I have been following the same programme for 3 years now leading up to the Cape Epic and for the past 2 years I have included the Knysna Bull this weekend and it has felt like a good preparation 3 weeks before the event. It is a race with a short prologue and 3 short and fast stages which does not take too much out of you, it can sharpen you up without fatigue. The previous 2 years it has been a team competition and I have been racing with Craig as a mixed team, there has not been such tough competition which has been perfect for me to ride as hard as I can (since Craig is stronger than me) but completely without pressure and being nervous.
This year the race was changed. It was a longer prologue and a hard one! It was not a team event anymore AND it was R100,000 first prize, but nothing at all for second! The winner takes it all! This attracted many good girls and of course the whole mind set changed, now it was quite a serious race, with being nervousness and all;)
Nevertheless, I decided to follow my program from previous years with a training camp in Tankwa after the Tankwa Trek, which meant a lot of volume and coming a bit tired to the Knysna Bull, one can not focus on every event, no matter what the prize money i. My friend Cecilia came from Sweden and joined me at the camp and we really had 10 good days with just training, eat, sleep and repeat! And a whole lot of swimming since it was so hot! Towards the end of the camp I started to feel really tired and had to take an extra day off and I just had to take the Knysna Bull for what it was, good training!
We left Tankwa on Tuesday morning, came home to unpacked, washed and packed again. On Wednesday morning Craig and I drove to Knysna for the 5 hours and in the afternoon it was time for the prologue.
Interview at registration.
Wednesday 20th February Prolog - 10km
I wanted to see the prologue route before the race so at 4 pm Craig, I and Nicola rode to the Phantom pass where the start was, it was a bit further up the climb than we expected, and took a little bit longer to ride to. We rode the track, which was 10 km consisting of almost only single tracks, which was fun but also took more time.... The start was at 5.30 pm for the pro men and then the ladies and at 5.45 pm it was time for the amateurs. We were now late, and Craig was kind and pushed hard with me on his wheel for me to make it to the start in time. I was quite tired when we arrived back at the start and we had been out for 1.5 hours and ridden a bit too hard. I could just see this massive group of people and just managed to sneak through to get to the start ramp in time to see Amy ride off, it was 30 seconds to Sam and then 30 seconds until it was my turn to go! I just made it but did not have time to catch my breath or get my heart rate down. I pushed as hard as I could both uphill and downhill, but it was difficult since I was already a bit tired. I did what I could, and it did not feel too bad, but I only saw Sam and Amy once towards the end, so I guessed it also did not go really well…. The 10km route took around 26 minutes and I was completely finished when I crossed the line. I ended up in 3rd, 38 seconds behind Sabine and 15 seconds behind Sam. Next time I'll give myself a bit more time to check the course ;)
Off we go....
Pushing hard up one of the climbs during the prologue
Thursday 21st February, stage 1 - 59 km
In previous years we have cycled to the start as warm up and extra training time, which has been about 1 hour, but since it was a "real" race with lots of prize money this year, we drove the 18 kilometres to Hakerville where the start was. We started together with the men and I was a little worried that it would be messy with us getting in the mix with the guys and it could be unfair etc. It worked super well and us girls formed a little bunch straight from the start and we never sat any guys wheels and only a few times did a guy or 2 get in the way or pushed in to our bunch. It was awesome to see all the girls playing it so fair!
We kept a good and high speed on the first 7-8 kilometres on the open roads. I had Sam, Sabine and Sarah in front of me when we entered the first single track. They flew down there and I struggled to keep up, at the end of the single track I had lost contact with them and had to work hard to catch back up to them. I stayed calm and just rode steady and after a few minutes I was back with them. We rode nicely together pass waterpoint 1 and 2, soon after waterpoint 2 I heard Sarah saying something and then suddenly she was gone. It turned out that she lost her crank!! It was sad since she was riding very strong and a good result here would have been great for her to have. With 10 kilometres left we came to a single track with lots of sand and twitchy corners etc and I could not keep up with Sam and Sabine and once again had to chase after. I almost caught back up just to see that we turned in to the next downhill single track which was really tricky. I was also getting tired and did not want to make any mistakes to I took it a bit carful. I finished in 3rd place 1.19 behind Sam who took the stage win.
Just finished stage 1
Friday 22nd February, stage 2 - 62 km
This day I decided to be more offensive and try to get the single tracks first so that I could set the pace. I felt good from the start and entered the first single track first. I did struggle a bit with the high pace after 7-8 km and on an open gravel road on a slight downhill Sam attacked. We had some guys around us at the same time and I could not really get past them and follow Sam and Sabine. Suddenly there was a narrow gate we had to go through and the girls went first, then 2 guys then me and I lost the girls and started chasing. We just hit a long section of single tracks and I pushed really hard to not lose more time. I got some help to chase back this time from Amy and Bianca and we were soon a bigger group of girls together again, Sarah and Therese were also with us. I started to feel better, as per normal when my diesel engine starts to kick in. I made sure to go first on the single tracks in the Hakerville area and I felt good there, and I could also easily sit Sam’s wheel on one of the trails. I followed Sam’s line on a fast and rocky descent and when I looked back I saw that we only had Sarah (who was out of competition because of her DNF the day before) and a guy with us, no Amy or Sabine .... It turned out that Sabine had punctured, and Amy got a stick in her wheel. It was only Sam and I left, and we rode together to the finish. I rode hard on the last bit on the red brick road, where I had been told that the finish would be, but I did not know how far down, it was a bit further than I thought and I had pushed a bit hard to keep Sam behind me. I finally saw the finish and I heard Sam accelerate next to me, so I gave it my all for the sprint and it was super close! I managed to take the stage win by about 2 centimetres!
It was nice to feel that the single tracks went better today, I ride a new bike and it is quite different to my previous Silverback so it has taken some time to get used to it.
It was close ;)
Happy after a stage win
Saturday 23rd February, stage 3 - 53 km
I had 95 seconds up to Sam on GC and just as much to that big prize check. It would be tough to ride away from Sam who had been very strong the previous days but the last day would at least have some more climbs so maybe there could be a chance. It was a fast start on a downhill jeep track, it was so dusty that I could not see anything and was just riding hoping for the best. We turned on to a long uphill single track already after a few kilometres and I felt that something was strange with the bike, it was very soft at the back and I felt that I hit the rim on the back wheel on every root. We had done some adjustments on my shock and also discussed tyre pressure the night before so I wasn't quite sure if it was the shock or if I had too little air in the rear tyre. This took a lot of my concentration and I was contemplating if I needed to stop or not. It seemed to hold and I knew I would lose the bunch and the stage was too short and fast to catch back up if I stopped so I decided to just carry on and see how long it worked, since it was not completely empty. However it did get worse and worse and I could feel how I hit the rim more and more. On a rocky descent I saw Craig fixing a puncture. We only had 10 kilometres to go and I knew my race was over no matter if I carried on like this or if I stopped. I lost the girls on a short uphill and decided to just get myself to the finish, but then I caught up with them again on the downhill. This was the last downhill of the day and Sabine stopped for a puncture, her wheel went completely flat immediately, I still had a little bit of air left so climbed the last 3 km like that to take 3rd spot on the day and 2nd overall. The puncture was unlucky and maybe a bit stupid not to fix it immediately, but it would not have made a difference on the overall result since I would not have caught up AND ride away from Sam after fixing a puncture.
Well done to Sam for taking the overall win, she was super strong this weekend and a very worthy winner of the R100.000!! It was of course a bit disappointing not to get anything as a prize after finishing 2nd in such a strong field of ladies…
It was a good weekend of racing and perfect preparation with short and fast stages, I think it will be good for what is coming up in 3 weeks time ;)
Up the last climb with a puncture
Lunch at the Knysna Waterfront
Prize giving with Amy in 3rd, Sam taking home the big prize, Heidi from Constantia insurance and I.