Wednesday, December 30, 2015

And so 2015 waves goodbye...

Wow, hard to believe that 2015 is already finished, the year has flown and I'm not sure that I am ready to usher in another year just yet. It has yet again been another great year of cycling and spending time out in the wide open spaces that makes my soul smile. 

I managed to surpass my 2014 stats by some margin - this year being relatively injury/major accident free. I notched up over 8,200kms, spending a whopping 409 hours in the saddle. It has been a fantastic year with some really great experiences that I have shared with a variety of awesome riding friends. I notched up my longest training ride on a mountain bike 121km and my longest race 110km (Beilie Meilie). I also skipped Sani this year and did the 3 day Berg to Bush stage race with Pierre and Wayne instead, which was an amazing experience. 

I did a couple of races with my son and my first 40km race with my wife Linda, which was really incredible. The Benoni Rough Rider mountain biking group are an amazing bunch of cyclists and a wonderful motivation to carry on riding even when the weather or conditions suggest otherwise. We have shared some wonderful experiences and laughs on our many training rides and I am privileged to be associated with most of them :-)

This is my last Blog post for 2015 and the main story would have to be the 105km Heidleberg - 2 Towers ride we did last Sunday.  This was a new route to Heidelberg and involved climbing to the Telkom tower and the the Radio mast tower with a Wimpy coffee in between. There was a nice group - 12 in total (including my mates Pierre and Graeme made the journey to the East Rand to do the pace making in the front). Enjoyable yet hot and tough ride. I wasn't feeling the strongest after straining my back over Christmas so the slog home was tougher then it should have been. Below are a few photos of this epic ride:

Yes they were first up the hill...
Pierre, me and Graeme at the Telkom Tower
The group at the top of the Radio Mast Tower hill
Becky's bike getting some attention from Ian and Sean
Sean's fat bike with a temporary increase in horse power by George :-)
Tower selfie photo bomb
Finally a few pics of our early morning rides with the Benoni Rough Riders: 
No barriers for us Rough Riders
Always a couple of fatties on the ride
Customary coffee stop on most rides

Sunday, December 20, 2015

WOW 2015 is almost done...

As the year winds down this is the best time to ride mountain bike in Gauteng. December is coffee month and filled with great social 'coffee rides'. I have had some great rides since the 94.7 madness. Sometimes it is just great to ride and feel the freedom of the great outdoors instead of chasing training targets or Strava segments. The tracks are not too muddy or overgrown yet because of the late rains leading to flowing and stress free rides.  Below are a few photos from some of the rides, hopefully there will be another blog post before the year end :-)

A few minute stop to appreciate the incredible sunrise
Group ride out to Irene market for muffins and coffee
Irene bunch 
December is coffee month with a Hava Java Platkop

Sunday, November 22, 2015

94.7 x 2 for the Apricot Tree

2015 is a milestone year for me as I have raced in some awesome new races and also not been in hospital once :-) It was also the first time that I also did the double in the 94.7 race - doing the mountain bike race and then the road race in 2 consecutive weekends. It was my first 94.7 MTB race, as I have normally avoid this  race because of the bottlenecks and bad routes etc... This is one case, when the organisers have learnt from their previous mistakes (unlike the Nissan series) and this event was extremely well run and the route was awesome. There were 2 completely different routes for the 30km and the 55km distances so you never had to worry about other slower riders not doing the same distance. I was pleasantly surprised by the route and the amount of purpose built single track that was in the 55km route. 
Me kicking up some dust followed by Hansie
I did the race with Hansie one of my fellow Benoni Rough Riders which was a great experience. Below is a video he took on his Garmin of a me following a female rider and stopping when she fell down a short drop off. She really came down hard and landed on her face. We stopped to help her until her boyfriend came back to assist her and wait for the medics. There were quite a few nasty falls in the race, given the hot, dry conditions and all the loose soil. 

I also had the misfortune of wiping out. I rode into some thick river sand and my bike came to a sudden halt ejecting me over the handle bars. Unfortunately I landed on my front wheel buckling it so badly that it couldn't rotate anymore. I thought my race was over when this happened 15km before the end  of the race. Fortunately, Hansie came to my rescue and took the wheel off my bike and managed to sort of straighten it on a tree stump so I could finish the rest of the race. This worked out to be quite costly as I had to buy a new DT Swiss rim as it was impossible to straighten out my old one. I enjoyed the race even though there were plenty of hills and it was very hot and dusty.   

Hansie and I at the end of the race, trying to cool down...
The next Sunday, I finished my 7th Momentum 94.7 road race. I once again did the race on my mountain bike which is a lot more fun (and safer) but just a bit slower. I also did the race with a friend (and fellow Rough Rider) Wayne and it was great sharing this experience with him and to have someone to chat to for the 95km route. I rode for The Apricot Tree  which is a Public Beneficiary Organisation (PBO) and is involved in the stimulation and development of children with intellectual and developmental disabilities. It was a privilege riding for them once again, as it really is a great organisation with some incredible people involved in running it and raising money. I managed to raise R25,000 after getting sponsorships for the 94.7 race from my friends, family, work colleagues and the company that I work for MultiChoice. I was pretty chuffed with the money that I raised and happy to see that it be put to good use to offer more to the children that they help. 

Selfie with Wayne and I shortly before we set off on the race
Start of the Momentum 94.7 road race
Benchwarmers get out in the cold and wind. Today I managed to get Paul and Greg out for a chilly and windy ride. They have been warming the bench on the sidelines whilst the rest of us have been riding. It was great to have them back out there and hopefully we will see more of them as winter is long gone and the excuses have run out ;-)

Greg and Paul on a cold and windy 'summers day'

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Berg and Bush Great Trek

Berg and Bush Great Trek 2015 - wow what an amazing experience. My partner for this event was an old work friend Pierre and we also shared this experience with a fellow Benoni Rough Rider - Wayne. This was a spectacular 3 day event held in the Drakensburg mountains in Kwazulu Natal. I thought that this would be a scaled down version of Sani2C (given that the distances were shorter), but I was very wrong, this event was just as tough and the riding in my view was much better then the 3 x Sani2Cs that I had done previously. We did the Great Trek event which is one of three Berg and Bush events held one after another and is a bit more relaxed with a smaller field of people riding for enjoyment instead of podium places.

Our little Hobbit house outside Bergville that three of us stayed in the night before...
After our brief overnight stay and registering for the event at the Winterton Country club the day before, we made our way to the Border Post for the start of Day 1. 
Pierre and I before the start 
Wayne doing last minute checks
Day 1 was a hot 96km slog marred with mechanicals with temperatures reaching the mid 40 degrees celsius. We spent at least an extra 40 minutes in the heat then we should have, with the issues I had with my bike. First going down Solley's Folley my peddle hit a rock (pedal strike) and my shoe came shooting up leaving my cleat lodged in the pedal. I stopped a little later where Pierre was patiently waiting for me as it was hard to go down the steep single track when you foot kept slipping off the pedal. We tried to repair the shoe but the sole was broken where the cleat joined the shoe. We were left with only one option and that was to duct tape my shoe to the pedal so it wouldn't slip off. This made the rest of Solly's Folly (a steep single track decent down the mountain) very interesting and nerve wrecking, as I couldn't really stop and chicken out of riding some of the hectic technical stuff (given that my technical mountain biking skills are questionable). 
Pierre Great Wall My China

Beautiful country 
Photo for Linda 
Descending down Solly's Folley

When arriving at the next water point with my shoe still taped to my pedal I approached the bike mechanic (his name was Hilton) sponsored by Pyga bikes and asked him for help. I needed more duct tape as I had another 60kms to go to the end and I knew I would have to dismount at some stage if the hills/route got too hectic. Unfortunately he had none, so on the off chance I asked him if perhaps had a shoe for me, he rummaged in his bakkie and produced his downhill riding shoes. They were a size too small (9 instead of 10) and I squeezed my foot into his left shoe. Needless to say my big toe took a lot of punishment the rest of the ride and every pedal stroke was painful, but a least I could finish. Hilton you were a life saver, thank you. Please click on this link to see the Youtube highlights from Day1

Hilton taking the duct tape off my shoe and pedal 

I also had problems with a slow flat on my rear tyre so we had top stop every few kms to pump or bomb the tyre. I was only at the last water point where there was a proper bike mechanic that we could put in a cup of sealant in the tyre and pump it hard again so it would last the rest of the day (and the rest of Day 2 for that matter). All in all, Day1 was extreme but fantastic riding, very hot and lots of adversity which we had to overcome and still finish with a smile on our faces. 
End of Day1 spot the different shoes
Pierre relaxing by the river after Day1
3 days of awesome single track 
Day 2 was shorter than the first day - 66km with a few nasty climbs (Mike's Pass) and incredible single track. Mazambaan, Puff Adder Pass and Big Red to name a few are incredible flowing single track trampled hard by years of cattle herds moving through. Wow, what an insane day, the weather was nice, route was awesome, my legs we not very co-operative in the middle of the race and I hit a bit of a wall. My partner however was absolutely incredible - Pierre is super strong and has been riding for years, he has done many ultra stage MTB races like ABSA Cape Epic, JHB2C, Tour of Wales to name but a few. He is a great friend and I really enjoyed doing this race with him. He pushed me a lot and made the riding much easier than it should have been and is responsible for most of these stunning photos. Please click on this link to see theYoutube highlights from Day2
Little lie down for the camera. 
Africa at it's finest 
Wayne taking a breather 
Lots of track amongst side the banks of the Tugela river 

Photo of me in the shower taken by the female photographer (she wanted to capture the beers in the shower moment) 
Our rooms with a view
Day 3 was another exhilarating day filled with ups and downs. Once again my back tyre came back to haunt me a I had to stop every few kms to bomb it. Reaching a point of real frustration, the Pyga roving mechanics came to my rescue. There were 2 mechanics that rode the race and had back packs of tools etc... to assist riders that had problems along the route. They stopped and assisted me when I was trying to add more precious air to my leaky back tyre. The rim tape of my tubeless tyres had dislodged and air was escaping out the side by the rim. After adding another cup of Stans tyre sealant and pumping it up again, I was good to go for the rest of the race. These guys were amazing and what a great idea to have them ride the race and help people with mechanical problems. 
Wayne, Pierre and I before the start of Day3
Me riding along the summit of Spioenkop mountain
Near the end of Day3 we had the climb up Spioenkop mountain - we were fortunate to have an historian tell us about the battle of Spioenkop the day before so it added a new light when getting to the top and thinking what had happened 115 years ago. This was the place where the battle between the Boers and the British happened in January 1900.  Details of the battle can be found on this link. The British suffered 243 fatalities during the battle and many were buried in the trenches where they fell. Approximately 1,250 British were either wounded or captured. It's interesting to hear that Mahatma Gandhi was a stretcher-bearer at the battle, in the Indian Ambulance Corps and that Winston Churchill and Louis Botha were also at the battle (a stray bullet hitting any one these 3 could have changed world history). The Boers suffered 335 casualties of which 68 were dead. The British retreated back over the Tugela but the Boers were too weak to follow up their success and Ladysmith would be later relieved by the British four weeks later.

Pierre at the monument for the lives lots in the battle of Spionkop

The rest of the race was an exhilarating decent off Spioenkop down some insane single track. Unfortunately, I had quite a bad fall halfway down, going over the handle bars, winding myself and hitting my head on a rock on my connection to the earth (and yes the rock is ok). And who was the first person to come to my side and help me up? A Pyga mechanic of course. 
So with my confidence completely shattered, I limped the rest of the way home finally catching up to my ever patient partner who was waiting for me after the Bell Run.

Incredible riding through this country side. 
All I can say that this was an incredibly well organised event, there were not too many people that made the event unbearable (never having to queue for food, showers, toilet etc...). It is a race that I would definitely like to do once again to try and do better then this year now that I know what to expect. Thank you Farmer Gary Green and co for putting on a fantastic event!!!!

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Realising how flat the East Rand is..

I was fortunate enough to be able to do the Eqstra Spring Classic MTB race last weekend with Sean and Rebecca. Wow what a tough race and it made me realise once again that all the training that I do on the flatlands of the East Rand is not enough because you get a big reality check when you hit a proper mountain bike route. I thought I was pretty fit after averaging 24km/h in the Nigel AutoAlpina MTB race last month, but that was a flat non technical route next to the mielie fields. The Eqstra race was loads of single track and plenty of hills, my average was under 15km/h for the 44km route. An hour slower then the Nigel route for the same distance!!!! It really was a great race though, I thoroughly enjoyed it and it was special sharing the experience with Sean and Becky. 

The three of us after the race, all a bit tired. 
The 24th of September was a public holiday in South Africa - Heritage Day and what better way to celebrate then do a 100km MTB ride. The ride started out as being The Apricot Tree charity MTB outride but we had a lot of other riders join us also (we were 25 in all). We had a fantastic ride out to Heidelberg from Benoni and back, with a climb up to the Telkom radio mast. Awesome ride and a fantastic route with great people. It was great doing a new route, as this was different to our normal Heidelberg radio mast rides (different tower and way to get there). We were all pretty thirsty by the time we got back, as it was very hot and most of us had run out of water with there being no water/coffee stops on the way back. Unfortunately, this ride was a game changer for Sean as he had a mild heart attack on the ride and got his son to pick him up half way before going to the hospital in the afternoon. He had a stomach virus earlier in the week and on the long ride his heart took strain. Fortunately he was wise enough to call it quits when he was not feeling too well. He is ok now and just needs a month off the bike before reassessment by the cardiologist. Wishing you all the best Sean on your speedy recovery. 
The group at the start of the ride (taken by Sean) Becky and me in the front in our Apricot Tree colours...
Group photo on the top of the Telkom tower hill
Quick stop to wait for stragglers (Telkom tower in the distant background)
Yes we did the bridge again, Wayne showing us how it is done.
Becky finishing the climb up to the tower
This morning we did a great ride out to the cell tower, brickyard, Serengeti and back via Monument hill before stopping for coffee at Mug & Bean on Atlas road. I was feeling strong and really enjoyed the ride. It makes such a difference if all your cylinders are firing. Nice group consisting of Becky, Greg, Paul, Alistair, Juan, Wayne and Mark. I finished on 80km and managed to sneak in to share Greg's KOM with Paul on the Atlas drop off single track segment. 
Stop to admire the view