Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Trans Bavians Mountain Bike race 2011

Trans Bavians 24hour 230km Non stop Mountain Bike Race (Willowmore to Jeffery’s Bay)

On Saturday morning standing at the start of this slightly crazy mountain bike race with 1250 fellow competitors in Willomore in the middle of the Karoo I was once again “Proudly South Africa” .As the last lines of our National Anthem were sung I got the usual goose bumps and lump in my throat. The Team (Jeanette, Garth and I ) were lined up at the start of a 230km non stop mountain Bike Race with a cut off time of 24 hours, 2800m of vertical climbing a route through The Groot Rivier Poort that no one I knew had ever been through, a large portion of the route would be ridden at night and to add to that the weather forecast showed a maximum tempreature for the day of 12 degrees and a chance of rain late that night (this was correct by the way ( Site nr.yo ).Why so Proudly South African you may ask? Well I ask you where in the world would you find people on a waiting list to do this event, where do you find 20 000 people enter a 89 km road run (The Comrades ), where do 38 000 ride 100km around a city and each one gets his/her own time (The Argus) or how about the Freedom Challenge (ride 2300 km across the back roads of South Africa on your own with no real back up) and the list goes on and on. We are a nation who on the sporting front have an undeniable spirit of taking on the “big’ events and rising up to the challenge.

Back to The Trans Bavians with Garth living at the bottom end of the Garden Route in East London we decided that Willowmore would be a good central place to meet for a race and some training time together. (Jeff put on his racing snake gear and rode with his son Brandon to a very respectable 34 place in the men’s race).

We arrived in Willowmore with the temperature at 3 degrees at about 8 in the morning. The sun was shining but it was cold. The registration was quick and easy and we collected our race numbers. It took a bit of explaining that we did not need our two resupply boxes that could be dropped along the route by the organizers and that our second did not need the maps to the two seconding points because he would not be going there, but we would take the T Shirt anyway. We had decided to carry all that we would need for the race from the start and see if we would get by on what was available out on the route.
After raiding the Merrel Adventure Addicts accommodation for some warmth and the toilet before the start we joined the bunch of crazy people at the start.

Jeannette said this “The 1st 100km where super fast it took us under 4 hrs and we are no cyclists, then it got a bit more interesting with a few hills thrown in but once we hit the 150 mark, OH BOY there it was the Mountain... A stunning technical down hill got us to the bottom of Groot River and then THE mountain started it was steep, nasty and endless” It was here that the profile started to take on the look of a stage of the Tour De France (a hundred kms of rolling hills, then a steep decent followed by 20kms of climbing, another steep decent and then a long steady climb of about 18 kms and then a short fast run in to the finish)
The downhill into Groot Rivier Poort was spectacular and on the limit of my riding ability at the speed we were doing. Garth is a down hill hooligan but had a couple of wake up calls along the way. The cold water of the river allowed us to fill our bottles and contemplate the climb ahead. The climb caused carnage among the field. Most riders ended up pushing at some stage. There were seconds in 4x4 vehicles who were stuck or who had broken down with water in the engine after the river crossing. We did not escape unscathed as Garth picked up some cramp after the river crossing. We did not make it over the summit before dark but the view as the moon rose was spectacular. At this stage we could look forward to a good road into Patensie where most teams would met their seconds and don warm clothes and have a warm meal. Frozen we dashed in Garth had 3 chip rolls , I had one but put chilli sauce on instead of tomato sauce but munched it anyway we had 50 odd kms to go and we weren’t hanging around. After a quick application of Blue Steel to the rather tender butts we were ready. Jeannette tapped her watch and chased us out of the huge vibey pack shed in about 7 minutes and we physched ourselves up for the “Never Ender”. This climb turned out to be tame compared to where we had come from with the gravel well packed and the moon showing the way. One more check point at Zuurbron and we headed to the coast with real momentum until some guy tried to over take me and went head first into the barbed wire fence next to the railway line, I slowed down a bit scared of suffering the same fate.

The finishing banners soon came into site ad with a purpose built ramp over the wall into Kabeljous resort we crossed the line. Medals in hand we headed straight to the Spur Tent to load up on a burger and chips before cycling down the road to Jeffery,s Bay to warm showers and bed.

Jeannette “It took us 12hrs and 44min on my watch and it was a great experience the 3 Pennypinchers worked superbly as a team and it was great fun just to be out there for that amount of time with your mates who see you in your worse state and who are still your mates afterwards. Thanks guys you rock!!”

The nitty gritty was
234,9 km, 2800m of climbing, minimum temp 5 ,average 11 degrees
Our time 12hr 42min , 86th overall (out of 400 teams), 5th mixed 3 Team

With this under the belt the Team is now looking forward to The Pennypinchers Karoo to Coast in September, The Hitec Otter Trail in October, The Eden Duo, in October and then the big one The Salomon Sky Run in the middle of November.

Thanks to Garths Father in law Dave who drove us up to the start and his wife Tammy who feed us enough great food to last us two Baavians trips.

With out the Gu s and Blue Steel we would still be out there so thank you guys for your on going support

Thursday, August 11, 2011


The Trans Bavains MTB Race is happening this weekend from Willowmore in the Eastern Cape Karoo to the small coastal village of Jefferys Bay. The ride is 230km long which makes it the longest single stage mountain bike race in the world. Once again it is the South African sports men and women who are brave/crazy/fit enough to take on the challenge. The race is fully subscribed at 1200 riders and the waiting list is long. With the ride starting at 10am there is the additional challenge of the riders having to cycle in the dark even the "racing snakes" . The cut off time is a staggering 24 hours and some people dont make it.

With all four regular members taking part the Team is looking forward to being back together again. Jeff is wearing his cyclists hat and opted to race the the race with a group which includes his partner for next years Trans Andes Bike Race. James,Netski and Garth will be riding in the mixed threes category and hope to do well. Wiothin the spirit of Adventure racing the Team has made a decision to do the race with out making use of seconds or the organisers kit boxes that can be dropped alonmg the route. The thinking is that we are used to carrying what we need and that the time we loose by carrying a bit of extra wieght will be made up by the fact that we will keep moving constantly from check point to check point.

So watch this space and think of us as another cold front sweeps the Southern Cape and we ride in the expected maximum tempreature of 9 degrees on Saturday morning.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Outeniqua Traverse 6 August 2011

A race report by Nick Cuthbert

Saturday the 6th August 2011. It's 7:30 AM, and as we coast to a stop outside the Garden Route Botanical Gardens, already have the brave (and arguably insane) men and woman, participating in the 38km Traverse, have departed a half of an hour ago. For this I salute them, for the morning is chilly, the terrain is tough, and the hour was early.

Walking into the Voortrekker hall across from the gardens, for registration, there is an almost reverential air inside; perhaps because of the weight of the building’s history, but most likely because of the slight apprehension radiating from each and every person in the saal, meditating on what they’d got themselves into. Greeting two of my friends and the Merell Adv. Addicts team, who were working at registration, I grabbed my race goodie bag and then rushed back to the car to get ready for the race.

It’s now 7:45 AM and things were more relaxed at the start line, until Graeme “Tweet” Bird began the race briefing. The convoluted course he described slipped quickly out of one’s mind. But it turns out that there is little to worry about for it is simply the opposite to last year’s route and is well marked. As the seconds tick away till the start, I smile, for the lure of proper mountains draws me like no other terrain does. Today was going to be muddy and tough. It had rained in the night and in the preceding days, and much of the first half of the race is all uphill.

8:00 AM and the race starts. Passing the watchful eye of a camera, we head out of the botanical gardens to wilder, less carefully cultivated pastures. Surprisingly, the pace starts off slowly as we weave on and off the railways tracks, through relatively flat but enjoyable trails. This suits me, as my game plan today, is to keep energy in reserve for the downhill after Tierkop, the turning point of the day. Several kms in, and the leaders had been reduced to three, Rian Van der Sandt, Maritz Van Rensburg and I. After a short downhill to a river crossing, very near the Garden Route Dam, Maritz and I, left Van der Sandt behind, to start the scenic but lung busting uphill to Tierkop.Travelling through a short indigenous forest section and then past fynbos fields, steadily gaining altitude van Rensburg and I, diced a bit, testing each other’s elastics. Running then power walking up the versant (a mountain slope, thank a thesaurus today) alternatively, we must have looked comical, pantomime pursuers. I finally got the jump on Van Rensburg when we entered a technical upward trail approximately a kilometre or so from Tierkop.

It’s now about 9:00 AM and descending a short Jeep track, I turn into a trail. It’s fast but technical and follows the mountain contours. It’s is also likely even more beautiful than what has gone before, however I’m in no state to appreciate it, as it’s treacherous and slippery and a misstep could result in a painful tumble. I also know that I have only a thin buffer between first and secondly place, so I attempt to ‘put the hammer down’. Despite my best efforts, I took a spill a way in this section and for a few painful moments, I am worried that I have strained a muscle but it loosens as I see surprisingly not Van Rensburg but Van der Sandt closing in. I reach the George Dam only moments before Rian and climb out of the gorge desperately, stopping to draw a few breaths as he emerges behind me. The route takes us up a slippery slope, as I tell myself to not let Rian pass. Taking on board nutrition, I make this a mantra. “Not this time”, becomes my metre. The last few longer races I did, after having been in the lead for much of the way, I had been overtaken, in the last few kilometres. I did not want this to happen again.

At around 10:00 AM, we crest the slope and George is in sight. The trail hereafter, is technical and slightly downhill, which allows me to take off with “Not this time” and strangely the tune “Puff the Magic Dragon” reverberating through my brain. I now have a little time to appreciate the view and how far I’ve come out the corner of my eye. The mud makes everything tricky however and I bail in a wooded section of the track, adding a few new grazes to the body. The end (distantly) can be seen.

On the final downhill, with perhaps two kilometers to go, I start cramping, and I grow afraid that my opportunity has ended, as I half hobble onward and I become sure that Rian or Maritz will catch me. Internally, I scream at my body, willing it to run and with a shambling movement, I pop out at the gardens, with the line in sight. I cross it, in a time of 2:29:26. Finishing second is Rian Van der Sandt, nursing quadruple as many injuries as I am and third is Maritz van Rensburg. The first lady was Barbara Hage, coming in at a time of 3:13:28. The winner of the 38km, looking understandably exhausted was Jacques Mouton, in a time of 4:18:56, Second overall and first female was Landie Fisser, in a time of 4:43:56. Well done everyone who finished this tricky and tough course. It definitely seemed tougher than last year.

In this race, I’ve learnt a few important lessons:

  1. It is important to go into a race, especially one you’ve competed in before with a race plan.

  2. Nutrition is important. Timing carb and water intake in an endurance race, is vital, for optimum performance.

  3. Never say that you don’t cramp in a running race and take measures to avoid it in the first place/

Thank you Tatum, Graeme, Hano and the rest of the team for organising a great event. It was well marked, professional, fun and exhilarating. Thanks too go out to Nick and Laura who got up extra early to help with registration.

On a side note, I’d like to apologise to Tatum for being overly hyperactive/excited after the race finished. I’ve probably caused a leetle bit of problems with editing the video footage for the event.