Jennie Stenerhag

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Columbia Grape Escape 3 day MTB stage race


This was going to be my first MTB stage race in 7 years, I started The Cape Epic in 2005 but had to stop after 3 days due to illness. I have not done much MTB since then until I did one marathon in Sweden 2011 and then the Tulbagh race a few weeks ago. I have always had a feeling that I want to do stage races on MTB but it has not been the right thing to do as long as I was racing professionally on the road.

This race felt like a good one to start off with: 3 days, not such long stages, and close to home so I could sleep in my own bed instead of the otherwise so popular tents!


Stage 1: 75km and1200 meters of climbing from Durbanville to Wellington


I was riding together with Nicola Walker as team Thule/Diadora, she is very experienced from lots of long stage races so I was relying on her to make sure that we did not start too hard etc. It also made me less nervous knowing that she knew what she was doing and that we were just going out there to have fun!


The race started with the longest climb of the day and it sorted the field out quickly. We could hang on to Hanlie and Jane half way up the climb but then they were gone and never to be seen again! We were laying 2nd for a long time but with lots of bad luck that made us stop we were passed by Yolandi and Nicci after about 50 km. I (very inexperienced) dropped a bottle and luckily Nicola told me to stop and get it (you need every bottle in this heat), then Nicolas bottle cage came loose and we had to stop and fix it. Then Nicola got a puncture and we had to stop and fix that twice and she could just roll over the finish line when we got there in 3rd place in the ladies team race.


We were still happy and smiling! I really enjoyed today and I know what I have to work on to be a better mountainbiker, and I guess I need a huge amount of experience to be able to keep up with the strong girls:-)


It was very hot out there today and the course was full of thorns that gave lots of people punctures, it was also difficult to ride in the sand and over the farms where there were not even a path!


I got the best service ever from Craig who gave us bottles along the route, gave me a massage when we came home and serviced my bike! Thank you!


Team Thule/Diadora before the start of stage 1

Thank you Rudy project for my new helmet and glasses!!


The start of Columbia Grape Escape


The picutre that made the front page of the newspaper:-)


Stage 2: 69km and1600 meters of climbing from Wellington to Wellington


Todays stage started with open roads and fairly flat for about 40km, it was made for bunch riding. We were in a bunch with all 3 ladies teams from the beginning but we could not hold on to the first and ended up riding together with the 2nd ladies team. I struggled a bit to get going in the beginning but it got better and better. The last 29km probably took as long as the first 40km! It was tough when we hit Welvenpas and all the single tracks and the long climbs. It felt like we did all the climbing for today within 10km and somewhere on the climb was where we lost the other ladies. After the climb we got rewarded with a long long downhill on a single track, it was so much fun!! We finished 3rd again and it was a hard day at the office, especially since it was 35 degrees when we crossed the finish line!!


We got on to the first page of Die Burger newspaper, good coverage for our sponsorsThuleand Diadora!!!


One of the top mens teams on one of the steepest climbs!


Finishing stage 2


Stage 3: 72km and2000 meters of climbing from Wellington to Boschendal wine estate


It was with tired legs we started the 3rd and last stage and we lost the front bunch already in the neutral zone where it was an uphill, but all the other girls did too so that was fine:-). The route went up and down on dry dusty roads and single tracks right from the start. Some narrow steep uphills made the bunch stretch. I felt good in the beginning so Nicola (with her experience) told me to slow down a bit, which was good since I was the tired one at the end. The technical sections were really fun today and I am absolutely starting to enjoy the mountainbiking.


We were happy with our 3rd place! It was my first stage race on a mountainbike and all the girls in front of us are mountainbikers with lots of experience which I am lacking.


I really like the team events, it is nice to always have someone there that can push you when you are tired and will wait for you in case something happens, you will never be left alone out there. I think I will be back for more MTB races!!! :-)


Still smiling at the start of stage 3:-)


Smiling even more when we finished the 3rd stage!!


Ladies team podium, Nicola and me 3rd, Jane and Hanlie 1st and Yolandi and Nicci 2nd.

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