. All the rocks and jumps, no issues. Pure pleasure!

Lining up in the start chute between most of the best u/23 bike riders in the world was quite intimidating as always. I was nervous, but also excited to get out there and do the job. I had a good start and felt comfortable sitting just outside the top 10 during most of the first lap.
The pace however was really hot and I battled through a rough patch on lap 2 and 3 losing ground on most of the climbing. Towards the end of the race I noticed that I was sitting on the edge of a top 20 with team mate Gert right behind me fighting back after an unfortunate flat tyre.
I gave it my all and with the help of some High5 fluids, I managed to finish in 19th after 5 gruelling laps.

After all it was a very lekker weekend with the gang. Always nice to have someone like Paul as manager / chef / mechanic etc. Big thank you to him for making it easier for Gert and myself and also the other a[s]g PYCycling friends for all the support.

This weekend we are racing the 2nd leg of the SA XCO Cup series at Afriski Resort in Lesotho. Looking forward to burning some lungs!


Monday, 10 February 2014

MTN XCM #1 - Dullstroom

Last weekend we drove through to Thaba Trails, Jhb, for the first leg of the Gauteng XCO Provincial series. It was great to see the a[s]g MTB Academy gang not only participating in all age groups, but also dominating most of them.
For myself the race went pretty well. Lungs felt a bit rusty after a much needed rest week, but I managed to stay off the front with Dylan Rebello finishing 2nd and Nic Popich in 3rd.

So with confidence running high it was time to stuff some Ftech lycra in a bag and head up to Dullstroom for the first MTN National Marathon of the season.

I’ve never been in the area of Dullstroom so I had no idea what to expect from the race. Never the less after applying a few layers of Squirt lube, I was standing in the start chute feeling rather confident. The start was quite slow at first. I figured everyone was scared to make the first move due to the altitude being a bit more than what most people are used to. Sitting in the bunch not even 5kms in, we hit the first of many mud puddles and most of it went straight onto my new Rudy Agon’s lenses. This made me upset and I decided to leave the party. 

I noticed that no one could really respond and as I looked back a while later only Stuart Marais (Kargo) had managed to get off the front of the chasing group.
Realizing that it would take a massive effort for a solo rider to stay off the front with a group like that hunting you down, I tapped of slightly giving Stuart a chance to get back on my wheel. For the next few miles we rode together nicely, keeping the pace high without making mistakes in the technical muddy sections. Off course the Conti X King on the front is always super in these conditions.

About 25km in, I noticed Stuart started losing a bit of punch as we had to work our way around the back markers of the ultra. While battling to stay upright as we were climbing up a mushy messy mountain road, I noticed that I was all by myself and decided to put my head down and go for it.

All or nothing, I thought to myself. In the end it took some very big “vasbyt” and a few High5 gels to keep it going, but I managed to cross the line and claim my first National Marathon win.

Well done to Jan Withaar and Stuart Marais finishing 2nd and 3rd. Also to all the other Academy members with some great results all round.

This weekend the 2nd leg of the USN Cup is being held at Modderfontein and I'm looking forward to another good battle.


Tuesday, 28 January 2014

African Continental Championships:

It’s always a special feeling for me to pull the Green and Gold outfit over my shoulders and the first opportunity we had this year was down in Durbanville for the 2014 African Continental Championships.

After the long journey down to the Cape, Paul and I met up with new team mates Gert Heyns, Allan Hatherly and Genevieve van Coller.  As always before a XCO showdown the build-up towards the actual 90minutes of racing was massive. Behind the scenes everything has to run like clockwork for us athletes to have the perfect race. Once again I have to compliment Epic Sports for fine tuning the Dogma beforehand and of course Paul for all the organization and motivation.

Oom Brian and his team did a great job with the course by adding some fun technical aspects to it. A couple of big jumps got every worked up, but in the end it all flowed very well. 

Allan showing off:

With the u/23 men battle scheduled for 15:20 only, it was tricky to stay relaxed and not to over analyze during the morning leading up to the race. After a little roller spin all that was left to do was to suck on some High5 nutrition while waiting to suite up.

The heat in the start chute was mad. So was the pace up the first drag with James Reid crushing it from the gun. Gert and I were able to hang on for a bit with a slight gap already over the rest of the field, not even halfway through the first lap. Unfortunately I made a slight mistake, lost my front wheel and went down around a lose corner. However with the adrenaline pumping, mixed with some self-inflicted anger it didn’t take long to close the gap. 

As we rolled through onto the 2nd lap, James was off the front and Brendon Davids started moving up. I jumped onto his wheel, but still battling to get into a rhythm I couldn’t follow for very long. By lap 3 I managed to regain a comfortable stride and with no further hassles I crossed the line in 3rd.  

It might not have been the most exciting race, but none the less I’m happy with the result considering the classy field.

Full results sheet:

This weekend Thaba Trails will be hosting the first Gauteng Provincial and I’m excited to see all the fluo a[s]g MTB Academy members in action out there.


Sunday, 19 January 2014

Kicking off the 2014 season:

After a couple of weeks off the bike with no real structured training it was time to regain focus and start putting some serious effort into our pre-season base preparation. About two weeks ago, mentors Paul and Yolande, decided we should break away to the Lowveld for some quality training time with the a[s]g PYCycling gang, just before the year takes off in full force.

Training camp in and around the Mankele area was a great break away for all of us and a chance to think about and discuss the challenges ahead and most importantly to get some proper training done. It’s always a great help if you can surround yourself with positive people, all focused and willing to motivate each other.

We arrived back in the city just in time for the first race of the season. Of course I have to defend my USN Cup series title this year so I needed a good result, but more importantly I wanted it to be a good leg stretch and lung burner before African Continental Champs this coming weekend. On the bike side we are really privileged to have our Pinarello Dogma XC’s equipped with some Powertap hubs on stiff and lightweight Ritchey wheel sets and the always faithful Continental tires. With the help of Epic Sports sorting out my stallion all that was left for me was to go out and turn those Crank Brother pedals over as fast as I could.

It was good to see some proper talent on the start line, especially a guy called Max Knox. However being surrounded by a group of fluo Rudy Project helmets with encouraging comments made me very excited to kick off the 2014 season on a high. Must admit I had no real plan, but about 5km into the race I put in a big effort hoping to split the group and to see who I should keep an eye on. As I looked back a bit further on I noticed a substantial gap had opened and I was off the front by myself.

To be honest at first I didn’t think I could maintain that, but a while later, Coach Paul standing in the veld somewhere, shouted a time gap and I suddenly realized I was gaining ground and that it might be possible to stay clear. From there on I kept my head down, topped up the tank with some High5 nutrition and forced myself not to look back. In the end it paid off and I managed to take my first win of the season.

In general it was good day for the whole team. I was surprised with my form this early on, but also realized that there is still plenty of room for improvement and I’m looking forward to a good season with a great bunch of people.

Till next weekend!