You are 100% correct. Our 4-man team was reduced to a 2-man team. One of our guys pulled out two months ago, and I pulled out at registration on Friday. I got Covid three weeks ago, very light symtoms, but could feel the after effects when trying to excercise or riding..did a 50km 1500m elevation ride last week for a final leg check before TB, and my HR was more or less 25 bpm higher than usual. I was in denial and kept on thinking I'll fully recover in time for the race, and then last minute realized it was just not going to happen and that I might risk my health if I try and race. We ended up riding our 2nd and 4th strongest riders, both of which have not ridden Trans Baviaans before. So this is a race report from the support vehicle's perspective...
We arrived in Willowmore on Friday around 14:30 for registration. Filled out a few Covid forms and moved my name from team rider to support driver. We had a quick chat on the spot about what to pack in the crates and decided to not pack anything in them since the team will get going in the dark and have lights and warm clothes already mounted.
Our Willowmore accommodation was around 55km outside of town in a farmhouse. Excellent hosts that even organized us a few roosterkoeke and wood for our braai. The fire was lit and the first brandy poured by 5PM to warm us up and settle the nerves. We hit the sack early around 10PM since we were planning on driving to town at 5AM for a 6AM start. Temperatures went down to -5 that evening.
We got to the startline at 6AM. Did a few final bike checks and our guys took off at 06:08am in -3 degrees temps. They only needed their lights for the first 15mins of the ride. I was able to live track them on Whatsapp for the first 20mins and then they lost signal all the way to CP5 at 170km. In the meantime I made my way with the support vehicle through Uniondale and The Langkloof to J-Bay. Arrived there at 09:30. Booked us in, bought groceries for the evening's braai, and only had around 45mins to spare before making my way to CP5. I thought there would be more time to play with. I arrived there at 13:45.
Our team went well from the start to CP1. Caught 8 other guys willing to work together. In and out quickly at CP1 and on to CP2 with the same batch. Our weaker rider started to show signs that the pace was just a bit too hot at an average of around 27km/h at the 70km mark and decided to stop taking turns at the front just to try to recover, but it was too late. At 90km the cramps and lower back pain started for him and they took a proper rest at CP2 losing the group. From CP2 they carried on at their own pace to try and get our weaker rider recovering. Water crossings were minimal and Langwater was only half calf deep and easily rideable. The second Fang required some pushing with lower back pains, and again up MAC as well. Got caught in a rain shower up MAC. At Bergplaas they decided to lie down for just a few minutes to try and get our teammate that suffered a bit to recover before descending. He was struggling to keep down food, but managed to get down some of those milk products at Bergplaas, and he claims that gave him new life!
They finally reached me at CP5 on 170km at 14:30(just under 8 and a half hours race time) looking not too badly beaten up, but lost a crank bolt down the Big Dipper descend, so they lost more time there trying to get a new bolt. Off with the rain jackets and change of dry cloths out of the car, and off they went again 25mins later.
I made my way back through Patensie towards CP7 and could live track them again. I could see they made steady but solid progress over the Neverender and the massive tailwind definitely helped. At CP7 people were starting to get reports from J-Bay that a massive storm was busy moving in.. wind picked up even more. They reached me at CP7 around 16:30, two bites of a jaffle, rain jackets on again, and off they went looking even stronger than at CP5.
Mini MAC was the first signs of fatigue to our stronger rider that had a hammy cramp up, but got it sorted out with a bit of high cadence spinning. After mini MAC they had a 4-5km stretch of gravel road with the wind from behind where they could keep the speed up to 47kmh, and then the rain came down for the final few kilometres. Just before they entered the final single track they had to switch on the lights again. Muddy and dark finish in the end.
They crossed the finishline just after 18:30. Official race time 12:26, moving time 10:55. Very proud of the way they rode. Both of them agree a sub12 was on the cards if it weren't for the lost crank bolt and the lying down at Bergplaas.. next time Bergplaas will just be a check in/check out point.. they say you can recover while going down Big Dipper.
After the race sitting around the fire, we all felt we have a bit of unfinished business now with the Trans Baviaans, all for different reasons..so we'll definitely be back next year fitter and stronger aiming for a Sub 11!
FOMO and all for not being able to ride, the Trans Baviaans weekend was still a great experience for me as a support driver this time around..