Clarens MTN ultra #3

When race organizer, Wessel van der Walt tweeted that this is a tough course, bring your 29er dual, he wasn’t making a joke but I think not even he knew how tuff it could get out there with the amount of rain we had the previous night. But thank goodness we were out there in the Golden Gate reserve and not in Sandton with the chaos of the Tour of South Africa. And I gave up a party in Clarens to come and watch some live racing…..

Back to the real cycling……               

Some times it helps knowing the route ahead like I showed in the ultra marathon, fighting back from 12th place finishing 2nd or like Brandon said, “If I knew what was coming my way I would have stayed at home”, maybe not.

The race reminded me of the 4th stage of the first Cape Epic to Swellendam back in 2004 that were supposed to be an easy day, but rain the previous night also turned the easy rolling roads into “clay fields”.
As if the grass climbs in the Golden Gate reserve wasn’t enough the normal fast rolling district roads was a never ending battle for man and machine and the riders were tested as much as there equipment. Brake failure was the biggest problem and there must have been only a handful of riders that managed to finish with two working brakes.

The race:                         

Just after the first technical section of riding a group of 12 riders got away passing the first technical zone after 23km. By this time I realized that this is gonna turn out to be a real Ultra marathon. I still felt comfortable taking my turn at the front and being joint by team mates Marc Bass and Philip Buys. After about 40km Max picked up the pace, Marc comfortably on his wheel but then out of no where I could not follow any wheels anymore. As if someone had pulled my plug. I even struggled to pass the women we caught and I thought this is gonna turn out to be a hard day at the office.

I did not panic and kept going at my now “survival pace” hoping the legs will come back. After the next downhill section I started feeling better again and was able to push some bigger gears, making up ground on the riders just in front of me. By the time we came to the 2nd technical zone I worked my way back into 6th place with Brandon on my wheel. Out in front Marc, Phil and Adrian N. was sharing the lead with Phil out sprinting them for “King of the Mountain”.

With the toughest half still to come that’s probably not what Brandon wanted to hear from me and he let me ride alone in pursuit of the leaders. Next up I caught Thomas Zhand from Switzerland riding for DCM. Then I caught Nico Bell enjoying a good day out on his 29er.

The next 10km I passed the women again as they did a shorter loop, this time much much faster than back in the reserve. Sorry if there were some close calls but my brakes were also not working 100% anymore.

With 23km to go I came to the 3rd technical zone and for the first time got a time gap on the leader. Not knowing who was in front, I kept pushing believing I could still make up a position or two. I first caught team mate Phil, then 2km later I was riding with Marc. He encouraged me to keep pushing hoping that I could catch up to a strong riding Adrian.

But that was not to be and an emotional Adrian won his first, and I believe one of many to come, MTN ultra marathons. I came in 2nd just over 3 min behind, Marc held on to 3rd, Phil 4th and Swiss rider Thomas Zhand 5th. The winning time for the 113km of 5 hours 45 min is proof of one very tough outing and congratulations to every one finishing. This is just a taste of what a tough European  marathon can be like.

See you all in Sabie.

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