Monday, April 13, 2015

Double Up

From when the race was announced I had it in my head to double up the last two stages. It would make it 140kms but I figured there was a remote chance I would be fit enough to handle it. Or, on the other hand, I might be so tired, I'd regret it immensely and opt to stop after 70km at Stuttgart.

Second Breakfast
The event so far had been a lot of deja vue. Memories from 2009 were like they had happened yesterday. I had suffered quite a lot angst from Moordenaarspoort (as we covered the segments that had been RASA demons) all the way to Romansfontein where I could finally put it all behind me.

Way back then, eight riders had arrived at about 8:30pm at Elandsberg surprising Margaret who had expected four and much earlier. Chief among our group was Carl Crous, fondly known as The General. He was keen to double up from Eandsberg through to De Doorns bypassing Stuttgart. Doug and I were happy to go with him, proper little soldiers that we were! It was absolutely worth it and I still remember the energy and excitement we felt as we walked into the support station that evening having completed our first double stage.
Clouds building all around us

The ride from Elandsberg to Stuttgart is fast especially the first 30km or so. We had debated the time for departure and eventually compromised on 4:30am. After another restless night of dogs barking and mind tossing, I was happy to get up and get moving, fatigue notwithstanding. At that hour, there was only porridge which would probably last all of an hour or two but that was not my biggest problem.

Lactate had built up in my legs and they were heavy and turgid. Nevertheless we all sped off and I was just off the back, with Jonathan an easy companion. He was upbeat as he started to feel more like his old self but wanted to stay conservative. Any little climb would push me further back but I managed to make up time on the flats and downhills.
Soggy roads

The immense storm of the night before had not affected the roads too badly and they were firm under our wheels. What we had not anticipated were the culverts (cement water drainage across the road) which were running as shallow streams.

Jonathan and I came around the corner to shouts from the others. Leon had ridden straight across, his wheel had slipped on slime sending him skidding through the water to the other side. Luckily he semi-aquaplaned and only had minor roasties to boast about.

We crawled across and even so, my front wheel washed out and I just managed to correct it and reach the dry road on the other side. There were several of these obstacles on this section of road and they were treated with the necessary respect.

Sun tan lotion - wishful thinking
It was still dark as we reached the tar road to Cradock and it was disconcerting to see a road sign announcing it was only 60km to the town. We were really going the Long Way Round.

It was still dark when we reached the road, slap bang in the middle of a stop&go section. The sky should have been lightening by then but ominously, clouds were building on the eastern horizon suppressing the gray light of pre-dawn.

Craig endeared himself to the race office by mistakenly dialing Meryl's number and asking her why she had called him. One of those classic moments of confusion.

Bum break
At one of the myriad gates, I discovered my rear tire was too soft and I sincerely hoped this was the cause of my struggle to keep up. Alas not. It helped once it was pumped but not to the extent I had hoped. As always, the group waited for everyone to catch up and we made our way through a game park hoping to spot some game but equally hoping it wasn't a charge by an angry rhino.

The game we did hear was depressing and nauseating. As we exited the game park, we could hear a lion making its trademark coughing sound. Moments later it was joined by another until there was an incredible cacophony of lions. It was coming from the farm across the road and in my heart of hearts I knew it was lions for canned trophy hunting.
Stuttgart break

For an animal that is rapidly disappearing from the wild, (in 50 years, lions have gone from 450 000 to a mere 20 000) to breeding them for sport was sickening.

We left the area as quickly as we could, feeling quite disturbed. There remained only one potentially tricky bit of navigation which entailed sticky mud as we forded the Pauls River but we sailed through that and were soon on the last stretch to Stuttgart.

Sunny spot
Once again, we fell behind on some of the hills as well as stopping to take pics of a tractor seat perched on the side of the road. It felt soooo much more comfortable than my bike saddle at that moment. Finally we arrived at the farmhouse which entailed: stretching, water top ups, opening and closing of boxes and only removing the Allsorts, catching up on the semi-finals of the World Cup Cricket with SA vs NZ, eating vast quantities of venison pie and salad, lubing bums and bikes and drinking tea. All of this in an hour.

There really wasn't a rush as we would finish that day, no matter what. We still aimed for a daylight finish and there was plenty of time.

The weather gods had other ideas.

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