Friday, April 30, 2010

Moving on already

Its pretty awesome to create an event that has everyone smiling and enthusiastic about their ride. But it burns the proverbial rear end not be able to ride it myself.

There is no question about participating - simply too many responsbilities to swan off on my bike with the other riders. Besides, I do get to talk to them from the comfort of my car or from the roadside. And if the weather is freezing like it was last weekend, well, I'm just warm and toasty.

The MTN Panorama Tour is the only road tour for amateur riders. They ride in teams of two and for many, it is the first time that they experience this level of cameraderie. There is something about being out of sight of any other team but still having someone there with you which makes the long kms bearable.

Mountainbikers are well used to this concept and are now getting a bit blase. And the challenge for us race organisers, is to continually innovate. But for now, it is great to see exhausted but elated faces crossing over the finish line after the hard 24km Time Trial that brings the MTN Panorama Tour to a close.

And then there is the teamwork. Not only amongst the riders but the crew - most of whom have worked on the race many times over its five year history.  Each person just gets on and does what has to be done and if someone needs help, its always there. I sometimes feel at a loose end as everything is just taken care of but I wouldn't have it any other way. I've had the panic and the adrenalin rushes that come with crises and I can do without it.

So now as we wrap up one event, I am looking forward to getting stuck into the planning of some of our new innovations. I received two brilliant books from IMBA (International Mountain Biking Association) and in two weeks, I hit the road to one of the new venues.

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Sunday, April 25, 2010

The MTN Panorama Tour

Pics from the day's racing - courtesy of Karen Schermbucker and Dave Collett.

Road stage riding for amateurs

Things are quiet on my personal cycling front. We're busy with one of my events - The MTN Panorama Tour.

Its the only stage event for road riders in the country and the guys enjoy the cameraderie which is not usually apparent in road races. Professional riders may not ride with another pro which creates a huge vibe amongst all the riders. I'ts not often they get to see the elite riders mixing it up amongst the bunches back in the field.
The days are long and hard with lots of climbing and there are a lot of tired cyclists at the end of each day.

More pics on this soon

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Space to be Free

The photographic record of our ride on the weekend says more than the words. We all rode as we felt on the day and there was no pressure to keep together or even do the same routes.  Some photos were taken to illustrate the route for Freedom Challenge wannabees. (For a fee of a cafe mocha - I'll share).

So here we are at the turnoff to the Weltevreden Farm, maps out and much gesticulating. As we headed off to the Stormberg portage, Andre and I tried another option which came out too high and resulted in a steep scramble down to the blockhouse, disturbing a duiker from the bush. We had a birds eye view of the other riders as well as the goods train hissing quietly in the siding while waiting for the passenger train - Shosholoza Meyl - to come through. We scampered across the line just in front of the incoming train.

The Plaas Kombuis (Farm Kitchen) was closed but it is the venue for the Molteno mountain bike race and we rode some of those routes on our meander around the the Stormberg. It sat in the shadow of the second Blockhouse and it was amusing to see all the old sheds and outhouses converted to showers and toilets for the riders. There were some ancient farm implements lying around harking back to a bygone era. This is the infamous blockhouse as mentioned on the narratives for the Freedom Challenge. The walls are almost a meter thick and the outer layer of sandstone is pockmarked from bullets fired in the Boer War. It was built to protect the railway line which was the main supply line of troops and supplies. If you see this sign when crossing Aasvoelberg, you know you're on the right route. Say no more other than hope that you are faster than your fellow riders when it counts.
We discovered in the light of day that we had made an error when entering Elandsberg during the race. We turned too early and wasted at least an hour of precious light getting back on track. It was only now that we saw how simple it actually was. However, during the race, we were able to find the faint wagon tracks fairly easily making up for the ealier blunder. The tracks lie directly in front of Andre (third from left) but it is still another 150m to find them and in the mist beyond him is the Elandsberg mountain. Once over the mountain, we split up all over the veld looking for the quickest way to the jeep track. (Hint: walk 90 degrees to the fence and you should reach it within 200m). That is assuming you, as the rider, have remembered to cross over the fence! Once over, we headed on some very fast dirt roads to Cradock. Renato had yet another puncture and the group split at this point. Derek, Doug and I took the tiger line to Cradock while Alex and Renato headed over two tar roads in the direction of the Stuttgart Support Station before turning back to Cradock and the tandem took the middle route.  The wind pumped into our faces for over 20kms into town and we were glad to see the Wimpy and our backup vehicle. I forced the others to stop at the laybye so I could look at the Fish River - the scene of my many canoeing epics. Then we headed to our accommodation which was absolutely picturesque. The Tuishuise are all original cottages that have been restored in the style of the era (circa 1890) and we spent some time wandering the length of the street admiring them.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Elandsberg in the daylight

The rain came down last night giving us cool overcast conditions. We decided on a late start which tied in nicely with the weather. After a substantial breakfast we headed out of Hofmeyer for 6km before hitting the dirt road with a strong tailwind. Those first 26km to the end of the road flew past. Doug and I realised to our disgust that we had made a navigation error in the race which cost us at least an hour. (Note to other FC riders - ride to the second gate)

The wagon trail was shorter than I remembered and finding the jeep track was easier too. Then it was fast riding until the group split with some going over Baroda Weir while we battled the headwind all the way to town. Now its lunch! Sent from my BlackBerry® wireless device

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Saturday, April 3, 2010

Aasvoelberg rocks

We missed out on the Aasvoelberg portage due to weather during the race and man, I was glad to see what is was all about. First off, its mostly rideable - uphill. The downhill is gnarly and adrenalin pumping. Some white knuckle moments. The tandem was incredible coping better than us on the rocky and very steep jeep track descent. At the bottom, we are all grinning like lunatics and this moment was rounded off by coffee and rusks at the Magdala farmhouse.

I was feeling great despite the pumping headwind and we crested a small climb to be faced with the huge expanse of the Karoo. But first there was another wicked pass to descend. We gradually picked up speed and hauled the last 35km stopping only for a brief coke stop when we met up with our vehicle. It was a reunion with the local coffee and pie shop although in much warmer conditions than the last time. We're now ensconced in the Karoobos B&B and the stories of the trail fly thick and fast. The day was 88km and a brilliant mix of terrain, views and hospitality.

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Friday, April 2, 2010

A history lesson

We were scattered all over the Stormberg today. Dr Rudi de Wet (who was the race doc for Freedom Challenge) rode with us and was a massive store of knowledge on the Boer War battles in 1900. We checked out the blockhouses and graves for British soldiers killed in an ambush.

The riding was pretty easy and the views were stunning. Groves of poplar trees were donning their autumn colours and the veld was green and lush. I split off from the group to head back a different way with Rudi and was treated to a panorama from the Stormberg around to De Rust farm all the way to Aasvoelberg. Then a 10km descent to Molteno with a tailwind rounded off an 80km day. Brilliant!

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Thursday, April 1, 2010

High Tech not!

Not only have I driven through Hofmeyer (near Molteno) 100 times but I have a map book. The boys have the GPS. First they couldn't find Molteno on the GPS and now they can't find the N1 highway. The route is Jhb to Bloem then Gariep dam to Steynsburg and finally Molteno. For some inexplicable reason they decided to follow the GPS and we are now on a dirt road looking for town called Excelsior. Our speed is 75km/h instead of 130k/h and it is quite silent in the car. We looked at the non technology direction finder - the map book - and saw we were closer to Maseru (Lesotho) than our destination. How these two got to Cape Town in last year's Freedom Challenge is a mystery. Oh yes, they didn't have a GPS, only maps!
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