I had a really good training block after Tankwa but with a lot of training the immune system also goes down and after a few days of rest I woke up on Friday morning with a slight tummy bug, not very serious but I felt nauseas and a bit dizzy and slept a lot during the day. It probably wasn't the best prep for a tough race!
We had the midnight slot on the loadshedding schedule and a house alarm was set off as the power came back at 02.30 on Saturday morning and I struggled to fall asleep again since I knew the alarm was set for 03.40! Although I have been doing this for so many years, I never get used to eating oats at 03.50 and leave in the dark and hardly be able to warm up since it is pitch dark before the start
The start of "Imbuko big 5" took place at 06.30 in Wellington, the course was exactly the same as stage 5 will be on Cape Epic (although that day we add about 20 km), we would do 75 kilometres and climb over 3000 meters! It was great to see such a strong womens field, Anne Tauber from CST was also here, I have never raced against her before and with a 6th place in the overall XCO World Cup last year she is one of the best cyclists in the world! Candice Lill and Ariane Luthi were also there. We started with the men and it was nice and steady for the first few kilometres until we made a left turn and the first climb started! It was long!! We were 4 girls together at the beginning of the hill but soon we lost Ariane and a little further up the climb we lost Anne, I was a bit surprised and thought she would catch up soon. She didn't, so Candice and I could ride together to the top, we reached the top of the first climb after around 50 minutes of racing! Unfortunately, I couldn't keep the same speed as Candice on the downhill and lost her, I tried to catch up on the next climb and came close at one point but then it was like she put one more gear in and disappeared. The rest of the race I thought I was riding well uphill but took it very carefully on the downhill, there was no point in risking anything as I did not see Candice in front or Anne behind. Some climbs were brutally steep and at one place I had to get off since it felt impossible to ride. I got a bottle from Craig at the last water point, he said I must keep pushing since Anne is catching up. I felt good and had more to give to started pushing a bit harder for the last 17 kilometres. I was told afterwards that she had only been 33 seconds behind at that water point and I finished 4 minutes ahead so at least I did have something left towards the end.
I was very happy with the day considering the tummy thing the day before, I was not really sharp during the race which I think made me take extra care on the downhills. So, considering that, the second place was good. Next time I will be completely healthy and sharp for a race, which will already be next weekend!