Today’s 95km saw us riding through some incredible parts of the Free State, parts that you would never see unless you ride this race. Long district roads separated by some great single track was the order of the day. A chilly mass start saw us following a huge Massey Ferguson tractor for a couple kilometers until the racing started. It was fast and frantic, not even two cows stampeding across the road could slow the bunch down.
I rode in the front bunch for the first 30 minutes until I again decided that it was too much for me to maintain. If I had tried to hang on for much longer some farmer would have had to pick up my shattered remains somewhere out there. This reminds me to bring flares next time 🙂 I sat up and joined Nic Lamond and his partner Andrew Hall for the rest of the day, really cool to have good company out there. Andrew has just completed the Ironman last week and was in for a tough day. There were some frustrating parts on some of the single track where guys stop and put their foot down FOR NO REASON. Pretty weird but they were strong on the district roads.
The water points along the route were again world class, causing us to spend far too long in each one. We caught up to Oliver Munnick at the last stop, with 30km to go, including 15km of single track. We waited at the water point for longer than usual to make sure we had clear trail to blast down. These 30 kilometers were the highlight of the day for me, following Oli and Nic down the single track was a real treat, they have mad skills on the bike. Another highlight during the last 10km was passing the Wolf sanctuary. We had to stop to check them out, absolutely majestic animals. So, all in all a great 3hr 50 min day, fairly chilled at times but still felt proper tired at the end. I suppose 95km of mountain biking does that, no matter how hard you ride.
At the sharp end of the field it was Dave George and Kevin Evans from Team 360Life who got away just before the first water point and managed to hang onto a 1 min lead at the end, finishing in 3:01:32. They were followed home by Brandon Stewart and Jacques Rossouw (FedGroup Itec-Connect) in 3:02:15, who bested defending champions Waylon Woolcock and Neil MacDonald (RE-CM) by five seconds in a sprint finish.
Tomorrow sees us riding from Reitz to Sterkfontein Dam, a total distance of 125km with 910m of ascent – The Flats end as the Escarpment approaches.
Click to enlarge.