We started in C and our start time at 7:10 couldn’t have come soon enough as the wind was biting. We turned out of the start and immediately hit thick brown mud, a rider on the left went down as his wheel sunk fork deep into a hole. The next 5km consisted of thick puddles of orange mud that slowed the group and covered everyone from head to toe.
A quick dip through the Breede River on a concrete road had the derailleurs and brakes clean again for around 50 meters as we climbed out of the river onto muddy farm road again.
There were no puddles on these roads but the mud was thick and sticky. It caked our tires and made the going slippery and heavy. The climbs on the farm roads were for the most part gradual but the surface was now heavy and the few small steep sections tested our equipment. With front and rear derailleurs now just big clumps of mud shifting became challenging.
The flowing tracks that followed were welcome but had some surprises with deep ruts and wash-aways that needed some bunny-hopping and quick reactions on some of the faster sections.
Water point 1 was a frenzy of riders trying to clean drivetrains and lube chains before we set off on an immediate climb. The landscape here changed from soggy farm roads to the typical Karoo jagged shale jeep tracks.
The hard track with its sharp threatening edges kept us looking for the best lines. Climbing for 4km’s with brief dips to recover but then picking up again and slowing the pace. We reached the top and had open road for a few hundred meters before we turned onto more flowing trails that cut through the hillsides changing from thick muddy dual track to flowing shale tracks that picked the average speed up a bit.
At about 40km more muddy roads and a short incline brought me to a stop as mud jammed up my front wheel between the shock and between my back wheel and the rear stays. I tried to remove as much as possible and ended up using up a whole water bottle to try get as much out with only mediocre success. The farm roads now rose gradually to water point 2.
The atmosphere in McGregor was great with a generous, very vocal crowd having a great time. My partners front derailleur had stopped working so he checked that in with neutral support as I gathered nutrition and liquid. A hose down of the drivetrain was also essential. My sunglasses were now caked in mud and I was surprised I could still see through them. Thankfully they were cleaned quickly at the Oakley Clean Zone.
On the bike again and a short section of farm road led us to a climb on district road that wound its way through the hills and dropped us over the other side where we made some fast kilometers before turning onto more flowing trails. Where do all these trails come from ?
We climbed more jagged trails and had the pleasure of descending some quick jeep track that again had a few deep wash-outs and bunny-hopping skills were tested as we made good time on these trails to water point 3.
Feeling a bit hungry I grabbed a bar of a sort I don’t normally use and threw a big bite down the hatch. 2km’s later as we started climbing “Neil's Folly”, the toughest rockiest climb of the day I started feeling a bit queasy and the stomach turned few times. (Rookie mistake I know but lesson learnt).
As with many cyclists, I am a self confessed coffee addict and thus the Woolworths coffee stand is an oasis.
Product of the day:
Massage, this is such an important part of recovery and very underestimated.
The weir crossing at 91km, a welcome relief from mud.
Nutrition mistake at water point 3.
We quickly criss-crossed vineyards until we hit the sting in the tail. A short very sharp ascent that tested the legs but the top boasted a great view of more vineyards and the race village in the distance. More vineyard riding brought us to a very muddy road that again showered us in orange mud just to make sure that we looked the part as we turned into the finish straight and crossed the line.
103km with 1550m ascent covered in 6hrs 1 minute and a lot of mud.
This was supposed to be an easy day but turned into a really hard day for some as legs and equipment was tested to the max. Easy flowing mountain trails turned into rutted mud baths with deep washouts and fast farm roads sucked your wheel and sapped energy.
Random comment on the route: “Oh look the sun”
Rob's weapon of choice:
KTM Myroon Master 29er
VRV Cycles carbon straight bars and bar ends
Selle Italia XR saddle
Rockshox SiD XX 29er
Hope Pro Hubs with ZTR Arch Rims
GEAX Saguaro 29x2.2 TNT