This past weekend saw my 3rd crack at at the W2W with partner Dan Dobinson. Its always a fun weekend away with mates, especially if you dont take yourself too seriously and enjoy the amazing hospitality offered by the Stillwater team.
We were greeted with beautiful weather on Day1, and the riders were amped to get started knowing that the trails would be compact and fast. For me, day 1 is defined by two things. First off is the monster climb that you tackle just 500m into the race while the second is the brutal portage over Gantouw Pass. Luckily for us, the initial climb was not as long as usual and before we knew it we were cruising through some sublime single track in Lourensford. Roughly an hour into the race saw the first of many chain drops on my bike. Last week I put a new chain on my bike but it was too long by a link or 2 causing it to jump off my single front chain ring on any big knocks. Each chain drop brought about a select few colourful words and a shaking head from partner Dan before the chase back to our bunch continued. We finally reached the portage section which for me is where day1 gets real. We crested at a sedate pace but I could already feel the beginnings of the infamous post portage quad cramps.
We entered the Grabouw single track but we were unfortunately held up for most of the way down. As we exited the trails, both my legs cramped up leaving me wondering how I was even going to finish the stage. Miraculously they disappeared after a couple minute and our chase back could continue. Not too much further down the road we came across a very angry swarm of bees that decided to focus all their attention on us. We rode as fast as possible but those little bastards got us good. We ended up limping across the finish line in 29th position (first team wearing baggies), a little worse than what we were hoping for but content. The highlight of the day was the amount of single track we rode through the Grabouw forests, absolutely amazing! The low light was the size of my cheek from the bee sting, which only subsided on Tuesday!
Day 2 is known as play day. However, with the pace that the A bunch started I knew it was going to be a suffer day. We cruised through the opening jeep tracks at some serious pace, I remember looking down at my GPS and seeing that we covered the first 16km in 32 minutes.
We finally hit the single tracks but again we got held up, as many were. We cruised into water point 2 where the Paul Cluver playground began. Bridges, berms, jumps, you name it, we rode it. Besides the traffic it was an absolute blast. It does concern me however that there are riders in A batch that cannot ride manicured switchbacks! In the end we still managed to hang onto our 29th position.
Saturday evening was loads of fun, with the majority of the rides staying up to watch the SA vs Whales rugby game, perhaps a little too much of the tasty Oak Valley wine was consumed, whoops!
Day 3 started out really well. The pace was once again manic for the first 15km. We were well positioned when my freewheel decided to implode. Unfortunately there is no trail side fix for this so that was my race done. I walked to the first water point and managed to bum a lift to the finish while Dan cruised through to the finish. A bitterly disappointing way to finish off, but that’s racing for you.
Overall a great weekend spent riding great trails with mates. The afternoons were spent lounging around and drinking beer, what more could you ask for. The FNB rider zone was truly next level, and was the cherry on top of an incredibly efficient and comfortable race village. Thanks to Stillwater for hosting us.