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Is the Tour de France the Toughest Sporting event in the world?

If you’re curious as to the physical (and mental) exertion required to cycle in the Tour de France, then read on. This event must surely stack up as the world’s most gruelling endurance event. In fact, it’s no wonder the cyclists need to devise devious means by which to overcome the fatigue and stresses put onto their bodies. But what makes the TdF so tough?


For 103 years the Tour de France has pitted brave cyclists against each other over unforgiving European mountains.

The Distance: Let’s start with the actual distance covered (this is for the 2016 edition). At 3,542km, the TdF would be like cycling from Cape Town to Johannesburg. And then back to Cape Town! Now the daily distances need to be pretty far to make up this distance in the allotted time – so the average day is about 175km. The Cape Town Cycle Tour (or Argus) is 109km. Imagine doing an Argus every day for three weeks? And you’d still be way off the distance covered in the TdF.

The Climbing: In truth, the distance is one thing, but the real pain is actually the climbing (and the steep gradients) that the riders must overcome. The ABSA Cape Epic climbs around 16,000m in its 8 days of mountainbiking racing. Thats going over Mount Everest – twice. The TdF climbs close to 59,000m – that’s nearly 9 Mount Everest summits. On your way to Joburg and Back from Cape Town remember…. In local perspective, imagine cycling up to The Mast (above Constantiaberg) about 70 times over 3 weeks. Thats about 3 times a day…but whilst doing a daily ride of 175km. Starts to add up hey?


Just an example of one mountain stage on the Tour.

The Speeds: So now that you have a better appreciation for the distance and climbing, another factor to consider is how fast these guys actually go over this terrain. Every year at the Cape Town Cycle Tour, about 2% of the 35,000 field manage to ride the 109km route in under 3 hours. Thats quite an achievement as an amateur cyclist. To do that, you need to average around 37kmph. Thats pretty decent on a bicycle! Now the TdF riders can complete a mountain stage at that speed as the average. On a flat course they average around 47kmph…and in 1999, Mario Cippolini won a 195km stage at an average speed of 50.4kmph. In 2015, Rohan Denis clocked an average speed of 55.44kmph for the individual time trial…burning some serious rubber there! The sprinters at the end of a stage manage to generate nearly 1500 watts of power as they cross the 75kmph speed barrier. And downhill, speeds over 130kmph have been recorded.


The sprinters of the Tour are the Ferraris in the stable!

The Riders: Now if all of the above doesn’t make you pinch a rose bud into your bibs’ chamois, consider the genetic physiological traits you need to possess. The average South African male is not a small specimen. Whether it’s African or Afrikaans genes, we have some bulky boys bicycling nowadays and they would look quite out of place in a TdF peloton. The average weight of a TdF rider does vary, but consider the fact that Nairo Quintana is a meagre 59kgs – and still not the lightest rider on the Tour (most South Africans own a dog that is heavier than him). The Italian Domenico Pozzovivo from AG2R Mondiale stacks in at a featherweight 53kg. Winner Chris Froome weighs in at around 72kg – the same weight as the mischievous yet brilliant all rounder Peter Sagan (although their builds are completely different – with Froome being rather awkward and stringy and Sagan being more muscular and defined…as the ladies prefer, so I’m told).


The brilliant and mischievous Peter Sagan – the rock n roll star of cycling nowadays (keep your wives and girlfriends far away!)

So boys – if you’re looking to compete in the world’s most gruelling endurance event, best you first see if you can complete this local Cape Town Route 21 days in a row:

Leave town on the Cape Town Cycle Tour route and sprint to Tokai. Head up to the Mast twice….and then continue around Cape Point. Go to town again and head out towards the Mast again. Now sprint up the mast one last time. ANd hope that your average is around 36kmph. Simple hey? (And you wonder why they need something extra for the endurance). Or you could simply kick back on the couch and watch the Tour de France – the world’s Toughest Sporting event.

Froome goes for a run: Best Internet Reactions

Defending the Yellow Jersey on the Tour de France is possibly one of the most challenging and tactical sporting feats in the world of professional cycling. All eyes are on the wearer of the famed Maillot jaune as he and his team ride cleverly to either maintain or gain time on the would-be challengers in the peloton.
So when the Tour organisers had to move the finish line 6km off the summit of the most feared climb in the race (Mont Ventoux – named after the French word for “windy”) the fans congested around the newly formed finish line.
Mont Ventoux has been the scene of many an epic day on the Tour and with nearly 2000m of ascent over 22 gruelling kilometres, its no wonder that only the worlds best climbers look to this challenge to stamp their authority down on the race.


What we expected to see: A dominant Froome summiting the feared Mont Ventoux

In the 2016 Tour de France, the spectating cycling world was eager to watch Chris Froome and Nairo Quintana do battle on these hostile slopes. But with the 100km wind gusts and a shortened route up the feared slopes of Mont Ventoux, the race for the yellow jersey took a completely different twist.
The crowds on the road were once again lining the narrow climb up towards the finish line when one of the camera motorcycles needed to suddenly stop as the spectators had literally blocked the road in their viewing frenzy. Richie Porte slammed straight into the back of the bike and Chris Froome collided directly into him.

What followed can only be described as surreal: Froome’s bike had been damaged and he had clearly determined that it was unrideable. So without thinking too much about it, the Kenyan-born Froome took to the hills in his cleats and starting running up the mountain. Eventually he was given a bike by a certified tour mechanic (an appropriately yellow coloured bicycle) but his cleats did not fit into the pedals. Eventually his Team Sky mechanic (Gary Blem) was able to get him a Team issue bike and eventually Chris Froome was able to complete the last few hundred metres on something a bit more familiar…
The Tour organisers reviewed all of the evidence and – despite actually dropping to sixth and based on these “special circumstances” – Froome was reinstated as the wearer of the yellow jersey. The right call in my books.
Now as you can imagine, the fans out there were very quick to get photoshopping and bring on some pretty funny pictures of Froome crossing over to some running scenarios. Here are some select few that surfaced only a few hours later:


Froome shows his versatility and survival instinct as he evades the bull run in Pamplona

50 things

Strava – well, if it wasn’t captured there then it simply never happened!


Run Froome Run! (Lootenant Dan would’ve been very proud)


Kenyans run. Its what they are born to do. Froome is clearly no different!


Africans run from lions!


Kalk Bay harbour can dish up some big waves for a Joburg boytjie!


That’s it Chris – when you see Zombies: you RUN!

See what really happened here:

Some of the best excuses justifying your Cycle Tour time

So the World Amateur Funride Road Racing Champs (aka The Cape Town Cycle Tour) is done and dusted! For the rest of the year your finishing time will peg your riding capability in the eyes of the rest of the cycling community.

Perhaps you didn’t crack the milestone you were after or trained for – and you need to go back to your cycling group and give them a brief explanation about what really happened out there on the 109km course.

If you weren’t happy with your time, here are a list of plausible excuses I have heard over the years:

  • My batch was so lazy! I was really keen to get going but no-one wanted to work.
  • Mechanicals – bloody chain jumped off near UCT.
  • Some idiot half-wheeled me up Edinborough Drive and I nearly fell off – and I burnt my legs staying with the group after that.
  • I did all of the work into the wind – and then the group dashed off after Smitswinkel.
  • Cramps! From nowhere….and I never get cramps.
  • So I gave this poor guy all of my water at Misty Cliffs – and then I bonked on Suikerbossie.
  • My group was so lazy going into Camps Bay! No-one wanted to work…
  • And then all the pro chicks pulled in behind me – and I had to do all the work – I blew at the Sea Point pool and limped home…in a 3:01!
  • My bike is 8 years old dude!
  • I didn’t do any seeding races.
  • Listen – I only got on the bike that morning!
  • I was always going to take it easy – so I’m happy with my 6:34.
  • I rode with my friend from the UK so I just took it easy – I just waited at the top of all of the hills.
  • I only got an entry 3 days before the time!
  • I wasn’t trying for a sub 3 – and I’m more than happy with a 3:02! (Not)
SK Kit

The new Smooth Knobblies kit has attracted much attention and admiration at this year’s Cape Town Cycle Tour


Ali doing her sponsor proud

Sub 3 knobs

The Sub 3 crowd

Twakkie start

Twakkie doing a groupie at the start


The results

On that note – special mention to the following Smooth Knobblies:

  • Alison Morton (for a change) who – at 15 and on her first solo ride of The Tour – is already knocking at the sub 3 club. Amazing ride young lady!
  • Twakkie – The little bugger has now tasted what its like to go over 30km/h again and the talk around the water cooler is that he’s on the market for a road bike. Do I sense a comeback year…on the ROAD BIKE?
  • Jello breaks into the sub 3 club for the first time – with CrackMan as his aider and abetter.
  • Shaun continues his record of “a sub 3 in every Argus he’s ridden in” (and Westville pipped Kearsney at the line again!)
  • Well done to Chanan for getting over his Patagonian Herpes to make the ride just in time (and in a respectable time too!).
  • Gav still has that monkey on his back…eish. (Come and ride with us in the mornings Gav…we’ll fix you for sub 3).
  • Charity Award to Moose for riding with Oom Flip – a very respectable ride when most people his age are in wheelchairs….(let me be clear: Oom Flips age – not Mooses)
  • Simon breaks below his desired 3:15 – but we all know what he’s really after…2017 Si?

The Smooth Knobblies Annual Cycling Challenge (aka The SKACC)

The Smooth Knobblies have run an annual cycling challenge over the last 3 years. Here is a brief overview of the results over that time period. This is what the top 5 looked like in 2013:

In 2013, no-one had broken the 10,000km mark (although there is a TV referee decision still pending that Warren Morton did, in fact, break that mark. But you gotta be in it to win it!)
In 2013 we had 20 competitors and the pool managed to pedal their way through 77,726km in that year. So each participant averaged 3,886km that year (which is 10.6km per day). Are we getting any better though? lets see:
In 2014 the Wolves were set free and the front end of the pack gnashed and snarled their way quite successfully through the 10,000km mark – not bad for a bunch of ageing, working, (Simon I didn’t say balding!), family men with a broad base of responsibilities!. Shaun took it to a new level with his 1000km per month average – something we weren’t able to match this year.
As for the group – well, with 25 contestants we pedaled along at 122,334 combined KM for the year – an average of 4893km per rider for the year – that’s 1000km more per rider and brought the average up to 13 km ridden per day.
So how did we fare in 2015? Well, lets see:
The big change for the contest was the rocketing of Dr Phall up to the top of the leader board. From relative obscurity, Phil obviously turned the mental corner and kept on pedaling until he had reached the top rung of the ladder….
All the other usual suspects are in the mix – and even though he suffered a fractured pelvis AND a skiing holiday in December, Rocky still managed to end 5th (and I only moved past him on the last ride of the year because some of the riding party that day took a 8km detour).
But what about the average of the group? We didn’t spike into the 12000km mark – but maybe the overall performance of the group improved:
Well – with 24 contestants, we managed to ride 133,570 combined km – which means a rider average of 5,565km per year…a ride average of 15,2km per day…every day…for the year! Thats a 50% increase since the first combined challenge in 2013.
2016 has started off steadily and the miles are already trickling in….at a rate of hopefully more than 15km per day!
In conclusion then, we can proudly say that we are a group of cyclists who are steadily improving their average riding distances per day. Keep it up!
So the expectation is set and the benchmark has been established – you should set a target to average between 16-18km of cycling per day – every day – for 2016. Now you know.
So get our there and cycle safely!
Remember to #smoothknobblies your ride pics on social media so we can keep a virtual repository of all the great things we see and great people we meet whilst out on the bike.

A reply to Tokai Mountain

Dear Tokai Mountain

Thank you so much for your letter – and you’re right: it has been far too long since we last saw each other. I’m so sorry I haven’t been to visit – but the so-called doctors and nursing staff have been very protective about gaining access to you since the fire. I mean, how are you feeling after that? We all watched in horror as the flames crept down your beautiful face…eish – so sad! I know you now said that you’re feeling fine and you want people to come and visit again – but we get different reports sent to us (if any!).
I share your frustration that the doctors are not telling you how you are progressing. They tell us nothing either and – without dismissing them as a bunch of palookas who appear (on the surface) to be quite lazy – we do think their diagnosis might be a little Over The Top!

I have some friends who are trying their best to get you out of hospital so that we can come and ride our bikes over you again – but the medical staff are having none of it! Even in the places that weren’t  burnt so badly are proving very difficult to gain access to. We’re all pretty sure that the Ou Wa-Pad and the Peaks should be fine to ride….
You must feel like a real leper the way you have been told that no-one can come and see you. You’re like the new Area 51 or wherever they keep the UFO’s in America…. What I found strange was that the bureaucrats in charge were almost condemning you before the fire had even smouldered to its last embers! How on earth did they arrive at the fact that you’d need to remain in hospital for two years when no-one had even checked how you were after the fire? And from what I can see, you’re actually looking really good. (I think Mother Nature looks after her own in a very good way!)

Whilst you were busy with your healing process, the bureaucrats also told us that the activity card prices were going up – again! And guess how much of that money is going to be spent on getting you back to your former glory? None. I’m told it all goes to Pretoria to pay some fat cat salary…its a disgrace, I know. I do think that you have a good case to take the matter further…ironically – despite the increase in fees we’re even prepared to pay extra and help bring in some private doctors and nurses to patch you up – but again we’re being told not now. I do find it odd and I share your concern that this is all taking a bit too long!

Its very frustrating to see you and not be able to come over and play like we used to…remember when we didn’t even need to pay to come over? Everyone got along just fine – runners; horseriders; cyclists…the more regulations and cost that was put on us as a “user group” the more issues we had! Suddenly it wasn’t safe anymore; we had areas restricted to us…and here we thought we were paying so that you’d be a better recreational facility for all of us!

Don’t worry Tokai…we’re going to get our very own hashtag (#Permitsmustfall, #OpenTokai) and get people to start asking questions….

Not long now Tokai, not long now.


(former) Tokai Mountainbiker

Transbaviaans 2015

Let’s start by admitting that the Transbaviaans (TB) is always going to be a big day
out. It doesn’t matter if you’re a professional mountain biker or a weekend
plodder with great dreams: the route is still 230km of challenging terrain. So
to come unprepared for this event is seriously not a good idea. And as with any
big cycling event, be prepared to have more than just one plan B. Make sure you
have plan C and D on close standby.
The Karoo has its own charm and treasures littered about the landscape.
This contingency planning should start very early – like when you’re deciding who
the actual team is going to be for the TB. Apart from the usual selection
criteria (teamwork and compatibility; fitness level; experience; and riding
speed & strength) one should also consider having a reserve. Just that
reliable super-sub that can be called upon at the last minute should a regular
team member be unable to make it – work commitments; family crisis; or – as was
the case with us – illness 2 days before the event. Rocky, my 3-time Epic
partner, was given his cancellation papers by means of a doctors script that
read “upper respiratory tract infection”. Apparently that’s not such a good
thing to have 2 days before tackling one of the toughest single stage MTB events
on the planet. Who knew? So it was to our trusty reserve we turned –  the
Epic John “Kwagga” Gale. With every single Epic underthe belt (yes – he’s done
all 12) we knew we had an experienced and hardened replacement (although Rocky
had 5 Epic notches on his bedpost – so it was like for like really!)
The sticker on your bike that guides your efforts….
And off we went. Make no mistake – the road trip is part of the event. I’m not sure
how many Willowmore locals ride the TB, but my guess is that the vast majority
of participants come from all over the country. And with the Willowmore
International Airport being…well…non-existent, you’re going to be driving
there. And that is where the event starts. Shaun, Kwagga, and I hit the road
from Cape Town and by the time we had arrived in Willowmore a good 7 hours later
we had bonded well….Shaun and I were well versed in Kwagga’s music taste of
Weird Alyankavic and Johnny Cash (an odd pairing admittedly) and Shaun had told
us of his various stories of having to mark Jonah Lomu on the wing in rugby
matches (Shaun played nearly 100 games for the Sharks in the 1990’s and then
another 100 or so for Munster in Ireland – I was surrounded by hardcore
But to the start we go! 2015 Weekend 1 had great weather. If the weather goes
wrong, you’re going to have a tough day (and night..and morning). SO the warm
Berg wind was a welcome change to the last time I tackled this 5 years ago. In
2011 it was minus 2; the Baviaanskloof was flooded; and we were redirected on
the LangsBaviaanskloof ride. And that was a long day…and night…
The start is festive and low-key. The Willowmore main street is probably busier
than it ever is at any other time of the year and the locals all participate to
give this great event a solid North-Eastern Cape flavour. Ja boet….
Start line freshness…
The race itself is made up of two distinct parts – the first fast and furious half.
With the aid of a gentle tailwind (characteristic for this time of year – but
not to be completely relied upon) we crossed the 100km mark in a time of 3:15.
That’s not a bad Cape Town Cycle Tour pace. But then as you head into the
afternoon the shadows start drawing out as the cliffs and ravines loom on
either side. And so the route begins to crumple and spike on the profile map
and your impressive average speed that you’ve managed to post in the first half
stops to slide backwards as your front wheel rises up the rough gradients
thrown before you. 

You’ll be met with climbs with such names as “The Fangs” –
well named because apart from their double-spiked sharpness, they can also hook
into any weakening calves and spring an uncomfortable cramp on you… And then
what must have caused some heartbreak in past years is the M.A.C…the Mother of
All Climbs. 

Look down theeere  at the bottom – you’ll be coming up from there…and this photo was taken some way from the summit.
No matter how capable you are – this climb will take a chunk out of
you. If you’re untrained, unfit, or overweight, I’m afraid that it’s here you
will be making some severe life-changing decisions. Through your tears, of
course. So best to remain chipper up this climb of you might find yourself in a
dark place (and if you’re the weakest member of a team – be sure to tell your
team if you’re dropping off otherwise you will burn whatever reserves you have
trying to keep up). BUT (yes – there’s always light at the end of the tunnel!)
the soup and bread at the top of the climb (Bergplaas – 140km in) is just reward
for your efforts as you dry your eyes and prepare for the night stretch.
You want to hope that you climb this baby when its still daylight…
From here you can look forward to speeding up again (well, that is a relative
statement I guess). If you’ve trained properly and have your endurance legs on,
you can start pushing that average speed up again as you head out of the
Baviaanskloof and towards the home stretch. We managed to hook into some good
teams and the peloton- style riding made our progress fast and efficient. We
were still fortunate in that it was still light and the lights we had strapped
on atop Bergplaas remained cold and off until we hit the Never-Ender: an aptly
named climb with enough of a gradient to slow any overly ambitious climbing
speeds. But this was more my territory (I’m a 90kg plus rider, so gentle
gradients; rollers; and flats work for me…and I just freewheel past people on
the downhills!). It was here that we made good progress and I found myself with
a toasted jaffle in one hand and a cup of coffee in the other at the final
checkpoint before I was even fully aware that we were over the climb! I guess
after so many hours of riding certain sections tend to blur and evaporate in a
state of cycling hypnosis (that’s hypnosis – not happiness
because all of this was hard work by now!)
Gravel grinding – a big part of the day!
The last 10km follow a tricky path along the railway line en route to Jeffreys Bay.
That was tough going for me. I felt like I was really pushing the effort but
that the progress made was slow…perhaps 10 hours of spinning the legs does
Find a strong group and then stick with them!


We were eventually spat off the line at the main mall of Jeffreys Bay where we
crossed the line in a time of 10 hours 33 minutes – good enough for 45th spot
overall. Of course we were more than happy with that! A fine effort from the
Enervit Endurance Team. We dedicated this ride to my friend from years ago,
Ronald Louw, who is fighting the battle against testicular cancer. We met some
of his supporters on the route and it was great to chat to them. And thanks to
the event organisers who made special mention of our dedication to Ronald as we
crossed the finish line (still not sure who 
arranged that!). Our 10 hour battle
is over – but he still has a long journey ahead and we all pray and wish him
and his family well as they fight this. Our thoughts are with you and were very
much with you when we #RideForRon. 
The Enervit Endurance Team – done and dusted!

Cycling the Maratona Dles Dolomites – Italy

So when I used to race in Italy….

I’ve always wanted to say that. And technically speaking, now I can!
Two months ago I entered a competition via the Bicycling SA Facebook page.
Was I aware of what I was entering? No.
Did I have any idea what the Maratona Dles Dolomites even was? No.
Did I have a clue about the natural beauty of the northern part of Italy. No….
Did I expect to win the competition? Like the lottery – not really (but the hope it gives is a wonderful feeling!)
Am I glad I won? Ummmm – read on and I’ll let you decide.

Enervit, one of Europe’s leading sports nutrition companies, is expanding into South Africa under the guidance of Tess Mcloughlin. Together with Bicycling SA, they ran a competition to take “a lucky reader” to one of Italy’s most prestigious events, the Maratona Dles Dolomites. As the primary sponsor of this Gran Fondo race, Enervit opted to take me (the lucky winner) and a representative from Bicycling magazine – none other than the well known and magnetic Oli Munnik. I had met Oli a few times prior to this occasion, so when we met up at Cape Town international we weren’t complete strangers. Which does help – especially if we were to hang out for 5 days together!

Although I have traveled to various countries – primarily on business – I can now say that Italy is a special place. Its usually HOT in the summer – and we were caught up in a heatwave that was sweeping Europe, so the temperature was maxing out at 35-40 degrees (the mercury topped off at 41 degrees in Milan on our last day!). The antiquity and natural beauty of Italy are enough for any tourist to go all wobbly-kneed over…but for someone who loves cycling…well, therein lies the true beauty of the country. It is steeped in cycling history and the country and its people are knowledgeable about all things road cycling. Bianchi; Pinarello; Cappuccino; Nibali; Fabiano; Gucci; Fettucine alfredo; Coppi; Linguine; Bartali….the list goes on (make sure you read the list again – but this time pinch your thumb and forefinger; raise your wrist and repeat the list in your best Italian accent whilst you shake the hand…go on – it gets you into the whole Italian vibe! Also, I threw in the food and coffee names for some familiarity…)

The Maratona Dles Dolomites is a grueling event. This is not a fun ride through some idyllic Italian countryside. Save those images for when you have a steel bike and you’re pedaling under a Tuscan sky with a baguette and bottle of red wine in the front basket. This is not that movie. Rather turn away from the flowing fields and vineyards and cast your eyes northwards to the mountains. Big mountains. Start imagining images of snow-capped peaks; endless switchbacks; treacherous descents; and most importantly – the torturous climbs that summit on rocky outposts. Don’t believe me? Check this out:

The mountain ranges of the Dolomites are primarily known for skiing – but the breathtaking scenery and steep roads are too inviting for cyclists to ignore.

The Maratona as a race is not for sissies. The profile itself demands respect as its 138km distance is thrown into a jagged crocodile-smile profile with the 4300m ascent thrown in. That’s the real challenge. Due to the nature of the beast, there’s no such thing as peloton riding on this event  – you’re either climbing or descending – nothing in between. So to think that its “like the Argus (Cycle Tour) with some hills” would do this race a great injustice. From the loud cannon that sets you off, you’re climbing. For ages. And then you’re screaming down the other side of the slope – with white knuckles on the brakes as you approach one of the hundreds of switchbacks you swoop into. Six category 1 climbs mark the landscape of the battle.

Trek bikes once again looked after me. They offer a concept called Trek Travel (see here for detail: which in principle allows you to choose a global destination and Trek will have bikes waiting for you. No hassle of flying with bikes! Utterly brilliant! In this case, the lads from Dark Horse Trading (read Trek Bikes SA) organised me with a PROPER machine on the Italian side: a Trek Damone 58 with Shimano D.I.2 electronic shifting and disc brakes! As a larger rider, I could not have asked for a more appropriate weapon in the artillery. Light, responsive, smooth – it ticked all the boxes – and how about that matt-black finish? It was my first interaction with the electronic gear shifting capability on the Shimano D.I.2 system and I can only comment on how smooth and almost intuitive it is. Its literally a tap-and-click mechanism that is very user friendly. So its official – I want it. The whole bike! (When the bike and I parted ways in Milan, I was almost tearful. We had shared so much together…the hard times; the crazy climbs; the ridiculous speeds; the angled turns…I think a small part of me may well be imbedded in that particular bike 🙂 )

The Trek Damone Disc with Shimano D.I.2 Dura Ace components. Cycling brute force meets cycling poetry.

So the riding in the Dolomites was absurd. Its like The Sound of Music meets Transformers in a National Geographic magazine (I’m aware its hard to imagine that – but that’s the challenge of describing picturesque classic awesomeness). We know that the scenery is postcard pretty. I’ve established that the terrain is steep – both up and down. And now for the race:

The Maratona Dles Dolomites is an Italian Gran Fondo race with Enervit being one of the main sponsors. With 3 race courses to choose from (short; medium; long) the 9000 entries are very hard to come by. Hens teeth would be an apt description. Over 62 countries were represented this year – but I can confidently say that there were less than 5 South Africans in the mix of 9000.

Its either up or down over the course of the Maratona Dles Dolomites

Oli had decided that he was going to give the race a bash and pit himself against the best Italian amateurs in the country (as well as Dutch; German; Swiss; Spanish; French; and English riders too – no easy task). Oli will tell you how the climbing was endless and that a minimum of a compact crank was needed just to get up the climbs – never mind compete!

Some of these pics will tell the story:

The start is a 9000 mass participant start – that is surprisingly calm and organised – no “hold your line” yelling and all that angst.


The summit of the Giau (pronounced “Shi – yow”) – a 10km ascent at just under 10% average. Its a long, dark hour in the mind….the Enervit tent at the top beckons like a small piece of heaven, offering a chance to reload on supplies and briefly rest your battered legs…before the next climb, that is.


Tess and I tackle the climbs on our Treks


Assume the position – just keep on climbing…


Oli “Pinner” Munnik put his racing legs to the test on the Maratona. Even the experienced and highly competent Bicycling Gear writer was humbled by the sheer profile of the event.


Much of the scenery on the big climbs was lost on me as the stinging sweat just seeped into my eyes!

The last two climbs were morale-sapping brutes. The Gaiu managed to put a pin-hole into my climbing confidence balloon and the altitude and gradient slowly seeped the strength from my legs. I think at about the 38 minute mark of climbing I was comfortably inside my dark place, trying not to look up. Every time I did, it was just another steep climb littered with cyclists way above me with no end in sight. The 10 km of climbing took forever…

Some of the stats of the Giau pass
The summit of the Giau Pass – 2236m. This was also the KOM climb for the front runners.

In a kind of Epic-design mode, the organisers threw in a nasty surprise 5km from the finish – the “Wall of The Cat” (or “walladacat” as the locals pronounce it). This little bastard is just like the Boyes Drive climb from the Kalk Bay side. Now imagine it being straight up, packed with frenzied locals in costumes; and at that gradient (19%)…after 133km of pain in your legs?
Did we ride it? Did we…? We made a pact (Oli, Tess and I) that we would MURDER the bloody CAT when we got there. And we did. No Foot Down was adhered to by the Enervit South African Riders – even though it was painful and tempting to do so. Cat murdered? Tick!

The official statistics of the Wall of the Cat (so named because you need your claws to scramble up the hill!)
Team Enervit SA – Rens, Tess, Oli, and our Italian host Vittorio on the first training ride down the Compolongo pass

Oli rode a highly respectable 5hrs40 – placing him in the top 140 riders. Tess and I rode together and spilled over the line just over 7 hours – with Tess placed as the 31st women overall – and plenty of ladies took part! We were well impressed with our efforts and came in 1,2,3 in the entire Enervit Maratona Team….
It certainly ranks as the toughest road race I have ever competed in. With 5 One Tonners and 6 DC’s under the belt on the road riding side, I think I have a good comparative reference on the road riding races on offer here in South Africa (the last DC being a 6-hour ride with Team Fat Bob). Even with 3 Epics done, this would be a long day for ANY rider…the mental and physical requirements were exceptionally demanding

Before the Race:
Enervit were the perfect hosts/ As a successful company that sponsored the event, Oli and I were invited into full and busy itinerary. We were exposed to some revolutionary new products that will be released large-scale into the market shortly and wined and dined like movie stars. I cannot express enough thanks to Tess and Vittorio from Enervit SA and Italy respectively for the experience. I’m still getting my head around it.
Oli was the most relaxed roommate – although the chap certainly did enjoy getting prone on his hotel bed whenever he could (which, in fairness, was not often.) Looks like a gentle case of love-sickness can do that….but enough about Oli.

My first time riding in the Dolomites – Salute!!!
Oli decided to take us off piste (off the beaten track) and we rode some of the local MTB trails…on our ride bikes. Note to Chad from Trek – none of the bikes photographed here were hurt or injured during this photo shoot! Here Tess gets to the top of a long gravel climb through the valley.
The Italian landscape is truly magnificent


One of the mountain passes we drove through to get to Corvara


Gabriele Mugnaini – a former cycling professional and veteran Soigneur – with 42 Giro d’Italias and 23 Tour de Frances under his hands… I was very privileged to have those mits massage me before the race. He has worked with the likes of cycling greats Chippolini and Ulrich
The entire Enervit racing crew – from Italy, Spain, Columbia. and South Africa (only 6 of us were crazy enough to enter the long version of the race!)
In an almost surreal environment, the hotel pool room (empty) housed our bikes
The Treks took to the mountains like Italians to pasta…..
One evening Enervit took us out for dinner…to a James Bond-like setting…at the top of one magnificent mountain…by cable car (who needs uber taxis?)
Enervit SA’s Tess Mcloughlin and Enervit Italy’s Vittorio Mazzola (aka Steam Cat!) – the best hosts we could’ve wished for.


Meeting with Enervit ambassador and former Italian cycling champion Davide Cassani – a former Tour de France rider and winner of 2 Giro D’Italia stages…. we’re close now. Tight. Big Chinas!!
Some more off-road work as navigated by Oli Munnik (“Ja we can ride here….its not that far to the top….look out for the cow shit! Oops…”)
Going real-retro with some original cycling jerseys from the 1950’s – 1970’s…As expected, not many fitted me. Looks like pro cyclists have always been a small breed!


This pic will end up in a magazine – because its awesome. Simple really….

This event was truly amazing. Thank you once again to Enervit for the opportunity to ride in such a prestigious (and tough!) event. Thanks to Tess from Enervit SA and Vittorio from Enervit Italy for being such generous hosts. It was great to get to know Oli “Pinner” Munnik even better – a great cyclist and genuine guy all around.

To Chad and the team at Trek for arranging a training bike here in SA and then upgrading it on the Italian side – I could not have asked for a more superb creation to ride this event on. The Classique shoes and Bontrager helmet were a perfect match for the matt black bike…and in Italy, style is EVERYTHING!! I think us South Africans have a bit of a way to go in that department…

I sign off now as a slightly more experienced rider but definitely a more humbled and honoured person to have been invited to this race.

But that’s what its like racing in Italy….

Yes – you should quit golf and take up cycling!

I notice that the golfing community is running around in a panic as the affluent middle-aged men decide to leave the non-environmentally friendly sport of golf and take up cycling.

Its a last-gasp cry of desperation as they watch their exorbitant club and green fees dry up and be channeled into a sport that actually gets you outdoors in an active way.

Why should you leave golf? Its simple:

The Future of the Planet Depends on it. 2 giga-zillion litres of water are poured out over golf courses every 14 seconds. You can check those facts if you don’t believe me…. That’s enough water to float 477 Nimitz Class aircraft carriers. I’m no environmental expert – but it seems an awful waste of water to wastefully pour on the ground – only to shave the grass really short so that a small white ball can roll  across it evenly. The water isn’t even being used for agriculture or growing crops for starving babies in Sudan and Afghanistan. Its capitalism at its worst! Animals cant even live near golf courses – despite the 400 billion hectares that golf courses take up in pristine environments around the world. Want to kill a Panda? Just tee off – that gesture alone probably puts 3 exotic birds on the RED endangered list….

That’s right – just drain the worlds most valuable resource all over the most unproductive land on the planet… A golf course. I’m surprised the United Nations hasn’t banned this kind of Natural and Human Rights Malpractice.

You Get FAT: So you could’ve at least walked around for the day. Walking is good and healthy. But golfers are even too lazy for that. Instead, they buy these ridiculous electronic carts so that their fat asses can be carried from one ball hit to another. Guys – you took a swing at a ball. Its not like you need to recover until you do it again!

This picture just says so much. I actually don’t need a caption – just look at it.
What the fu(k is going on here? Its like stock car racing meets fox hunting meets fat people shopping at Walmart day! Wow…

Broken Homes: The calling of the 19th hole…man, after driving that stupid cart around for the day you must really have worked up a sweat and are ready….no – DESERVE – those 7 beers and big steak dinner! Never mind that you’ve been gone since 6am and missed your sons rugby match and daughters dance recital. Feeling like a man yet? I’m sure there comes a point when your wife takes one look at you as you walk into the house at 10pm, pissed, yelling: “I got a par on the 3rd hole!” and decides – fuck it. I’m outta here. Don’t let this stupid game destroy functional families, you selfish bastard.

I fear his WASPy chauvinist exclusive days at the limited access Club are numbered.

Think About What You’re Doing: No really. The principle of golf is absurd. You’re tapping a white ball around short grass to get it into a hole. Would anyone on the planet miss golf if it disappeared tomorrow? Because it adds no value to man or beast, golf could easily be filed into the archive of “Stupid Shit We Used To Do” and be forgotten.

Golf Courses in the desert. Looking back, probably not the most value-adding exercise we’ve ever embarked upon. And about as sustainable as a porcupine playing with a balloon.


Like what you see? Apart from it being the height of artificial landscaping, its also off-limits to you. Because you need to pay big RONDTS to get access here my friend.

Cycling does have its faults. Admittedly. But compared to golf its a saintly pursuit…

At least with cycling we’re looking after the planet by becoming more aware of nature and preserving it. Our impact is very low…and we appreciate the natural beauty on offer around us.

We also get lean and mean and fit in the process.

Cycling can take time, this we know – but we all know its far less than golf. A whole morning is considered a very long ride! 3 hours is a good ride!

And cycling as an activity not only keeps us fit and competitive, it moves people from A to B in the most efficient manner possible. It serves a purpose, is accessible to all, and can be taught fairly easily. Its not exclusive and we can ride just about anywhere we like!

The only thing we have in common with golfers is our ridiculous outfits. And long may the desire to do and wear crazy things live! Here I respect golfers because some of their clothing is awesome.

Crap pose. But great patterns!

Cash Crusaders wants your clubs. Take them there now before they’re worth nothing.

P.S. Some of my best cycling friends used to be golfers. And they’re OK guys. But they’re happier now and they still get to spend a lot of money (and I mean A LOT of money) on their hobby. And you don’t even need to be handicapped to cycle. In fact, a good handicap probably won’t set you up as a good cyclist. But hey – if it gets you good parking, go for it.

Disclaimer: The water consumption and land usage statistics may vary. I don’t even know if we have a metric unit such as a ” giga-zillion”. But I think I’m close! 🙂

Pics from the ABSA Cape Epic 2015

Yes it was tough.
Yes it was memorable.
Yes we CLIMBED like goats! (16000m equals two Mount Everests!….TWO)
But what a good Epic.
Best one yet…for me anyway.
144th on GC. 41st in Masters Category. Very chuffed.

For a day-by-day account of the ABSA CApe Epic as experienced by the Nguni Bulls, please follow the reports submitted to Full Sus:

The TREK Fuel EX. What an amazing Weapon of Choice. Smashed the technical climbs; shredded the singletrack; devoured the rough stuff; and powered the marathon sections. I could not have asked for a more all-round platform.


UCT Prologue. Great vibe being so close to Cape Town. Plum pudding was in a bad shape by the time we got there. 14 broken bones on the Prologue! Eish.
The never-ending climbs of Groenlandberg. We went up and down and around and up and then down (and definitely UP again) this mountain range from various angles!! Yoh!
I do remember this place – Eagle Cliff wine farm (or close to that), We faced an absolute bastard of a climb after this waterpoint! And then sand! And then wind! Shit man – this was a tough 128km day.
Possibly one of my favourite pics – because I look all pro-like! I think Sauser was just ahead of us when this shot was taken. (But only just hey..?)
This was taken at a climb called “Powerlines”. Apart from being steep (no surprise there) there was a whole group of the day-trippers who had congregated around a technical rocky turn on the climb. I remember they were so encouraging and supportive and certainly gave you reason to WANT to try and make it up the climb. #nopushingforNgunis
Teams Fat Bob and The Nguni Bulls – always a privilege to ride alongside Fat Bob. Here we lick our wounds in the Woolies tent after another tough day in the saddle. Stage 5 – the day that Welvanpas went on and on and on!!


It wasn’t called the Cape Town Epic for nothing. With the race villages so close to home, Rocky and I snuck back to the creature comforts of the home front on more than one occasion. Maybe two…or three…I forget! But here is a photo of the race village as I remember them from previous years…
Hot, rocky, dusty and mountainous – that typified most days of riding. We averaged over 113km per day for the first five stages. A very challenging course was set for the 2015 edition!
Rocky and I were fortunate to leave with the front batch for the second half of the race. This was a great experience because all of the lead motorcycles, media, and many helicopters would follow the yellow jersey. OK admittedly the yellow jersey was out of sight within the first 20 minutes, but we got the buzz of the choppers and hype for some time. We knew we were about 20km into a stage when the first of the Outcasts would come haring past us…they would leave at the front of the second group so they could not aid or influence the outcome of pro teams still in contention – so the likes of Stephan Sahm, Kenny Luser; Sally Bingham etc would all come whizzing effortlessly past us as we were already spinning away in granny gear up some monster climb. Test those people!!!
Very stoked to now be part of the Amabubesi – that’s 3 Epics under the belt. Will there be more? Hmmm. Who knows?

Thanks to my generous and brilliant sponsors who made this possible:

Ant and Kitty Douglas-Jones for your contribution to the entry – getting our brand out amongst all the top business people who ride MTB is an excellent branding opportunity (watch this space for even more exciting things to come!)

Chad and the team at Dark Horse for letting me ride one of the best bikes EVER! 3rd Epic on a Trek – works for me! If you’re thinking of an upgrade – please look no further.

Gerhard at JungleNow for the very cool threads that we wore every day after a much needed shower. These are the coolest off the bike clothes you get for cyclists. You don’t own a JungleNow T-shirt? You’re off-camber, my friend. Get with the programme!

Trevor and Caro at Powerbar for the nutrition that got us through some rough days. Your stuff is clearly the choice of champions:

Dylan and Eric the Eagle at Cyclelab Tokai for all the great support leading up to and during the event. Make this your local bike shop. Now.