I had a completely different mind set and feeling going in to the first race this year than last year. Normally I feel that the Attakwas is too early and I am not ready to race yet, but having done so few races last year I was really eager to get the racing started for this year! I was looking forward to spend 5-6 hours on my bike and the fact that I was going to do my first race in almost 11 months where I could push hard without being concerned about my leg and injury made me even more motivated. I was also exciting to do my first race for my new sponsor Fairtree capital!
Since Attakwas has UCI status and is the first leg of the UCI Marathon series, we normally see some strong international ladies on the start line, this was unfortunately not the case this year, but there were a handful of really strong South African girls there. It is a race where everyone wants to test the form and see how the training is going compared to the competitors. Candice had shown really strong form in the end of last year so I was sure she would be strong here. Sam and Amy were both looking strong and had good endings to last year and Yolandi is always strong and never to be counted out in any race! My prediction before was that it would be between the 4 of them and I was hoping to be able to mix in with them.
We started 2 minutes after the UCI men and 10 minutes before the A batch and this worked perfectly since we only caught a few of the men in front and I think only one person from A batch caught us, so for the first time we did the race completely without any interference from the men!! Hats off to the organizers for getting this spot on!
Yolandi was the first one to set the pace high from the start and the bunch soon split up and it was my predicted girls except for Amy in the first bunch. It was going to be about the 4 of us for the entire race! It was very tactical, and the wind played a big part, it was a strong head wind and no one really wanted to give it all at the front knowing that the others could just sit in the draft. When we came to the first technical and loose uphill I decided that I wanted to be first to get the best line, I could see someone dropping a bit but it was soon back together. We were all together at the first feed station at 46km and I tried to up the pace a bit on the technical climb just after and only had Candice with me at the top. Sam was back with us on the downhill and shortly after Yolandi was also back. I felt strong on the climbs so when we came to the longest and steepest climb of the day which also doubled as the Queen of the mountain prize I made sure to start the climb first and could climb away from the others and take the prize. Even though I had opened up a gap Sam and Candice caught me on the downhill. I decided to take it extra careful since I could see that I would catch them again on the next uphill. I started to realize that this race was probably going to come down to a sprint.
The 3 of us where together at the “Spur water point” at about 62 km and we had not seen Yolandi since the QOM climb. We worked together and the climbs were many and tough, but I still felt that no one gave everything. We went through the second feed station in our small bunch and with only 12 km and one hill to go I saw Yolandi next to us, I must say that I was really surprised to see her again! I thought to myself that I at least had to try to split it up so I pushed a bit harder and Yolandi followed and helped with the pacing and when I looked back I could see Candice dropping. We worked together and soon I could see that Sam also dropped. Yolandi and I tried to stay away but Sam came back and the 3 of us approached the finish together.
The finish of this race does not suit me at all and I have many years thought to my self that I would hate to come to this finish for a sprint. The last 2 km are downhill and it is fast on a loose gravel road, Yolandi was very brave and went very fast with Sam on her wheel and they had a few meters on me when we came to the 180 degree corner down on to the cement strips and I tried to catch on the downhill but couldn’t. I was a few meters still behind in the last 90 degree corner on to the grass and from there it was narrow and I tried everything but could not pass and I did not realise that there is a tree in the middle of the last corner, I took the outside and was closing in but the line came a bit too soon. Even though it was less than a bike length between us and we all had the same time I must admit that I am a little bit disappointed to come 3rd by that little.
The positive is that I felt good and even though my leg was a bit sore I could push hard without it bothering me, and I think our race was very good for the exposure of ladies racing, we kept it exciting!
I am very happy to get a podium finish in my first race for my new sponsor Fairtree and it was a good day for Silverback bikes with 1st and 3rd!
Early morning start
On the way to QOM
Happy or not???
Kind and Queen of the mountain
Top 5: Candice 4th, Sam 2nd, Yolandi 1st, me 3rd and Katie 5th.