iRide Africa attended the 1st Western Cape mountain bike provincial last weekend in miserable winter conditions.
The long awaited XCO event took place on Helderberg farm in between Stellenbosch and Somerset West (Western Cape hasn’t had a provincial in a few years due to lack of organisation).
We woke at 6am to torrential downpours and a myriad of text messages and emails from our ‘crew’ bailing due to ‘ridiculous weather conditions’. Louise decided that she was too sick to take part in the fun race so we snuggled back into bed for another hour (good thing, because the fun race was cancelled due to lack of participants!)
We arrived at the race and the weather was looking up- no rain, a nice wet course with stream crossings and some promise of the otherwise boring singletrack becoming a bit more interesting in the wet!
The turnout was better than we expected, considering the weather conditions (us South African’s have it easy and hardly ever have to ride in the rain). I was actually hoping for an epic storm just because it had been so long since I had actually ridden in horrible conditions.
To me, one of the best things about racing mountain bikes is that you put yourself in a position to go out in all types of weather, testing your willpower and knowing that your friends are curled up in bed ,taking the easy route.(Yes, that IS a dig to all who bailed!)
The juniors took off at a blistering pace and showed amazing fitness at holding the pace over 5 laps.1st position went to Luc Desvaux De Marigny who put on a massive 7 minute lead over 2nd placed Herman Bester and 3rd placed Johannes Scribante.
The Under 23 men and Elite men started together as usual and I found myself starting in this group due to peer pressure and just wanting to ‘bulk up’ this small group a bit more. I expect more of you to be there for round two, or else I’m moving to the subvets category to race with Rory of Crank news!
About 200 meters into the race I found myself wanting to be lapped and taken off the course. Ahhh, It was good to be suffering again! I settled into my best gear ;D and chugged away up the slippery slopes fighting for traction and enjoying the stream crossings. I rode a few laps with Chris Wolhunter, Hannes Hannekom, Michael Keith and Darel Howes trying desperately to keep up with them on the uphills.
By lap 3 I had settled into some semblance of rhythm (gasp, gasp, swallow, gasp, gasp) behind Michael and the heavens opened up. I was ecstatic-this is what lap racing was all about; Pain, mud, chewing on grit-just like the old days! I think this is where we passed Kathy Harpur racing in the Elite womens and keeping on eye on Ilse Viljoen before overtaking her for the win in her division. Next time on your singlespeed please-you looked to fresh afterwards!
On lap 4, Chris (I think it was?) made a mistake on a lovely slippery downhill singletrack towards the beginning of the course. I reluctantly overtook him and tried to put a gap on him, Hannes and Michael. The problem was that the only real technical downhill was between 2 short, steep climbs, which I had to run (ok,walk) up! So every time they would catch me and I’d have to fight like hell to keep ahead of them. Fun times for my heart!
By lap five I was convinced that somebody should have lapped me by now, putting my misery to an end. I even came in hoping that I had miscounted the number of laps completed. I asked out aloud how many laps I’d done and Keith Williams was quick to shout ‘Not enough!’
So on to my final lap I crawled where I passed a few other racers (in other divisions unfortunately) who were having terrible problems with chain suck by now. My drive train was still going perfectly ;D but my rear brake had ceased to function, which made the off camber, root-strewn descent pretty hair-raising.
By the time I finished lap 6 my calves and thighs were alternating with little mini cramps but I was pleased with my first lap race in a decade. Next race I will have to try and beat Dave Morison who came in 3rd-watch out!
The rest of the WP XCO round 1 results can be found here
Overall a great day out and I only hope that more people come to ride these great, family oriented events. In my opinion there are 3 things that can be improved on;
1) Easier entry procedures with a possibility of entering on the day
2) More technical singletrack sections so that the not-so-fit can make up time on these sections and be more competitive. (also, we should be priming our juniors for international events that are far more technical in nature)
3) Combining elite/u23 and sub vets into one group to make it a more interesting race (maybe even combining the juniors as well?) Same reason as above-more in line with international race ‘feel’
That said, I must congratulate and thank the people who have gone out of their way to make this series happen again (WCMBC and Helderberg cycle world).
If anyone is available to help out with these events, let your services be known please!
The next Western Cape XCO event is on June 6th hosted by Tygerberg mtb club on Hillcrest farm. Come and race!
Courtesy Dan from iRide Africa