I was pretty tired during the week that was and got a sore throat on Wednesday and was unsure if I would start another three days of racing and do the W2W all over again. I really wanted to race with Craig in the mixed category, it was a long time since we did a race together and since we basically do all the training sessions together it would be nice to do a race together again. So when the alarm went off at 4:30 on Friday morning, we packed everything in the car and headed off to Lourensford in Somerset West. This time it was no rain and it would be a great day!
All the mixed teams were in B batch. I didn't know what the competition would be like but on the start line I saw Cathrine Wiliamsson (from England) who is always good, especially uphill, she was riding with Conway from Cape Town. Then I also saw a team from Switzerland, I only saw them from behind and did not see who it was. It turned out to be Yvonne Waltert who I know since before, she is good and mostly races on the road but also some MTB. We got off to a good start and opened a gap to the others at the start of the climb but then I felt that my legs were not up for it, it was probably a combination of not being completely healthy and not fully recovered from last weekend. Both of the previously mentioned teams caught up with us and at the top of the 8 kilometre climb we were all 3 teams together. We rode well downhill and lost Cathrine somewhere on some single track and Yvonne got a small gap but we could catch up. I didn't really feel strong…. My gears started to give problems and then the back brake started to feel weird. Suddenly Craig says we must stop because my rear wheel is getting loose! I looked down and saw half the rear axle sticking out! We stopped and tightened it and as we were ready to get going Cathrine and Conway caught up with us, we rode together for a while and chased the others. On a long single track just before the second water point, we were able to ride away from Cathrine and shortly after we caught up with the first team. We came to the "portage section" together and were able to walk up faster than them and open up a gap. After that it was a lot of trails, this time we got to race on the trails which had been taken out of the previous race due to all the water. It was lots of fun! We rode as hard as we could, but we were both very tired towards the end. The other team had been pretty close and finished only 58 seconds behind us. Although the margin was small, it was fun to get a leader's jersey for the next day.
As I wrote in the report from last weekend's race, South Africa is fanatical when it comes to Rugby! Last weekend went well and SA went to the final of the World Cup in Japan and it was time for the final on Saturday. So once again we had to start at 06.00 so that as many people as possible could reach the finish line before 11.00 when the match started! Furthermore, if you were at the 40-kilometre mark at 09.30 or later you had the choice to take a shortcut to reach the finish before it started and you would then get a 1.5 hour time penalty!!!! Surely this can only happen in South Africa!?
So it was only to set the alarm for 04:00 and get up and eat the porridge (in the middle of the night) and head to the start! It had just gotten light and was still cold when we started at 6am, we were in start group A this day and it was a bit unmotivating when it felt like EVERYONE rode past on the first climb. We got a pretty good start anyway since we were the first mixed team from start to finish, although it did not make it any easier since we often saw the other 2 mixed teams behind us and we could just never relax. It felt as if I was always at my max and all I wanted was to slow down but the times I thought this and turned around they were there, at a short distance. It was quite nice to know the route from last weekend and the trails were nice and dry today and so much fun! Single tracks and downhills went very well and we felt that we could open the gap more on these parts. We finally won the stage by 1 minute 2 seconds, so we had a lead of 2 minutes ahead of the final stage.
You could not avoid the Rugby madness when South Africa won the World Cup for the 3rd time in the history! It was huge in this country!!
I felt much better on the last day and woke up without a sore throat for the first day since Wednesday so I was hoping that I would feel stronger on the day! The start was at 7am and I tried not to think too much about it being the last hard session before taking my annual 2 weeks rest, and not thinking about training for 2 weeks, I must say I was looking forward to it! We got off to a good start and we were again the first mixed team up the first climb and I felt strong, but then after a while I turned around and saw the others just a little bit behind. We ended up in a good small group with a team that I know well and they sat in the wind and kept a good pace for a long time, but then another team went to the front and they were slower. I could see how Cathrine and Conway were approaching and just when we came out on a tar road they were only 10- 20 meters behind. Just at that moment Craig went to the front and pulled very hard, it was a strong headwind which was perfect as it was not too hard for me to sit behind at the same time as Conway was not as strong as Craig and they never got on the wheels of our little group and we managed to get a gap again. In the next climb, Craig helped me to maintain a good pace and at the top we were told that we had a one-minute lead over Cathrine and Conway. In the end we had to let the other teams go, I could not keep that pace anymore and when I knew we only had a technical downhill and then 8 kilometres flat on trails left, I relaxed a little since I didn't see anyone behind. We rode hard but without killing ourselves on the last bit and we managed to win the stage by 2 minutes over 3 teams that had ended up together and sprinted for second place.
Although the mixed competition is not so prestigious, it was a tight fight and it made it a tough weekend. We could of course have gone there to just ride and have fun, but we are too competitive for that and we both wanted to win, so we have ourselves to blame. It was fun to race with Craig and we rode very well together, better than I expected to be honest. So this was a perfect ending to a long and intense racing year! With 48 race days in 2019 I say thank you and good bye for now, it is time for some rest and recovery!
A big thank you to everyone who has supported me during the year!!
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