The past weekend was a real cycling weekend in Stellenbosch, Friday and Saturday was "Origin of Trails" MTB race and on Sunday it was "Stellenbosch Cycle Tour" (formerly known as "Die Burger"). Since I have won Die Burger 6 times before and it would be my 8th consecutive time doing it I wanted to save my legs until Sunday, at the same time as I really wanted to do Origin of Trails to see new single tracks around Stellenbosch which we normally do not have access to. The purpose of Origin of Trails is to raise funds to build even more trails in our beautiful area and is of course something I want to support!
So on Friday morning I rolled down to the start to the middle of central Stellenbosch, the atmosphere was at its peak and everybody was ready to have fun out on the bikes. Since it is in the end of the season and also no prize money all the pros had decided to take it easy, it suited me perfectly! We became a group of 6 elite girls who rode together and took it easy and stopped at all the water points, of course we chatted the whole time, amusing or anoying for the guys riding around us ;) Most of the route went on the trails we knew in Jonkershoek while we did some new that were totally amazing! Really fun!
We were so slow on day 1 that we got seeded in start group B on day 2! It was an even better atmosphere amongst those who were not there to race and go super fast. We were the same girl group that day, even though we lost Cherise at the first wine stop and Robyn was off riding with her dad now and then. The route took us on the other side of Hellshoogte in an area where I have never cycled before, it was amazing and I think I can say that the new downhill trail was the best trail I have ever ridden!!! Could not stop smiling while I was riding, incredible! And it was on private land and been built for those who live on the farm! What a job they had done! I really wish we could get there and use on any of our iRide Africa tours!
It was a long day since the route was tougher than day 1 and it was about +35 degrees! So even if we had taken it easy, I was tired when we finished. The afternoon was spent laying down to try to save the energy for the race the day after, of course after a good leg massage from Craig, the best masseur in Stellenbosch!
As usual when it comes to road races in South Africa, it's a super early start! The alarm was set for 4:20 and I was glad that the race was in Stellenbosch so that I could just ride to the start which was at 6:04! Anriette Schoeman was there and she would be my toughest competition on the day, we rode hard up the first climb to try and get rid of the other girls, especially Maroejska that has a good sprint. After about 300 meters we started climbing up Hellshoogte, a hill of 4km and quite steep! We went over the top in a small bunch with Anriette and I as the only girls but unfortunately the peloton caught up with us after about 14 km and we were a group of about 100 riders. I'm not a person who likes to "just sit" in the bunch, I am constantly trying to stay close to the front in case it would split or a crash, but in hindsight I probably wasted too much energy on it! Once we had about 20 km to go, we had some short steep hills to do and on every hill Anriette and I went hard, got a gap with some guys, and then the rest caught up with us! It was really frustrating! With 1km left I sat perfectly positioned on Anriettes wheel and I kept that place and prepared myself for the sprint when suddenly the whole bunch came with speed from behind and it felt like they just swallowed us, suddenly I could hardly see Anriette and was just trying to get out of this mess. 2 guys drifted to the side with me on their outside and I almost crashed in to the fence, it was so close I think my heart stopped! While I was busy almost crashing Maroesjka rolled passed me and I was in 3rd… So once again when we race with the men it was a result that was more about luck than strength!
I was of course incredibly disappointed when I felt I had more to give on the day! Maybe I should have left Anriettes wheel to try and sprint the men instead of a lady, but for some reason I was concentrating on a lady since we get prize money as we finish among the ladies not the men. Imagine the exciting sprint it could have been between Anriette and I and if Maroesjka came from behind, it could have been tight. What happened now was that none of us really sprinted, just finished in the place we had in that big group since it was impossible to get anywhere. It's always difficult when we girls do not get to have our own spurt and our own race!
Now the 2014 racing year has come to an end and I look forward to 2015! Some changes are happening at the moment and I will get back with an update just before Christmas!