Monday, 26 September 2011

Build up to MTN Dirt Fest, race report and a few things on the side

Green fingers

It’s been a productive 3 weeks since my last update after the Nissan Down and Dirty MTB race;
With the spring finally settling in Paul and I determined to resurrect our patchy lawn decided to get stuck into the garden; this involved a few days of serious upper body workouts! Paul came home with 36 20kg bags of lawn dressing and compost, we scattered fertilizer, sprayed broad leaf poison, sowed grass seeds, spread lawn dressing and compost, visited the nursery returning with a load of new plants, dug holes (a mean feat in our rock infested hard soil), planted and watered. Still a lot of work to be done but already a huge improvement!

Garden Zen :)

For the love of the game

The weekend after Nissan Paul and I met up with the MTN MTB Club 100 members for a group ride out South. The club organisers arrange a once monthly long ride that is always held at a different venue, a great initiative to keep things exciting and this ride was no exception!
Wendel; owner of Cycle Hub lead the ride which showcased the amazing MTB single and jeep track as well as the XC specific routes in Rietvlei Zoo Farm and on the nearby Thaba Trails.
Definitely worth heading out there if you are keen for some real Mountain biking!
Paul and I always strive to be approachable to our fellow MTBikers and really enjoyed the opportunity to ride and chat to the Club 100 members. Thanks to Angie and Sean for the super organisation and ride!

Taking a breather at the top of a climb

Happy Dad

 The following weekend was Paul’s first full weekend with Kaitlyn his excitement was palpable and I was privileged to share it with him! With her Birthday being the Thursday before we organised a BIG party for on her Sunday pulling out all the stops with a jumping castle, lots of friends and Tangled birthday cake. A fun but admittedly tiring weekend!

From strength to strength

My training has gone from strength to strength in the last few weeks and I’m finally starting to see a few decent numbers on my SRM VII even managing to spit out a relatively good (for this stage in my recovery) threshold test for Activeworx.
Paul and I have for the last 4 weeks returned to our weekly deep tissue massage with Lynda Stanton an admittedly painful 30 minute session highly beneficial to our recovery.

Paul on the slab trying not to eat the pillow

After learning that core strength is a vital component to MTBiking efficiency and skill I have been attending a group pilates class for the last 3-4 years. My instructor Debbi specialises in cyclists having a keen interest in the sport herself. I have definitely felt the benefits and enjoy the weekly “torture” to my core and stabilizer muscles ;). It’s not always serious though as we sometimes have fun and games playing catch whilst trying to balance on balls. Not sure if I get more of a workout for those few minutes from the exercise or laughter!!

Fun and games

MTN Dirt Fest MTB marathon - Hilton

After our Volcans had had the Epic Sports Cycle shop star treatment and were deemed race ready they were loaded into Larry (our team van) and together with the full MTN-Qhubeka MTB team we headed for Hilton on Thursday morning.

A long trip later... thanks Nicole for the good driving we arrived at our accommodation.
Paul and I went for a quick tour of the neighbourhood on our bikes to loosen our travel weary legs. That combined with a good home cooked meal and night’s sleep and I was starting to feel like a cyclist again.
After breakfast we left for a team pre-race warm up ride heading to Cascades to do a couple laps of the WC XC course. Not having raced it this year and hearing it was an awesome technical route I was keen to check it out. WOW, I was not disappointed its great fun with some real tricky rock gardens. I believe it is a “rib-breaker” in the wet!!! (sorry Multigirl)
We rode 2 laps and by the end were all feeling a lot more confident on our technical skills. I must say being able to ride gap jumps has made me a lot more confident over the technical drops and jumps.
Needing some refuelling we stopped in at the famous CoffeeBerrys for a good coffee and then headed home to put our feet up.

Doug being in KZN for meetings with MTN and Wildlands (some awesome environmental projects in the pipeline) joined us for dinner and we enjoyed an entertaining evening with a good team vibe.

I woke with that uneasy race morning feeling and as Kevin Evans would say ‘had oats with nails!’
Arriving at the race venue Wouter - Epic Sports cycle shop gave our bikes a final check, I had a pre-race interview and was presented with the pink leaders jersey which I would be wearing for the first time this year.
I must say it felt pretty heavy especially since I don't have much racing in my legs and with Ischen and I so close on points I knew this was going to be a tough battle today.
The start was downhill and fast, I rode in front and was able to keep pulling a small gap through each of the technical sections. Ischen, Candice (both Bizhub) and I took the lead keeping a hard Tempo-pace. About 15km into the race Ischen lost some time with a small crash after losing her front wheel in a sandy turn in a technical forest singletrack, Candice and I getting a slight lead.
I passed Candice on the next jeep track and after a few kilometres pulled a slight lead.
Making sure I fuelled well with my PVM supplements I kept a steady pace making the most of the numerous technical sections to keep ahead of Ischen who I knew was hot on my heels.
At the bottom of the last long climb for the day Ischen was only 200m back, I put my head down and pushed hard digging deep to get everything from my still returning to form legs. I managed to hang on to my lead by the skin of my teeth crossing the finish line about 10 seconds ahead of Ischen happy to keep the pink jersey for Team MTN-Qhubeka and Candice finishing in 3rd.

Holding onto pink

Thanks Doug for the support at the race, great to have the boss there ;)

Thanks too to my fellow MTN-Qhubeka team mates, Nicole and Wouter – Epic Sports for the great support and team vibe over the weekend!

And one last thanks to Advendurance and MTBseries for another great course and event!

Next up Crater Cruise which will be a whole different ball game...

Till then take care,

Team MTN-Qhubeka

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Hilton Dirt Festival, Club 100 and a Special Birthday! by pc

Thaba show girl!
Club 100 Outride Rietvlei Zoo Farm

A couple weeks ago Yolande and I packed up the Volcans and headed down to Rietvlei Zoo farm to join up with the Club 100 mtb gang for a morning of fun. We have been wanting to join up for quite some time now as being on the sharp edge of our sport often neglects us from just getting out and enjoying what used to be considered the reason we love mtb’ing so much! So after a few e-mails and checking the race schedule we were off and looking forward to meeting some new people and riding a few new trails which is always exciting. We had a great morning out and were very surprised with the amount of club members on the day as well as everyone’s enthusiasm followed by eats and drinks afterwards. Also great job by the crew and expert trail builder (and guide) Wendel, a lot of effort has gone into Rietvlei Zoo farm as well as the new Thaba trails so if you have a chance to spend a few hours on the mtb be sure to go give these a try!
Pre-ride briefing
Kaitlyns (and dads) big day!
Last week included a day that I have been looking forward to for a very long time and that was my daughters 6th Birthday! Nothing can really prepare you for being a father but once you’ve become one then all of a sudden your priorities change drastically. Things and feelings you never thought would happen to you become a reality and then you realize there could be nothing more special to you than your little girl and how you are going to try and shape the best future you can for her. What made this weekend so special is that this was going to be her first weekend back at home in over 3years (divorce) so I was super excited! Happy Birthday my girl!
Happy Birthday my girl!

MTN Hilton Dirt Festival 2011
Perfect weather greeted our team when we arrived in Pietermaritzburg on Thursday evening. Yolande and I took a short ride up the hill to help loosen our legs after a few hours in the Crafter. We had a good dinner from our host and into bed early. The next morning we went down to the world cup course at the Cascades where we did a couple easy laps on what is most definitely the best XC course in South Africa. After gaining some technical confidence and a quick visit to Coffeeberry’s it was feet up time, tactics talk and rest up for the big challenge – The Hilton Dirt Festival.
Great cycling hangout!
It was a perfect day for racing and although a very disappointing overall turnout there was no lack in depth in the main field. A change in the route the day before meant that we were in for a hill top finish and the KOM coming later in the race which suited our riders perfectly especially with overall titles in mind. The start was frantic and soon I found myself trailing the lead group slightly but surrounded by the riders I had hoped to run this race with. Up ahead I could see that AD had made the split with Jacques and Charles a bit in no mans land so it felt good that we had a few options covered.
Life inside the Crafter

I stuck with the always very calculated MisterAfrican and a couple of his team mates as well as Nico Bell feeling that we had the combination to ride a good pace to the finish and slowly real in victims of the fast start. Things went a bit astray when Nico and I got separated from Phillip through a series of single track and Manie sliding off the back but he made it back soon enough and our hunt was on.
In a race like this which was very bumpy and had a lot of climbs if you are able to keep a good pace all the way to the line then you are bound to have a decent result. I unfortunately lost contact with Manie just before the last portage section so road my pace up the last climb which didn’t make any difference in the result but just on the time split. However I was only just over 20min behind the eventual winner – the very talented Burry Stander. This result would have put me very high up the ranks last year and as it was it was a huge improvement for me but a tribute to how mountain biking has grown and the level of racing it put me in a 13th position overall.

This was such a hard race on the body that the decision to ride the hard tail has to be questioned and with all the bumpy terrain it made the racing a lot harder however the hard tail at least helped on the two, long smooth climbs and most importantly the one up to the finish which ultimately put Adrien into a really good position which he finished off with an amazing 2nd overall! I was also happy with the result considering two 2 doses of anti-biotics of late and the current lingering chest infection I was still able to offer a 100% effort.
Next up is the season finale in Parys where we obviously will be using quite a different tactic for the race with all to play for in both the series as well as in the KOM competition in both the mens and womens categories. Considering  this being such a challenging year our much smaller team has had it will be quite ironic as well as bring some just reward and recognition for all the efforts that everyone has put in be it in leadership, experience, tactics, talent or pure muscle this year and a show off just how tough this sport is. Even if not always strewn in weekly victories I feel proud that we have been able to pull through and ultimately compete and accomplish in and for the biggest rewards of the year!!!
See you all on the Crater Cruise “launch pad”
Larry through the eye of a needle!

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Recovery, a visitor to the pink room and the Nissan Down and Dirty Marathon

We arrived back late last Sunday after a long trip back from the Cape with our MTN-Qhubeka team mates. The race and travel took it out of me and it took most of the week to recover. A really good yet somewhat painful deep tissue massage on Tuesday and some easier riding helped though and by Friday I was starting to find my legs again just in time for the Nissan Down and Dirty marathon.

On Thursday we helped with another school’s MTB skills clinic this time for Sutherland High. It was great to offer some on the bike advice (I was still off my MTBike at the last one) and to see our junior up and coming talent; boys and girls in action!

Up and coming junior talent

Andrew Warr travelled up from KZN to and stayed with us Friday night. We offered him our best hospitality and put him up in the infamous pink room. Pink as it is very pink and made infamous by all the MTBikers we have had stay here ;)

The Pink room

I had a good warm up to the Nissan Down and Dirty race which started at Cornwall Estate, Andre; our Epic Sport team mechanic double checked my Volcan and I was off to the start

Once again I was unsure what the days racing would bring for me especially as the route offered very little climbing and consisted mainly of long, open gravel roads which doesn't really suit my strengths.

The start was flat out with the men and women starting together. I took the lead of the women's race down the first fast rocky downhill but was soon caught by Yolandi Du Toit up the next drag. I didn't realise it at the time but Theresa Ralph passed me shortly after that putting me in 3rd.

I pushed hard to try and close the gap that I knew Yolandi had on me but didn't seem to be making any ground. We had a very strong head wind for the first 40kms and with the no draughting rule there was no hiding!

I was very grateful when we turned back towards Irene and for the most part had a tail wind to help me home. I caught back to 2nd place and kept chasing hard through to the final 5kms where we met up with the 40km riders through a long technical single-track. This was quite frustrating as it formed a near impenetrable traffic jam and eventually I realised I would just have to be patient and slow right up till we reached the last open jeep track and climb where I could start overtaking. 
I crossed the line in 2nd about 5minutes back from Yolandi again happy with a solid race and result for my current fitness.

2nd at Nissan Down and Dirty

Thanks to MTN-Qhubeka for all the support, Andre @Epicsports for the race support and congrats to my MTN-Qhubeka team mates for a good team effort helping Jacques to get a podium finish!

Next race will be the MTN Hilton Marathon in 3 weeks time.
We’ll be travelling down the Wednesday before with the team to help and be involved in a Qhubeka Wildlands project; an experience I’m really looking forward to!

Congrats to all our South African MTBikers for their World Champ results in Champery, it was great to read the updates and Paul and I watched the live coverage of the Elite men’s XC and DH on Freecaster; really exciting racing that kept me on the edge of my seat!

Cheers for now

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Down and Dirty

Well it has been quite a week for us. It started with trying to recover from our monster Gravel Travel weekend and then get straight back into training. I went out and bashed out a session with the Velo guys which was nice but i haven't done for a while. Thankfully I started to feel a little better by Thursday and pretty good by the weekend which I was very thankful for. 
Skills at Fountains
This week we hosted another schools skills clinic but this time for Sutherlands High School. Some 15 kids attended and a few adults and enjoyed two hours of fun and hopefully informative riding with us around Fountains Valley. It was great to see their enthusiasm and talent and hopefully we will see some future champions coming out of these groups.
Hands on advice

Sunday was also a nice day with kids but this time with Kaitlyn and my little nephew Samuel. We went to the Pretoria show and got to enjoy some rides and watched a bit of horse jumping. The kids loved this even though it felt like a 3hr gym session followed by an hour on a merry-go-round.
Yolande holding onto her oats
Something I also found out last week that i have venis flebitis in my one arm which is basically a blockage in a vein in my arm. The scary thing about this is that a piece of vein has gone rock hard through my inner elbow so then ones mind starts to jump to conclusions. Luckily after a scan and check up from the very informative Dr P DeJager it turns out that all is okay and will just need time to disappear (6weeks). 

This week I will again be doing some field tests which is never exciting but now that I am healthy again and finished with the anti-biotic I am looking forward to some focused training before the next few big races.
Start of  Down and Dirty
However you probably want to hear some of my experience from the Nissan Down and Dirty marathon from last weekend. I had a 20min warm up spin from my house to Cornwall Hill and met the rest of the team there. Andre had everything set-up and attended to all the last min checks. It was chilly at the start but soon warmed up. The start was fast but I was feeling a lot better than last week so positioned myself on Jacques wheel as he was our go-to guy for the day. Race shattered up the first climb and soon there was a split of some 12 riders including Charles and Adrien. Up the long drag I looked back to see Jacques trailing a bit after having to stop and tighten his wheel. I dropped back then worked together with him to get back.
dirty face!
Charles and I spent a lot of time in the wind and Jacques was nicely tucked into the group and AD near us at the front. Through a fast rough corner a heard a "clicking" coming from the bike but then it went away...for awhile. The surges continued, we were racing gutters which was crazy for a mtb race and we had to ride smart because at speed the 26" bikes take a lot more effort to keep in there. We had almost made it to the turn point at 42km after which we had a shot at matching the big wheels on the final couple climbs but then my racing gremlins for 2011 continued. 

The noise I heard earlier was in fact a huge nail that went through the casing but fortunately had sealed till now. I must have hit on the top of the nail then it pushed straight through tearing the side wall. I fixed it with several plugs and a few bombs and then caught back to the third group. About 12km further tire went flat again and that was pretty much game over. 7 plugs and 4 bombs later I finished with a ride time of 2hrs21, good enough for a virtual top 10 even with all the last few km of single track stuck in the 40km traffic but is not much consolidation. So it was another frustrating race for me this season. Jacques brought it to the line with the RECM boys and finished 3rd which i was very pleased about and Adrien and Charles had another solid race. Yolande got herself a 2nd which was fantastic and I am soo happy to see her getting strong again. Advendurance put on a great race so a big hats off to them (2nd weekend running(-;) And like always a big thanks to Doug and MTN/Qhubeka for all of his support.
Thanks Z Cronje for the great pics!
This weekend also was the World Cup finals which was held in Champery, Switzerland. Yolande and i watched it on Freecaster TV which showed the XC and DH live. Our South African heros put up a great fight but it was not to be this year but they did a great job keeping us entertained. It is great to see the talent we have and just hope to see some of these athletes grow through the years and get to great places!
36inch monster!
One last bit of interest: check out this 36inch unicycle with an internal gear hub, hydraulic brakes, tri-bar and a bell!! Very cool!
Thanks for reading, PC