I woke at 4.30am on race morning straining my ears to hear if the previous day’s gusting wind had subsided. I had a reasonably good night’s sleep, considering that I do not usually sleep uninterruptedly the night before a race. I slowly made my way into the kitchen, made a cup of coffee, microwaved my potatoes, and made 2 slices of rye bread with peanut butter to start the day’s fuelling.
At 5.30am I met Munier, at the bridge, and we started our warm up ride to race venue 30min away. Wind was present and threatening, as we are quite aware that the South wind can be challenging on this race route. There were quite a few cyclists out and heading in the same direction to the race venue. The vibe was uplifting and filled with excitement. I remembered Mike’s tip re-sprints, so I pushed out 3x30sec @90% sprints, on my warmup ride.
After the normal race announcements we were counted down, the clock was started, and our group of 46 took off. The pace was fast, yet manageable off the start, for the first 6min before oukaapse weg, I was avg 83% mhr, NP 230W, and I felt comfortable.
When we hit the climb the effort increased significantly. The wind was gusting and as we turned the bend for the 2nd half of the climb the wind was head on. The bunch was tight, the hammer was down, and holding your line in the gusting wind on the mountain was going to be hard work. Everyone was digging deep within themselves, heart rates climbing, power building, and lactic acid starting to burn the legs. Concentration was highly tuned on those around you and your senses were on high alert. I was averaging 94% mhr, NP 300W on the 5.5% gradient climb with a 350m elev. Gain. I heard the unnerving sound of tires rubbing against each other. I could see the guy on my left had made contact with the wheel in front of him and he was going down. He started shouting as he was toppled against my left shoulder. I braced my hold on my handlebars so as to hold my line and push back against his weight. The push from my left made me lean to my right and contact the guy on that side. Luckily we were able to compose ourselves without causing further mayhem. As the guy on my left made contact with the road, there were frantic shouts of warning from those behind him. I hope he was not badly hurt.
As we neared the top of the climb there was another incident where the wind blew the leader of the group into the oncoming traffic lane. Luckily there were no oncoming vehicles at that instant. Near Miss!!!! This reminds me of a training ride I once did on this very climb, and the southerly wind was also pumping that day, and it got so strong at the top that it blew me 180deg into the opposite direction facing downhill and oncoming traffic. Since that experience I don’t train this climb in a strong south wind.
When we leveled out at the top of the climb I was happy that I had managed to stay with the bunch, not go into the red on my heart rate, and knew that lots of hard work still lay ahead. The descent was undulating and the speed was high. There were instances when we were hitting 70kph…. thrilling descent, snaking through the bends, using the full width of the lane, right - left- right – left, off the brakes just before the bend, point and sweep through, picking up speed heading to the exit, open the knee more to pull in, and the Cannondale was handling them well, inspiring confidence…. YEEHAAAA !!!!
Coming off of that adrenaline rush, at the bottom we turned at Ocean View towards Misty Cliffs, and the wind was there to greet us. I tucked into the bunch after a short turn at the front and tried to get the most protected position. This was a 20km stretch to Smits Winkel (Cape Point), into the gusting and cross wind that was changing direction all the time. We kept a steady work tempo, avg 26kph against the wind.
As we reached the top of Smits Winkel the pace picked up on the downhill, and the wind was slightly behind us at the turnaround point. The decent was treacherous, again hitting 70kph, winding changing on us all the time as we went down the mountain. My heart rate was averaging 94%, peppered with some max efforts that were really killing me. My legs after 15 mins were feeling the lactic burn big time, and becoming very heavy. There was still some way to race and I decided to ease off from the bunch with about 45min still to go.
There were 2 other cyclists with me, and we were alternating the pace setting as some slight recovery took place. We caught up to a tandem and the 4 of us worked together till the bottom of Boyes Drive climb.
Even though I did not manage to hold onto the leaders of my start group, I was satisfied that I still had legs to climb Boyes, with 91%mhr, 250W NP, for 20min. To me this was indicator that my warmup and start (oukaapse weg) climb pace control strategy had worked, this in comparison to my Burger Race experience. Over Boyes and on the flat 4km section to the finish (avg 40kph) I passed quite a few riders from my start bunch that were suffering and whose legs were no longer compliant.
All in all I was happy with my race. I finished the 75km route in 2h21, 41st out of 193 for my age group.
Next week is the start of my Vet Racing League Journey.