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  1. Photos and words by Chris Hitchcock. Based 13 km the other side of Piketberg (turn left at the circle) it is only 75 minutes drive from Cape Town. Closer even than the trails of Esselsfontein in Ceres. The race itself is held entirely on a private farm, and the single-track is open to the public only once a year. The event is held to raise money for local charities and it is a massive community event. I have never before shot a race where the competitors are stopping to tell me how amazing the single track and scenery is. And it really is, from hidden canyons, to water bridges and the most mind blowing, smooth and flowing trail you can dream of riding. If you missed it this year then make a massive note in your diary to enter for next year, because the trails are closed until then. The coolest 'medal' ever. Filled with cold liquid to quench the palate. Sipho Madolo getting personal care and directions form the race director himself. Harry Orr climbing walls at not being able to ride today. Piket-Bo-Berg Cycle Challenge results available on Trail Tag here.
  2. The Piket-Bo-Berg Cycle Challenge race and the single-track that it runs on, has to be the best kept secret in South African Mountain biking (at least it was until Saturday). Click here to view the article
  3. The Fedhealth MTB Challenge had me hooked from the moment I saw the route map and profile. The Durbanville trails make for some of the most enjoyable mountain bike riding in the Cape: panoramic views of Table Bay, golden canola fields and glorious sweeping single track descents. Even the climbs are “fun” tight switchbacks that keep you concentrating around every corner, helping you forget about your burning lungs while you try to keep your front wheel on the right line. Click here to view the article
  4. As a result of spending my weekends chasing single track, rather than putting in much needed base mileage, I experienced some serious butterflies on race day. Having recently bitten off more than I can chew in the stage race department, this race was my last ditch attempt to convince myself that as long as I take things slow and steady, I will not blow up. The first 20km featured some very loose, dusty off-camber jeep track turns, which kept me on my toes and spread the field out quite quickly. Descending into Hillcrest for the first time, I headed too fast into a stile, totally misjudged the sharp corner on the exit and shot into the bushes like a lycra-clad missile. Happily for me, the gentle embrace of a tree kept me upright on my bike, and some dignity intact. The ensuing climb up to the Contermanskloof mast was tough but incredibly rewarding, as the views were breath-taking, and followed by the roller coaster switchbacks of the Conterman’s blue route down. From there we meandered our way to Hoogekraal, and by now, I was grateful for my relaxed pace. It was getting hot and I was no longer feeling frisky. The water point was a welcome sight. At the top of the Hoogekraal climb, I was disappointed to see that we weren’t directed down the Cobra as I had expected, but this was probably for the best, as the climb out is no joke. After another spectacular flowing singletrack descent down Hoogekraal, a gentle but gruelling climb took us up to the Lafarge quarry and the final water point of the day. The last climb up the Dorstberg, through the looming, post-apocalyptic cliffs of the quarry had me hunched over the bars whimpering. It seemed to go on forever. The gate into Meerendal at the summit had blown closed, and embarrassingly, I was not strong enough to open it, and had to wait for the group behind me to catch up and assist. Time to work on some upper body strength perhaps. Finally, we shot down the exquisite berms of Meerendal, to the finish line and some very welcome ice cold coke. Now that my legs have recovered, I can describe the route as both entertaining and rewarding. I intend to be back next year, with some training miles under my belt to show that Dorstberg climb exactly who is the boss.
  5. Earlier this year Isuzu Trucks invited BikeHub to take part in the Isuzu PE Plett MTB race. Some will remember the competition we ran giving away 3 team entries to the event. Naturally, were keen to head up the coast and check it out for ourselves. Click here to view the article
  6. The race takes place over 4 days with the 2015 edition running from PE to Plett. Each year the route direction alternates and in 2014 started in Plett. Our team for the event, bikehub.co.za, consists of myself and 24 hour race daemon / video guy, Ray van Breda. Having spent far more time behind a keyboard than handlebars of late I was a little nervous for this one. Stage 1 Ride ReportDay 1 took us from Wedgewood Golf and Country Estate over slightly shortened route of 75km (thanks to the wet weather) to the Gamtoos Ferry Hotel. On the way to registration yesterday the rivers flowing in what were roadside gullies gave us a clue that today would be wet and muddy. Just how muddy though, was far beyond any of our expectations. Ray gives his take on day and the different flavours of mud we encountered: Today was the muddiest ride I've ever done. Usually if the weather outside is this bad or the mountain this wet, we decide to stay indoors. There is a point you reach where you are so wet, muddy and dirty, that it really doesn't matter anymore. There is no more point avoiding puddles or trying to keep your kit clean or shoes dry, you are just past the point of no return. We reached that point in the first ten kilometres of the stage today. Our steeds for the event: Ray - PYGA OneTen29 | Matt - Momsen VIPA XT Matt and I took the day fairly easy. We are not racing, more just stage-riding, which is great. It means we don't have to take chances on dodgy sections. It means we can hang out at the water points and try out the chocolate banana bread, it's great. I can also definitely feel a difference in the 'vibe' from the riders around us. I usually try to hang at the lower end of the front of the field and even though we are only racing for top fifty or top one hundred, every person around there is 'racing'. The difference today was that no-one was trying to overtake you on dodgy corners, or making an effort to crest the climbs in front of you. No aggression just okes, and ladies, having a fun ride. Anyway, back to the mud. We discovered today that there are a number of different kinds of mud. Matt Beers confirmed this when we interviewed him. He said that you need to watch and anticipate what kind of mud you are riding into. Some mud you WILL slide on. Some mud will suck you down into the ground. Some holds you back and forces you to pedal max power in granny gear, on the flat, at walking speed. That kind of mud reminds me of peanut butter. It sucks. The one that pulls you down we christened 'wet cement'. Even when you step off your bike you can hardly lift it out. We actually encountered one type of mud that we called 'jelly'. It's the first time either of us had seen it. When Matts front wheel hit it the whole piece, roughly five meters long, jiggled like a tub of jelly. The best kind of mud was the dirty-looking-water pooled over fairly hard-packed ground. At least you can ride through that. It does splash quite badly though. Our nice new black red and white Isuzu Trucks kit is a mottled brown now and I reckon it's like that now for life. Today was hard because of the mud, but the scenery was cool. We went through the kind of mountains where the river streams look untouched and the water drinkable. Not a lot of people or towns along the way, mostly just pure open South African goodness. We really are privileged to be able to ride around in these places. We were hoping if would get drier from here out but we just overheard one of the locals saying he reckons it's going to be even worse tomorrow. I mostly just feel bad for the bike. I've already replaced front and back brake pads. What was left of Ray's rear brake pad. — Tomorrows stage takes us about 95km with 1680m of climbing to a new camp at Soloko, about 20km East of Kareedouw. We’re still holding thumbs for just a little less mud. Or at lease the friendlier varieties.
  7. We spent the night before the start of the trail at the new Glencairn facilities which, are fantastic, we had the best tents, mattresses and showers of all three days. The only negative was the poor quality of oversized kit especially for the noobs who quite rightly were expecting the usual high quality of Sani2c kit. Ah well, I guess that high standard couldn’t have lasted forever. Bikes were prepared for the next day’s battle, my rear tyre needed new sealant and after a problem I had on Gravel & Grape with the tyre not seating properly I decided to pump it to 3,5 bar and leave it overnight to seat properly and reduce the pressure in the morning before the ride. The beers flowed as Shrek and Waffle gave each other gears about the next day’s battle, we were a group of 8 riders with 3 noobs and advice was being dispensed freely from the veterans. All of which came to an abrupt end as the first bout of rain brought a sense of foreboding to bear on noobs and veterans alike so we finished our beers and retired to our tents with a new battle cry “Sleepy, sleepy hand off pee pee” We awoke to a misty morning and the morning battle cry of” Wakey, wakey hand off snaky”; this team is obsessed with their nether regions. Waffle and I set off a batch ahead of Shrek and Red which was not ideal as we had no idea if we were leading or not, they could be just a minute behind out of sight but nine minutes in the lead. So we decided to set off at my pace with Waffle sitting slip whenever he could which we thought should be quicker than Shrek could get his 120 kg frame to go. The weakness in the plan was that the rest of our party were in Shrek’s batch and the other five riders were determined to help him make a race of it and one of the riders, Jimbo, had dropped down from A batch and had some serious skills and speed. Our little plan did not last for long as Waffle called time out on View Point climb and suggested that we hold the horses back somewhat. I realised from that moment that the race was effectively over and we settled into a pace and rhythm that would ensure a finish. I would attack the single track sections for fun and wait for Waffle to catch up to slipstream on the flats. Waffle was more than holding his own and more than once I saw his cramp induced grimace change into a smile as the Sani single tracks found a new fan. Waffle took time out at the Pevency water table to greet a family friend who was serving us, the way her face lit up when she saw him made our day, unfortunately we had a race to ride and we had to move on. But what stayed with us is how the Sani impacts positively on the lives of communities that surround it. Other than my back problems I have another medical problem which I had developed from eating too many Contador steaks namely Mad Cow. It manifests itself on fast descents, gnarly or not makes no difference the Mad Cow takes over and I attack the descent with only one goal in mind Speed. My overall time for the day is less important than my max speed on my Garmin and there is a particular descent on a gravel road before the Xumeni forest that was my target. In the days of 3 x 10 chain rings I managed 78 km/h on what was a very rough district road riddled by erosion trenches. In today’s world of 2x10, 78 km/h was highly unlikely as a 38/11 combination has you spinning out at 55km/h so my target was 60. Imagine my surprise when we exited the forest single track onto a freshly graded gravel road. 70 said the Mad Cow and we were off the numbers on the Garmin my focus, 30 k - passing other riders on the far right, 45k - more riders watch the drifting rider, nice butt, use the drainage channel to pass, duck under the branches. 55k- spinning out, 60k -passing Nick on the right, sharp turn back wheel sliding, ….3,5 huh? That’s not on my Garmin. 65k - get aerodynamic use the dropper post. Another turn, back wheel into a serious slide, need to correct the slide 3,5, what is it with this 3,5? The Racing Ralph on the rear has no grip 3,5, there it is again. 68k - three arrows for a sharp turn, don’t touch the brakes, almost there. 3,5, damn! I forgot to deflate the tyre no wonder we’re in a serious slide, let it drift and overtake on the right. Downhill done, what’s the score …Garmin scrolls …….69,9km/h aaargh! And this is what it looks like in pictures oh, if you want to feel the Mad Cow play the music loud! The babe with the nice butt showed us up on the next climb (okay she was holding onto to her partners back pocket). The descent through Xumeni was quick and we had great dice with another team that was equally adept at descending. We were held up a little through Wappos by other riders and this Farmer Glen chappie walking on the path but a hard ride on the next descent gave us a clear run on the next single track. The time difference between the teams was sufficient to bring the racing aspect to an end, Shrek found the climbing and distance tough but although slower than us he finished in a more than respectable time. I pestered all that paid me any mind with tales of my descending exploits including seeking out Nixm and retelling my story to her and her partner to the point of boredom. My other companions dealt with this by buying me beer in an attempt to shut me up. However, the story of the day belonged to Jimbo, who was simply having a blast playfully wheeling, bunny hopping and doing endos at every opportunity. He showed his riding mates some serious skill by bunny hopping the entire railway line with an endo front wheel landing. This raised a comment from a pretty lady rider “Now you’re just showing off” she said, with a glint in his eye and a sparkling smile he responded “Not really my angel”. Her riposte? “You’re not dead and I’m not an Angel”! We have a clear winner. Umko Descent and Passing Slower RidersAlthough throughout day 1 Waffle and I were relatively untroubled by slower riders on the singletrack, we had enough indications that the majority of the riders in our batch were slower than us when things got a bit technical. What made the problem worse was that we had slipped down a batch and knowing what the Umkomaas descent held in store for us we knew we had to have a plan. We could see from the time sheets that we had just missed staying in our batch by seconds so in theory we should be able to get to the front of our batch and hopefully pass some of the F batch riders where possible. But we had to start off at the front of the start line and set off as fast as possible to get to the single track first. What we didn't know was that the organisers in their wisdom decided to start our batch 10 minutes earlier than the time indicated by the SMS we received the night before. So our plan was out the window from the moment our batch started. I was stranded at the start line waiting for Waffle to complete some admin and we started 3 minutes after our batch had left and I said to Waffle "Now is the time to show what we're made of, here boys become men, this is where legends are made and heroes born". We were nailing the first descent and we could see our batch cresting the rise. "One day, you'll tell your grandchildren of this day, the day you and I caught up 3 minutes and passed an entire batch before the the Umkomaas descent even started, the day we became legends in our own lunchtime" I said. It was my best speech ever and Waffle didn't hear a word of it as the wind had drowned out every word. We caught the stragglers of our batch as they entered the first singletrack, fortunately for us it was a dual single track and the forest had been harvested giving us a clear view as to which side was faster. We hit the right hand line and although we had some advantage we soon got caught behind some slower riders. We were able to cut back onto the left track to pass and this became the trend, swopping tracks left and right to pass those slower than us and we were bouyed by our progress until the dual single tracks ended and we had to settle for the pace set by the riders in front. I just knew this was going to be a day of frustration and was becoming quite miserable but the vista of the Umkomaas valley opening up in front of us changed all of that. There are very few negative moods suffered by humanity that can't be erased by that view (okay, perhaps if someone stole my bike it might be a struggle) . In fact the day before I advised Nixm "Stop and take photos you won't regret it". So amongst the helter skelter of our start Waffle and I stopped to take a couple of happy snaps as did many of those around us. If ever you get the privilege of riding the Sani this is one of the moments in Mountain Biking to be savored, to be celebrated as you get to see a view that very few sporting endeavors can compete with. It takes your breath away or wait, could that be due to our efforts trying to get to the front. As we started the Umko descent our worst fears were realised, this was going to be a long long frustrating day as we were caught behind strings of riders going at about 60% of our pace. More often than not it was one rider who either had no skills or were so intimidated by the steep drop on the left that their progress impeded scores of riders behind. We needed a new plan and I came up with three distinctive techniques to get passed these slow riders. The first is to shout "Let the chick through, she's faster than you!" Whether there is a lady rider near or not does not matter as the offending rider is in no position to look behind him as his eyes are firmly fixed on the trail ahead, every twist, turn, rock or root is his focus and he hits everyone of them. Now this technique leads to one of two outcomes, either the rider's ego gets the better of him and rides faster or he succumbs to the pressure and let's us through often left bemused looking for the non existent female rider in the passing group. This works very well when there is a long string of riders and many of those that benefitted from this were so grateful that they let me through to wreak havoc on the next bunch to clear the way for them. The second technique is the "That back wheel looks flat, Boet" . Now this works because the targeted rider has no confidence and is desperately looking for a reason for his slow progress and every slight twitch of the rear end of the bike seems to confirm this commentary. Not everyone is fooled by this at first so you may have to give constant commentary so 'Yoh! that was close, well held" or " I'm amazed what low pressures tubeless tyres can handle and still stay on the rim" followed by " What rims / tyres are those?" Eventually, the rider pulls over to inspect the wheel for himself and that's your moment to get passed along with your growing fan club. The third technique is my favorite as it goes to the heart of the problem, it's the constant coaching technique and it works like this. First you have to create a rapport with the rider so you need to start with something like " What a view!" his response to this is very important. If he is all cheerful and comes across as if he is simply enjoying the ride then he is not a candidate for this technique and you might want to simply ask for track and the way to do it is to complain about your partner who has just left you for dust and you need to catch him. This only works if your real partner is attuned to this and ready to take advantage when you're given the opportunity. Waffle was a master at this and instinctively knew when full gas was needed. The other potential response from the rider is a rather gruff "Ja" out of the corner of his mouth with no eye contact. The body language also sends a signal usually the shoulders are hunched over the bars with head tucked in between the shoulder blades, a noobs best turtle necking impression. You need to start with some easy stuff and usually a comment like "Boet, you seem far too tense. You need to relax those shoulders a bit". Now his next response is quite telling if you see the guy trying to relax your candidate is a nice guy just trying his best and he will eventually let you through, if the arms extend out and the elbows get all pointy you're in for the long haul, either way you need to be patient. The trick is not to give all the advice at once as you need to be constant, you need to wear him down and you need to keep the rapport going so a little encouragement will help "That's much better" Even pointy elbow guy usually drops the shoulders at this point. " Right, now put the weight on the outside pedal as you turn into the switchback" "No, the outside pedal should be in the half past position". Now wait for one more switchback and say "Great, you're handling that much better, now keep your eyes focussed on where you want to go not what you want to avoid" You can add all sorts of other advice about weight position, inside shoulders etc but usually the nice guy thanks you and gives track while pointy elbow guy says "Piss off!" To which you respond "Will do, just give some track and I'll be on my way" It never fails. I was getting such good results and that I was starting to get a little following and there was constant chatter amongst us. I was also starting to feel more and more confident at my new found track clearing abilities to the extent that I almost felt like a bit of bully. I tried to hide the latter part by chirping all and sundry around me, which made me feel like even more of a bully but I did it anyway. At one of the hold ups I met up with Nick who recognized me from my Mad Cow exploits on day one. This was what I needed someone that wanted to discuss fast descending with me, now my ego was going into overdrive. I had just finished bragging to Nick when I saw two riders off the track in a 2 meter deep donga so I chirped them " Hey, what are you guys doing down theeeerrrrrree...." and within an instant my little egotistical bubble was burst and I joined them OTB head first into their donga. Justice was restored, the Gods of Mountain Biking ensured that equilibrium was maintained and with Waffles help I meekly climbed out of the hole I was in and we continued on our way to Jolivet.
  8. The much vaunted race between Shrek and the Wafflemeister meant that Red and I had to not only get our respective partners to Scottburgh but we had to do this as quickly as possible. We spent the night before the start of the trail at the new Glencairn facilities which, are fantastic, we had the best tents, mattresses and showers of all three days. The only negative was the poor quality of oversized kit especially for the noobs who quite rightly were expecting the usual high quality of Sani2c kit. Ah well, I guess that high standard couldn’t have lasted forever. Bikes were prepared for the next day’s battle, my rear tyre needed new sealant and after a problem I had on Gravel & Grape with the tyre not seating properly I decided to pump it to 3,5 bar and leave it overnight to seat properly and reduce the pressure in the morning before the ride. The beers flowed as Shrek and Waffle gave each other gears about the next day’s battle, we were a group of 8 riders with 3 noobs and advice was being dispensed freely from the veterans. All of which came to an abrupt end as the first bout of rain brought a sense of foreboding to bear on noobs and veterans alike so we finished our beers and retired to our tents with a new battle cry “Sleepy, sleepy hand off pee pee” We awoke to a misty morning and the morning battle cry of” Wakey, wakey hand off snaky”; this team is obsessed with their nether regions. Waffle and I set off a batch ahead of Shrek and Red which was not ideal as we had no idea if we were leading or not, they could be just a minute behind out of sight but nine minutes in the lead. So we decided to set off at my pace with Waffle sitting slip whenever he could which we thought should be quicker than Shrek could get his 120 kg frame to go. The weakness in the plan was that the rest of our party were in Shrek’s batch and the other five riders were determined to help him make a race of it and one of the riders, Jimbo, had dropped down from A batch and had some serious skills and speed. Our little plan did not last for long as Waffle called time out on View Point climb and suggested that we hold the horses back somewhat. I realised from that moment that the race was effectively over and we settled into a pace and rhythm that would ensure a finish. I would attack the single track sections for fun and wait for Waffle to catch up to slipstream on the flats. Waffle was more than holding his own and more than once I saw his cramp induced grimace change into a smile as the Sani single tracks found a new fan. Waffle took time out at the Pevency water table to greet a family friend who was serving us, the way her face lit up when she saw him made our day, unfortunately we had a race to ride and we had to move on. But what stayed with us is how the Sani impacts positively on the lives of communities that surround it. Other than my back problems I have another medical problem which I had developed from eating too many Contador steaks namely Mad Cow. It manifests itself on fast descents, gnarly or not makes no difference the Mad Cow takes over and I attack the descent with only one goal in mind Speed. My overall time for the day is less important than my max speed on my Garmin and there is a particular descent on a gravel road before the Xumeni forest that was my target. In the days of 3 x 10 chain rings I managed 78 km/h on what was a very rough district road riddled by erosion trenches. In today’s world of 2x10, 78 km/h was highly unlikely as a 38/11 combination has you spinning out at 55km/h so my target was 60. Imagine my surprise when we exited the forest single track onto a freshly graded gravel road. 70 said the Mad Cow and we were off the numbers on the Garmin my focus, 30 k - passing other riders on the far right, 45k - more riders watch the drifting rider, nice butt, use the drainage channel to pass, duck under the branches. 55k- spinning out, 60k -passing Nick on the right, sharp turn back wheel sliding, ….3,5 huh? That’s not on my Garmin. 65k - get aerodynamic use the dropper post. Another turn, back wheel into a serious slide, need to correct the slide 3,5, what is it with this 3,5? The Racing Ralph on the rear has no grip 3,5, there it is again. 68k - three arrows for a sharp turn, don’t touch the brakes, almost there. 3,5, damn! I forgot to deflate the tyre no wonder we’re in a serious slide, let it drift and overtake on the right. Downhill done, what’s the score …Garmin scrolls …….69,9km/h aaargh! And this is what it looks like in pictures oh, if you want to feel the Mad Cow play the music loud! The babe with the nice butt showed us up on the next climb (okay she was holding onto to her partners back pocket). The descent through Xumeni was quick and we had great dice with another team that was equally adept at descending. We were held up a little through Wappos by other riders and this Farmer Glen chappie walking on the path but a hard ride on the next descent gave us a clear run on the next single track. The time difference between the teams was sufficient to bring the racing aspect to an end, Shrek found the climbing and distance tough but although slower than us he finished in a more than respectable time. I pestered all that paid me any mind with tales of my descending exploits including seeking out Nixm and retelling my story to her and her partner to the point of boredom. My other companions dealt with this by buying me beer in an attempt to shut me up. However, the story of the day belonged to Jimbo, who was simply having a blast playfully wheeling, bunny hopping and doing endos at every opportunity. He showed his riding mates some serious skill by bunny hopping the entire railway line with an endo front wheel landing. This raised a comment from a pretty lady rider “Now you’re just showing off” she said, with a glint in his eye and a sparkling smile he responded “Not really my angel”. Her riposte? “You’re not dead and I’m not an Angel”! We have a clear winner.Click here to view the article
  9. It's just another stage race I was telling myself. A few more people, cameras and flashy lights, but nothing fundamentally different from what I have done. But the Cape Epic is not just another race. It has acquired a certain reputation. It has something special and has become a sort of mountain bike acid test. When most non-cyclists hear you ride a bike it's usually followed by an 'oh, have you done the epic' or 'the argus' or both - as if they're on the same playing field. Click here to view the article
  10. As much as I argued my internal justifications had done little to settle the nerves though. While just 20km and not all that tricky a course, the mind still starts wandering. What if we puncture, are my gears set right, have I fiddled too much, what if we crash. What if. Photo by Sophie Smith/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS It's 6:30am. Last checks of the luggage before we load up the car and head through. It's getting closer to go time, "hammer time" as Lindsay, my girlfriend, says and my stomach is doing flips. I haven't felt this since I started racing on the road in the "Senior Scholars League". Arriving at UCT the nervous energy now turns to excitement. In what seems like no time at all we've said our goodbyes and we're in the queue waiting for our call up. "Six O Two" crackles over a loud hailer. That's us! We shuffle expectantly through the chute towards the start ramp. Up ahead a small set of stairs leads us up onto the start ramp. We're off next. "3, 2, 1.... GO!" It's eerily calm. My first sense is slight annoyance at the announcer for mispronouncing my surname. "Focus dude, you're racing!", I tell myself. Out on the course we're not there to win any medals. Rubber side down is firmly the only motto as we gently wake up cold legs. I have an itch to go harder, to chase a little, but I know what lies ahead this week. I also know both Dane and I are nursing the tail end of illness and injury. Restraint is all important. The route itself, although undoubtedly spectacularly situated, wasn't particularly interesting aside from the last 5km. The climbs were tough, but also over quickly. My interest was sparked when we hit the new sections of single track. I'd been warned of the dusty rutted trails and some steep sections we hadn't had the opportunity to recce. Winding down back towards UCT we hit the steeper, more sketchy section of trail. Up ahead a rider panics and locks up brakes into now deep ruts. In spite of his efforts otherwise he somehow he makes it through upright, but has now slowed speed to a crawl leaving little choice but to have faith in the line and shoot down. Phew, all safe and sound. With the crowd gathered at the foot of the hill it was clear this was a good vantage point for wipeouts. Thankfully neither of us provided any viewing pleasure. The last few sections of single track through the trees were lined with supporters. On this familiar trail I hear a few familiar voices cheering us on. Picking lines through the rocks there's no time for a glance or wave, but the support lights a little fire of excitement as we charge into the finish at UCT. With our first Cape Epic now firmly underway the first day has gone well. And while some of the initial nerves have fizzled, tomorrow's tough stage 1 presents it's own new "what if's". We've done the hard yards, the training blocks, the intervals, the sacrifice... for the most part. Though, no matter how well justified my cerebral points might be, only tomorrow and the days thereafter will tell the true story. Follow the progress on my race here:Epic Insider: Slow and Soggy on Stage 1 Epic Insider: More wind in our sails on Stage 2 What lies ahead: Stage 1 A 113 km circular route from Oak Valley with a total of 2800m climbing, including the famed Groenlandberg.
  11. Needless to say aside from a few members of the SADC observer mission staying at the hotel we’ve been none the wiser. In fact the only impact so far was due to the hotel being overbooked as a result and our room lacking a few essentials. Like a bed. It had been converted into a meeting room and converting it back proved to be a challenge. It’s it strange change taking part in an event with a contingent of just 40 teams. You’re suddenly not just a number and feel a sort of added pressure having the privilege of taking part in something so unique and so intimate. Photo: Cherie Vale / Lesotho Sky Photo: Cherie Vale / Lesotho Sky Photo: Cherie Vale / Lesotho Sky Day 1 - The TOTAL Time trialStarting in reverse number order we were all set for our 10:28 start time. Ahead of us is rally driving ace Gugu Zulu. Behind us some Swiss nationals and one crazy singlespeeder, rigid fork and all. Mission of the day: Don't get caught by the singlespeeder. Surely with gears and shocks he won't catch us?! The prologue starts and we shoot up a steep tar road towards Parliament. And just like that the tar ends and we're thrown into a rocky trail that’s possibly more suited to goats than mountain bikes. Welcome to Lesotho mountain biking. We had been advised at dinner the night before that this was “real mountain biking”. If the first 3km were anything to go by we were in for a challenging, but incredible week. The course took us on a tour of the Mountain Kingdom’s capital. Mazes of roads through houses, rocky divergent single track and dongas for Africa left us wishing we’d taken the chance to recce the route beforehand. Although overshooting a few turns here and there we were moving along well. Up ahead I could see the winding climbs in between houses perched on the hillside. Time to start reeling in a few of our minute (and a half) men. While not long, the climbs we were presented with were loose, twisty and rocky. At times opting to carry was not a question of willpower, leg power or skill, but the only viable option. With just 4km and a little climbing to go our mission for the day had fallen apart. The singlespeeder had caught us. Not only that, but he was making the technical rocky trails look easy while he pulled ahead. The last few kilometers took us through some more flowy trails and some short sharp descents. A final sharp climb brought us to the top of the hill and into a short section of singletrack before the finish. Crossing the line in 01:26:12 we ended up 16th overall and 8th in the open category. Not too shabby considering we didn’t go “full gas”. Singlespeeders aside being in the top half is good for us, now to maintain and improve on that. Photo: Cherie Vale / Lesotho Sky Photo: Cherie Vale / Lesotho Sky Looking aheadDay 2 takes us into the mountains with a 52km loop from Rambanta tallying up 1580m of climbing. We’ll be greeted almost immediately by the first brutal ascent of the Tar Nkesi Pass to wake the legs up and spread things out. Having seen the view from our camp at the Rambanta Tradepost we’re in for some spectacular climbs over the next week. Bring it on Lesotho Sky. The view from our camp in Rambanta
  12. With the various political goings on there was a little apprehension heading across the border for my first Lesotho Sky. While the organising team and other locals had given assurances that the media was making a meal of things, you’re still never quite sure until you are there. Click here to view the article
  13. Nothing like a bright chilly morning to start off a race day. I was very fortunate to pick up a last minute entry to the event and scurried my way up to Knysna. The driving rain, hail and snow capped mountains made the trip all the more interesting. No matter the weather, the reputation this race has by word of mouth is only positive, and from what the route maps and profiles looked like it seemed to be three days of great riding and another awesome adventure. Day 167km / 1420m ascentCold, wet and muddy is pretty much the best description I can give for the start of Day 1 of the RE:CM Knysna 200. Respect must go to all riders that finished the Day 1 as muddy conditions over the 75km route played havoc with drivetrains, brakes and traction. And in some cases senses of humour. My partner and I suffered numerous technical issues including a broken chain in the first 5km’s, chain-suck throughout and a broken crank at 60km. Bar the cold, the mud and the technical problems, Day 1 had to be one of the most beautiful routes I have ridden: kilometres of forestry road, forest single track and short sections of district road had the riders drenched in the richest greens of ferns and mosses under endless tree canopies. Up close and personal. The climbs out of the numerous valleys that we descended into on mud packed roads were slippery and rutted and the sharp bends made sure you had to have your wits about you at all times. Mud baths were a plenty as innocuous looking puddles ended up being a lot deeper than they looked and ate up front wheels throwing riders onto the wet trails. The route was tougher and more demanding than I had expected. Based on the comments and chatter in the massage area after the race, many had the same opinion. A big thanks must go to Rocky Mountain Bikes who loaned my partner a bike for Day 2 while his crank was being repaired. Day 267km / 1580m ascentOne of the unique things about the RE:CM Knysna 200 is the different start locations each day. Day 2 started just outside Rheenendal around 20km’s outside Knysna. Spirits were high and the temperature low as we set off straight up a 3km climb into the old Millwood gold mine area, after which a fast descent through the forest brought us to a river crossing. On the other side a steep and very slippery climb had us trudging through ankle deep mud. Unfortunately this was the beginning of the end of the race for me as I tweaked the Achilles injury I have been struggling with lately. I managed to ignore the pain for a while as we were able to get back on our bikes again and headed up the side of a valley that forced us to hug the side as precarious drops threatened on the right. This beautiful piece of narrow single-track snaked its way up the side of the valley for an age until it popped out onto a jeep track section that had us speeding down into another valley over washouts and drainage ditches. At this point my Achilles was screaming at me and tightening the leg all the way up to the knee. The fast descent bottomed out and had us climbing up a 2km super steep incline that had many walking. As we got to the top the first water point welcomed us after just 15 km’s. I briefly forgot about the pain and grabbed a cup or two of Hammer HEED then sped off down a flat section of jeep track. The road started climbing and my Achilles started aching, 400 meters later I could no longer apply pressure to the pedal on the right. Sadly I watched my partner go on alone as I headed back to the water point and got a lift back to the race village. As bleak as I was, I still managed to appreciate the fun that was being had at the water point as the rest of the riders came through - it really is a much more relaxed part of the race to be in. Thank you Jacques Brink from Knysna Cycle Works for the lift back to town. Day 360km / 895m ascentWarmer weather welcomed us to start of Day 3 at the Harkerville Forestry station around 20km outside Knysna. After the previous day's issue with my Achilles, the plan was to take a kilometre by kilometre approach to the day. Paul Valstar(MC) started us off and immediately up a climb. After only two kilometres I was ready to turn back to the start because of pain but fortunately my partner talked me out of this and I carried on thinking that water point one would be the end for me. But 10 km’s in and I was having so much fun on the route I had mostly forgotten about the pain as we crossed through pine forests that led us onto jeep track that skirted the edges of cliff faces and the coast below. Eventually we headed into narrow tree lined paths that bounced us over root systems that criss-crossed the paths and dropped us onto another short section of jeep track. Turning right into more single track, we sped in between trees and rocks, up short inclines and over sections of decked trails in the most insanely beautiful forest I have ever ridden. Water point 1 met us at the end of the single track. There was no chance I was stopping now and we started climbing up more jeep track through low hanging trees, followed by fast winding descents which characterised the next 10 kilometres of the route. I was starting to change my opinion about Day 1, Day 3 was even better. A short section of grass trail that ran next to the N2 led us to more forestry road climbs. The descents after were now through pine forests that wound their way down into a valley; sharp corners and washouts made the pine needle covered tracks tricky at speed. A final sharp climb though more pine forest led us to a district road which peaked out on to the spine of the mountain and the whole of Knysna was visible before us. An uncomfortable grassy trail led down the spine and had teeth chattering together until it dropped down into some pines. A short rooted technical drop onto the tar followed and a fast flat ride to Thesen Island and on to the finish. Overall ImpressionsThe RECM Knysna 200 was very well organised event with an awesome, friendly atmosphere. It is still a relatively small race with a cap of 350 participants and a reasonable entry fee. This is an event that is sure to gain popularity and become one that is difficult to get an entry to in the future. Rob Bateman is an IT Product Specialist who began cycling in 2006 as part of a lifestyle change. Weighing in at 122kg and requiring both arms to get off the couch, he soon dropped 42kg and has completed 2 x Cape Epic, 3 x Ironman (Full), 4 x Ironman 70.3 among many other events along the way.You may be familiar with Rob from his daily Epic Insider reports and you can look forward to more race reports and features in the future.For more on Rob head over to his blog. For more details on the RECM Knysna 200 go here: www.recmknysna200.co.za
  14. The RE:CM Knysna 200 held this past weekend not only saw some incredible riding and great results from the pros, but also showed off 200 km of some of the best mountain biking routes in the country. Click here to view the article
  15. Johan Kruger setting the pace through the plains of the Tankwa Karoo| Photo: Oakpics Kruger completed the route in a new record time, for the up-ride, knocking 9 minutes off Raynard Tissink’s 2012 time to stop the clock at 9 hours, 30 minutes and 6 seconds. In the ladies race Liesbet Kristafor claimed the Trans Karoo title in a time of 11 hours 58 minutes and 15 seconds. The 2014 Trans Karoo started at the Eselfontien Farm outside Ceres just as the sun was cresting the Matroosberg Mountains. Kruger had made his intentions for victory clear and a leading group of ten or so riders formed from the start. Each took a turn at the front as they worked together to combat the headwinds which marked the middle phase of the race across the Tankwa Karoo. The group worked through check points one and two but by check point three the headwinds and Kruger’s relentless pace had whittled the group down. UCT’s Bruce Hughes in particular was suffering badly by check point three, battling cramps and nausea. From check point three to the foot of the Ouberg Pass, the pace slacked off slightly, as the leaders looked to conserve energy for the main trial of the Trans Karoo. The struggle up Ouberg Pass became an emotional challenge for many | Photo: Oakpics The Ouberg Pass saw riders gain 820 meters over 10.4km, on loose shale surfaced jeep track. The Ouberg Pass shattered the leading group, with no one able to stay on Kruger’s wheel. Every rider was reduced to pushing their bike at some point on the pass and while Tissink’s record may have been broken he remains the only Trans Karoo finisher to have ridden up the entire Ouberg Pass – though it must be said the pass was in a better condition when he did so in 2012. From the top of the pass and check point four, Kruger simply had to avoid mechanical issues to claim the victory, but he continued to set a blistering pace with Tissink’s record firmly in his sights. The final 40km over undulating Karoo Hoogland saw the ultimate shake out of the men’s race with Izak Visagie settling into an unchallenged second position, 8 minutes down on Kruger and 10 ahead of third placed Hermias Nieuwoudt. Jaques Van Zy claimed fourth a minute and 54 seconds over the 10 hour mark with Hughes recovering strongly from his bout of cramps to finish fifth. In the ladies race Kristafor proved too strong finishing nearly 2 hours ahead of her nearest rival, Elizma Kock. Nan Kirtley, Elishia Drotschie and Maryka Burger, who had ridden most of the day together, came home within 4 minutes of each other to claim third, fourth and fifth respectively. Kristafor’s excellent performance was highlighted by the fact that she placed 31st overall in a highly competitive field. The Ouberg Pass forced every rider to walk at some point | Photo: Oakpics For the less competitive riders the 17 hour cut-off and the Ouberg Pass proved to be the greatest challenges. Many walked the entire pass, taking over an hour and a half to reach the summit. The relentless trudge was made worthwhile by succulent Karoo lamb braaied to perfection by the hospitable Karoo farmers manning check point four. The remaining 40km from check point four to Sutherland must have seemed like 100km for the exhausted riders, the majority of whom took in excess of 13 hours to complete the Trans Karoo route. After sunset the temperature plummeted to near freezing making the undulating roads, which allowed little respite, and the savage corrugations, which tested the comfort of even the plushest full suspension bikes, all the more challenging. A lone rider struggles up the Ouberg Pass as the sun sets on the Karoo | Photo: Oakpics At night pass seemed never ending, with no crest in sight and only the mere meters ahead illuminated | Photo: Oakpics Every rider who finished the 2014 Trans Karoo can feel immense pride in their achievement. They overcame the physical and mental challenges dished out by 240km of rugged Karoo roads. From the record setting Johan Kruger, to the last rider to cross the finish line – Rudi Van Rooyen, who finished 16 hours 53 minutes and 25 seconds after leaving Eselfontein – congratulations on conquering the Trans Karoo! To view the complete 2014 Trans Karoo results click here, or to recap on the race like the Trans Karoo Facebook page or follow @TransKarooMTB on Twitter. The Trans Karoo highlights show will be broadcasting on SuperSport soon so keep an eye on the race’s social media channels to ensure you don’t miss the show.
  16. After 240 gruelling kilometres across the plains and passes of the Karoo, from Eselfontein outside Ceres to the Jupiter Guesthouse in Sutherland, Johan Kruger emerged victorious at the 2014 Trans Karoo MTB. Click here to view the article
  17. So the final day of the Epic had arrived and so had the rain again, however this didn’t do much to dampen the mood on the start line. Click here to view the article
  18. Image credit: Kelvin Trautman/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS The rule for the day was to keep it tidy and upright. We started in C once again at 7:10 and we left up the hillside next to the camp moving across the farm roads that surround Oak Valley. The route was undulating as it weaved in and out of the orchards, up one side of a wire fence and then racing down the opposite side, then racing through the trees again. The legs had barely warmed up when we started climbing a gravel farm road that circled around a hill and we were met by a group of cheering spectators at the top. The road descended for a short while and then we started up a wide gravel road, bordered on the left by a sheer drop and trees and bush on the right. The gradient suited me perfectly and we made good time, unfortunately passing a rider with folded front wheel about a third of the way up, a long walk to the water point for him. Image credit: Greg Beadle/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS Passing through some pines on sandy forest road we crossed the main tar road that leads to Villiersdorp and into the adjacent pine plantations, more pine needle covered forestry roads climbed for a few kilometers before descending gently and passing a dam. The forestry road turned left and up, the smooth road was a comfortable rise but noticeably the higher we got the looser and rockier it got. A 1km sign board let us know we were almost at the top and a short while later we crested and were drenched in cloud. The descent was very different to the climb, a hard gravel road with deep washouts and large rocks made for a difficult ride down, as we dropped out of the cloud itself it began to rain again. The fast descent tapered into a long undulating grind that crossed sand pits, loose rocky climbs and muddy patches, covered in cloud again we couldn’t see what should have been a grand view over the Grabouw area. The path then swung right over a nek and descended quickly, a few warning signs on the way warning us to slow down as the road was badly eroded in places with deep washouts and exposed rocks. Bottoming out we reached waterpoint 1. Image credit: Nick Muzik/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS With no real need for anything I just cleaned my glasses as best I could and we started climbing grassy jeep track which leveled quickly. We now rode on a forestry road that skirted along the edge of the mountain with brief visits into the forest but then back onto the road again. There were no real climbs but it was hard riding on an uneven rocky surface until we eventually reached the Gamtou Pass and the compulsory portage. This started off as scramble as riders tried to make good time and make a few passes but the slippery surface eventually had everyone walking at the same pace, the path became quite narrow and no passing could be done anyway. I wondered how many pro’s and racing snakes had done their ankles in as parts of the portage are very slippery, uneven and steep. I did take a moment to appreciate that I was not hauling my ox wagon up this pass. Image credit: Kelvin Trautman/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS The compulsory portage ended and single track riding started, a few big drop-offs had us walking but we quickly reached dual track and raced alongside the railway line. Crossing over the railway we entered a sandy jeep track section that was just a pleasure to ride, soft sweeping lines that cut through thin trees that went on for ages. Unfortunately this ended too soon as the path turned onto a long straight farm road that had us barreling down onto a paved section through a line of old farm houses and waterpoint 2. Still no need to fill up but a quick banana, lube of the drivetrain and we headed out of the last water point for the event. A short bit of farm road pitched us into a single track climb that started with some switchbacks on a grassed embankment and eventually entered a treed area where sandy straights led to comfortable switchbacks with some very tight lines between the trees. The exit of the single track included 3 step ups, the first one a single log, over; the second with 2 logs, over; the third with four logs got the better of me and had to carry the bike up onto the jeep track and mounted again. Image credit: Warren Elsom/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS I had to push a little to catch my partner, with 15km to go he could smell home and his competitive nature kicked in. He was now trying to pass as many teams as possible as we headed towards the Lourensford bowl. Badly eroded farm road slowed things down as we crossed side to side to find the best line around stony washouts. A short descent onto a path covered in river rock then had me bouncing out of the saddle while trying to keep the front wheel straight. I could hear the finish now and although there were still 7kms to go I was starting to smile. Even the thick sand that was now sucking my rear wheel in couldn’t change that. A short section of single track through trees along the river brought us to the final climb of the day, a short steep section of jeep track burned the legs for one last time as we passed another team. The smile was bigger as we swept through another short section of single track that looped around the large trees and onto a tar road that led us around the back of the race village and final turn onto the grass fields and the finish straight. Spectators lined the finish area and the cheering was incredible, I was smiling ear to ear and felt a little lump in the throat. We had done it. Team Swiss Club / Flux Communications finished the event 144th overall. Image credit: Gary Perkin/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS Coolness:Receiving my medal from Jose Hermida, one of my favourite MTB’ers ever. Product of the day: My KTM Myroon, my baby was just so reliable throughout the week. Highlight The welcome I got from my daughter at the finish. Lowlight The adventure is over, for this year anyway. With almost no technical issues we tamed the 718km that had been laid in front of us. Was it easy ? No and every year you see the question being asked, “Is it getting too easy?”. I honestly think every year has different challenges, we had been through mud, water, rain, sand and some of the hardest, steepest descents I have ever seen. In entirety this had a completely new and unique set of challenges to the first Epic that I did.What would I change? Very little really, I would probably work a bit on my nutrition and possibly look at a dual suspension bike as my hamstrings took a serious battering on the fast and rocky descents. In terms of training, I learned what I would need to do both on fitness and skills development to break into the top 100 placing which would be a goal and would also use the philosophy of a lot goes a long way. I hope I have been able to share my adventure with everyone adequately, the mental notations and recall has been a bit tough sometimes and I often remembered other details hours after posting. Thank you to all those with messages of support. If you missed out on any of Rob's daily "Epic Insider" reports from the 2014 Absa Cape Epic be sure to catch up, they're well worth a read:Prologue: Excitement, introspection and the start of the 2014 Cape Epic Rocks, ruts, and glowing brakes on Stage 1 Abundant orange mud and passing the tests of Stage 2 Time losses and misplaced partners on Stage 3 Single track and more single track on Stage 4 Hallucinations atop Groenlandberg on Stage 5 Fatigued mind, body, and a bloodied elbow on Stage 6 A little more rain and the smell of home on Stage 7 Rob's weapon of choice: KTM Myroon Master 29er XT Groupset VRV Cycles carbon straight bars and bar ends Selle Italia XR saddle Fizik seatpost Rockshox SiD XX 29er Hope Pro Hubs with ZTR Arch Rims GEAX Saguaro 29x2.2 TNT
  19. Its getting a little harder to wake up each morning now as fatigue on body and mind is setting in, it was around 12 degrees this morning too which made it even more difficult. Click here to view the article
  20. Image credit: Gary Perkin/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS The start this morning was staggered in 15 minute intervals to allow for increased gaps on the single track sections and we headed off at 07:15 and straight up a jeep track rise adjacent to the race village. The group settled quickly and the first few kilometers were covered at a nice comfortable pace as we moved along the various dual track farm roads and then dropped into a shallow valley and a water crossing. Back onto farm roads the pace lifted a bit as we swung left and right around the fields and were also joined by a few large cows and a bull for a short distance (thankfully a fence separating us). We entered a short piece of single track and passed a small dam on our left to the first leg tester of the day, a short steep gravel climb that then became more jeep track. Image credit: Sam Clark/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS We were turned off this jeep track onto overgrown single track that crossed a few roads and started ascending again through fynbos and proteas. The going was tough as the track was uneven with grass clumps but eventually weaved its way into a forested area and continued to climb with the odd bunny-hop over small trees that had fallen across the path and occasionally negotiate some deep ruts. The path eventually headed downwards again and was mostly single track, we joined an old abandoned motorcross track and were able to enjoy its high berms and picked up some nice speed. The single track that guided us towards Houwhoek was a great ride over tracks cut into the sides of the hills with drops into marshy wetlands that climbed again onto hard pack trail where tight switchbacks tested our agility. Water point 1 was a quick stop as I hadn’t even used a quarter of my first bottle and we moved on to a stretch of unused tar which ran next to the N2 and then dropped down to a culvert which moved us over to the Lebanon side of the road. Image credit: Greg Beadle/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS Loose climbs on wide dual track now led us into the mountain, with quick dashes into the forests on some single track but the eventually coming back to the forestry roads that crept upwards. A nice group formed for a while as we climbed and there was a nice bit of chatter and we were even joined for a short while by Joel Stransky pondering if he had done the right thing entering Ironman next week. We reached the top, crossed onto some tar road for a short distance until a marshal pointed us down a loose rocky jeep track road with multitudes of washouts, sand pits and large rocks to keep us concentrating. Although tricky to ride, this stretch was fast and we picked up some quick kilometers along here. A flat section of forestry road took us to some orchards which we rode along until we got to an eroded path that was about a meter deep and 3 meters wide but had been filled in with rocks. The rocks were uneven and super sharp so I decided to carry the bike over rather than risk a puncture or dinged rim. Image credit: Gary Perkin/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS A sharp left dropped us down a long opening between two orchards, over a farm road and straight into a steep loose climb along the orchards, a crowd had gathered at the top where a super steep embankment lined the road, the crowd cheering and urging riders to make it over. Apparently only a single rider had succeeded by the time we got there and only a single had succeeded by the time we left. We rode on top of an embankment that circled a small dam and entered waterpoint 2, it was getting hot so we exchanged bottles (explanation, the race offers a service to transport two chilled bottles to water point 2 every day), grabbed a banana and pushed on. We immediately started climbing up loose jeep track in the pine plantations and riders weaved from side to side to find the best line and avoid washouts until we were taken on single track that worked its way up the mountain between the trees. Steep switchbacks that leveled out then climbed and turned steeply again climbing up through the plantation until we got to a marshall that was letting us know “this is what you’ve been waiting for!” And so the fun began, forested trails that weaved between pines, swept around rooted corners and bounced through small rocky sections, root steps boosted speeds as we swung left to right and back again too many times to count.I heard a faster rider coming up behind and as we were approaching a section where we crossed a forest road I took the wide route around and slowed, my front wheel jammed into a rock and I went over into probably the rockiest, hardest patch of ground in the area. Up again and a quick bike check I started the single track again with elbow throbbing, the elbow worked so it had to be okay. We eventually left the forested single track and started on the more exposed single track at the bottom which also swerved left to right but was much looser but hard on the hands. As we left the single track a forest road took us around a small dam through a small forested section and then down into a river bed, through another culvert which was low and packed with debris as we crossed under the N2 again. On to more farm road and we turned off on to a single track climb etched into the hillside that went on for 2kms with tight corners and narrow straights between trees. At the top we navigated some fast hard packed farm roads that dipped and climbed, we entered a forested section on sandy single track, sometimes a little off-camber it undulated through the trees. Image credit: Kelvin Trautman/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS CoolnessLebanon forest, need I say more. Product of the Day: Mediclinic, patching me up quickly and with a smile. Highlight Lebanon forest, need I say more. Lowlight Watching a fellow riders calf being stitched back together, the cut ran the length of his calf and was about 1cm deep. <head swims a little> Still on the single track I crossed a wooden bridge and then another and then another until I eventually got to a wide bridge that spanned a gap over a valley and was constructed out of old wine barrels. Another bridge crossed another deep gap as we entered the Paul Cluver amphitheater that was packed with spectators, the route circled the area over another 2 bridges until we ducked under a wooden structure and then did a full 360 on wooden pallets that crossed over itself, a very awesome fun section that put us in waterpoint 3.25km to go and we headed out over the farms roads with some loose turns as we followed the roads back to the Oak Valley area, we crossed over one of the many stiles into a field where we rode hard single track that crossed the hills back and forth. Over another stile and back onto farm roads we circled a large dam and took a sharp right that climbed steeply over an uneven grassy surface for 2km’s. Once at the top it dropped us like a rock over smooth hard single track with high berms and fast straights through ferns and reeds. Onto a short jeep track section and we turned into a 2km section of single track the followed a river under a thick canopy of trees, the section was fast and smooth as it passed in between trees and rocks, just sublime to ride. After a short rise we dropped into more single track that was a bit more sandy with tight corners and then a quick drop into the valley and into the Oak Valley finish area, 85km with 1800m of ascent in 4:55. Looking forward to tomorrow. Image credit: Greg Beadle/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS Keep an eye out for Rob's daily reports here on The Hub as he tackles the 2014 Absa Cape Epic.Rob's weapon of choice: KTM Myroon Master 29er XT Groupset VRV Cycles carbon straight bars and bar ends Selle Italia XR saddle Fizik seatpost Rockshox SiD XX 29er Hope Pro Hubs with ZTR Arch Rims GEAX Saguaro 29x2.2 TNT
  21. It seemed like everyone was on go slow on this misty morning as we entered chute C again today. We were one of three teams ready for the day to start and the move to Elgin. Click here to view the article
  22. Image credit: Greg Beadle/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS We headed out on the same short hill and district road as yesterday and a large group formed immediately, the speed picked up and so did the dust reducing visibility. 7kms later the first small rise started to break the group up as the pace was a little too much for some, maybe a little too much for myself I thought but managed to hang on. We jumped from district road to district road over farms using hard dual track and we eventually settled into a group again as the district road climbed gently but persistently for some kilometers and had us dodging trucks and bakkies. Eventually we were turned off the district road onto a steep rocky climb, loose sand and rocks getting the better of some front wheels relegating those to a walk. The rough dual track was tricky to ride with grassy clumps, loose rock and patches of mud to keep you alert. The track leveled out for a while until a marshall guided us right onto some jeep track. We entered a section of single track that boasted sharp rocky edges, loose stones and hard dips and rises. At my last count we had passed eight teams that had hit some technical misfortune on this single track, at one point I was stuck behind a slower rider and there was no way of passing. Image credit: Karin Schermbrucker/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS Eventually I found a gap as we crossed some jeep track and I sped up but cautiously. A short but sharp rise on a 90 degree corner became quite musical as riders scurried for their shifters and an easier gear. Once at the top it was a quick grassy trail down to water point 1, for the readers the water points are very well serviced, with a water trucks, coke and Energade, foods that include potatoes, fruit cake, muffins, apples, banana’s and some bars. There is also a neutral technical zone, a medical tent and a lubrication zone. We headed out of the water point and Serengeti was upon us in no time, a wide steep climb that shocks the legs and had many testing the soles of their cycle shoes, myself included. The gradient eased and we were able to ride the rest of the way, all the time we could see Rusty Gate lurking in the background. A quick descent through some vineyards with a few tricky right and left off-camber turns and we started the climb of the day. Image credit: Karin Schermbrucker/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS Gentle at first it is a 5km long hard packed road that hugs the mountain side and has a few steep kicks but never really levels out. About 2 kms in the lacing system of my shoes snapped and I was left with a loose fitting right shoe which is not ideal for steep climbing, getting irritated I stopped and managed to make a temporary fix. On the bike again it was a back breaking climb for the next 3km’s, as the gradient increased and the surface got looser. We reached the top and started the very fast descent on the other side down loose stony jeep track with a few sections of grassy single track thrown in. Two short sharp climbs on hard packed farm roads decreased the speed and lift us into Waterpoint 2. Image credit: Gary Perkin/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS A quick switch of bottles, some nutrition in the form of a banana and fruit cake, drivetrain lubed and we were off again. After a short jeep track road we were guided onto a steep grassy single track that has the shocks working overtime with a few smoother turns at the end we popped out onto a tar road and cycled 5km on tar over the Teewaterskloof dam. Eventually we turned off the tar onto flat hard jeep track and meandered through the farmlands. We then plunged down steep corrugated farm road that twisted its way into a valley where a very sandy road slowed us down. Image credit: Gary Perkin/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS Grassy farm roads led the way around the valley and eventually crossed over a stream turning us up a steep trail with small stones and loose sand that made traction difficult and again many resorted to walking until the gradient changed and was kind enough to ride again. Dropping down over the other side we could see and almost identical climb to the one we had just done only a little longer. This one on a bit harder ground which made it possible to ride all the way up. It then dropped down another rutted farm road to a flat bit of riding in the valley for a few kilometers on dual track. The final climb of the day started with hard pack farm roads that climbed gently through farmed hillsides and brought us to waterpoint 3. Image credit: Sam Clark/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS Comment of the Day “Was she pretty” <asked a mechanic after I described the strange scene on top of Groenlanberg> Weirdness: The Tee-Pee, classical music and strange lady at the top of Groenlandberg. Product of the Day: My Legs, today they just kept going ! Highlight Incredible views and climbing. Lowlight Breaking a shoe halfway up the main climb. A quick stop to fill up the bottles and pour a little water over the head as the temperature reached 36 degrees, we carried on over stony track with gritty white mountain sand. The climb was tough but not steep and carried on for almost 7km’s weaving it way through fynbos and proteas with several spots of thick sand to negotiate. Close to the top I could see an odd shape at the top and thought it to be a rock formation but as we approached I suspected I might be hallucinating.A huge Tee-Pee type structure, gold and silver in colour with patches of material sewn all over blared classical music to us and a woman painted gold and wearing a strange Game of Thrones type costume waved at me, “WTF” from behind me. Thankfully I was not the only one seeing this so I could stop worrying but just really bizarre. I moved on. As we crested the climb the whole of Elgin could be seen below us and we plunged down loose jeep tracks until we entered the farm lands and the roads now undulated with one short nasty climb before more farm roads swept us into 3 final kilometers of bliss. Hard packed single track weaved in and out of Oaks and Poplar trees, with the odd fun bridge and bermed corners made for a big smile as we entered the finish in Oak Valley. 115km with 2900m of climbing made this a super tough day but we got through in 6:42. Medusa, Queen of the Mountain, a performance art piece by Oakley during stage 5 of the 2014 Absa Cape Epic Image credit: Nick Muzik/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS Image credit: Sam Clark/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS Keep an eye out for Rob's daily reports here on The Hub as he tackles the 2014 Absa Cape Epic.Rob's weapon of choice: KTM Myroon Master 29er XT Groupset VRV Cycles carbon straight bars and bar ends Selle Italia XR saddle Fizik seatpost Rockshox SiD XX 29er Hope Pro Hubs with ZTR Arch Rims GEAX Saguaro 29x2.2 TNT
  23. With the route profile that resembled an ECG reading stuck to my cross bar my partner and I headed to start chute C again, a much lighter mood today with lots of joking. Click here to view the article
  24. Image credit: Nick Muzik/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS The start was spot on 7:10 and we turned left up a grassed hill without even so much as a warm up and the heart rates went through the roof immediately until we turned onto some district road that undulated for 4kms. Brakes squealed and rear tires slid as the road narrowed over a concrete bridge, the sad face of Karl Platt and Urs Huber (Team Bulls) standing on the other side. They were obviously out. The district road undulated for a few more kilometres till we turned onto smooth jeep track that climbed steeply up the hillside, flattened and then skirted the edge around the hills. The pace was high as everyone wanted to reach the narrow sections of the route early. As we turned left out of a farm gate a rider was down bloodied and lying very still clutching his arm. His partner frantically pushing the emergency button on the Tracker device we have to carry with us this year. Image credit: Karin Schermbrucker/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS We rounded another gate at the top of a hill and started descending flowing switchbacks down into a valley where we crossed a stream and started climbing a path up the next hill where a multitude of hard packed switchbacks awaited. Next we crossed a grassy field with no real track following only orange tape placed on trees and rocks then onto a long narrow path along the bank of stream. We crossed the stream and followed a similar hard packed path on the opposite side. A winding jeep track climb covered in loose stones next to some pines followed and tested the legs as it got steeper towards the top. Eventually topping out with a view of rain in the distance. Image credit: Gary Perkin/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS The off camber descent was tricky in places but hard and rocky and again switched back on itself half a dozen times. Eventually it became a grassy trail lined with proteas and fynbos at shoulder height, we popped out onto a district road and to water point 1. A quick refill and a snack and we were on our way again, a few grassy trails later and we started a gentle climb through more high proteas, as I topped a small rise a rider in front of me waiting for his partner pointed up. What a sight, in front of me was a mountain and etched to it was the most amazing trail that seemed to go on and on and on. Bikes glittered the whole way up as riders swept left then right then left again on this steep hillside. About half way up there was a noise on my left and Urs Huber passed easily on a path that didn’t exist, no Platt. Image credit: Gary Perkin/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS My partner took a kick out the fact that Urs was behind him for some time until he passed and will be telling his story to his friends back home. The path crested on top of this mountain and moved through a dip only to start climbing another set of these incredible switchbacks, where it levelled off and started a fast descent through high grass, off-camber single track and Protea bushes. A few small stream crossings kept us cool and the threat of rain had disappeared. A short stretch of tar road led us to more district road where the speed increased and we made up some good fast kilometres till we reached Genadendal. School children lined the streets cheering as we crossed the roads though the outskirts of the town, eventually turning onto farm roads where two short but tough climbs waited for us. Overgrown jeep track on the first climb had us avoiding small ruts and rocks in the long grass. Then turning left onto more hard packed single track that swept from side to side on the hills, a muddy little river crossing and we were climbing again and now the legs started to feel every change in gradient. This climb started gently but then got nasty. We kept a steady pace passing team Tanzania for the 3rd time as they were struggling with punctures the whole day. I suffered my own face full of sealant as we descended even more rocky single track and something pierced my front tire. I kept going and fortunately the sealant did its job quickly with very little pressure loss and I was able to ride the very fast weaving track that entered Greyton and water point 2. Image credit: Sam Clark/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS Greyton main road was packed with cheering spectators making the stop quite special, unfortunately we didn’t have too much time to take in the atmosphere so bottles were filled quickly, stocked up on nutrition and headed out. We rode along a very uneven trail next to the river and eventually entering a pebbled river bed and crossing the river 3 times in different places, before climbing yet more single track that swerved over the hillside This levelled out but then took a sharp left up a very steep section of overgrown jeep track that had many, including myself, walking. I didn’t feel too bad as I was in good company, passing Hanli Booyens on the way up. Once at the top - as if we didn’t have enough for the day - more single track descents. This time a bit more tricky as it was slightly off camber and overgrown in places with a few surprise step ups onto and over rocks. A long section of tree-lined single track headed gently upstream, as we hopped over tree trunks, climbed slippery rocks and crossed the stream a few times through muddy puddles and over bridges. This ended abruptly as we headed up a washed out farm road that tested the legs once more. Over the top and we descended gently along the sides of the hills on hard single track, avoiding the sharp pointed remains of recently cut trees and into water point 3. Hardly a stop here but for a quick cup of coke and we were climbing a farm road again. A quick descent on dual track and onto the next climb that was short but had the legs screaming. Image credit: Greg Beadle/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS Comment of the Day: "Passing on your left" (while passing on the right)Coolness: The participation of local communities, it’s a great feeling getting cheered through small towns Product of the Day: VRV Bar ends, I spend a lot of time on my bar-ends particularly on steep climbs and I have found the VRV carbon bar ends light and the moulding is super comfortable. Highlight: A ridiculous amount of single track. Lowlight: Platt and Huber out of the Epic. I got the descent on the next field very wrong, small round stones covered the jeep track and it was like riding on marbles, I had no control and veered sharp left onto the field and recovered and managed to avoid rocks till we left the field.Reaching a patch of pines we turned onto a really enjoyable stretch of flowing soft forested single track bobbed through the trees, great fun. Farm roads took us past some smaller farms and then we were guided up a gentle ascent towards some pines, my partner exclaiming, “Oh, thats quite steep.” I looked right and a steep road loomed. We rode it almost half way but sadly it beat us. We dismounted and walked the remainder of the way. On the bikes again and it was an easy 2km ride into the finish area, 88km and 1850m in 5:02. A day with the most insane amount of single track, I feel I may have used it too much in my descriptions, there really was that much. A total of almost 30km in single track I am told. A fun day but the climbs were tough and steep, now to rest for the big day out tomorrow. Keep an eye out for Rob's daily reports here on The Hub as he tackles the 2014 Absa Cape Epic.Rob's weapon of choice: KTM Myroon Master 29er XT Groupset VRV Cycles carbon straight bars and bar ends Selle Italia XR saddle Fizik seatpost Rockshox SiD XX 29er Hope Pro Hubs with ZTR Arch Rims GEAX Saguaro 29x2.2 TNT
  25. We woke up to grim weather this morning, not heavy rain but a constant light rain and cold. Click here to view the article
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