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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
athletes!)
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
this?
 
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!

Rens Rezelman

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