Tuesday, 24 September 2013

The Investec PE to Plett 4 day MTB Stage race


So this race was meant to be 372Km - 4876m vertical ascent, what it ended up being, was 380Km and upwards of 5500m vertical ascent.. the ascent difference coupled with the last day being off by 10km made for some very unhappy customers.

Okay, let’s start again.

A few months earlier Michael and I won an entry to ride for Powasol at the Investec PE to Plett race which was pretty amazing, having trained hard we thought this race would make for good mileage and fun, not too much climbing and and and.. naturally to our surprise and the rest of the village, PE is one hell of a Windy city so, after day 1, scrap good fun, insert, ‘fighting gale force winds’.

Day 1 Port Elizabeth to Gamtoos Ferry Hotel (88km- 1672m ascent, became 88Km – 2100m ascent)

Excitable morning, as we took off from Shark Rock Pier in PE, don’t remember much either than being nervous and Michael bleeding for quite a bit of the start (he had stabbed himself with a pocket knife earlier trying to cut off his number board strap… men.. )

Off we were to some fun technical bits, a bridge and one hell of a long day as I suffered, legs were nowhere. We went through various terrains, some impressive climbs as Michael rode away on all of them, water points aaaand mass wind. I think I’ve blocked this day out as it was so hard, the gale force winds and a good 10 river crossings made for a girl Zandi, at one point I was screaming to the heavens for the winds to calm as we went up another mountain, and a waft of heavier wind blew, I’m certain that was God saying you asked for it.. eventually we were not far from home.. as we came down a gorgeous staircase of technical rocky downhill craziness.. boy it was beautiful, Michael and I rode it smiling from ear to ear.. it was the best part of the day as we passed a quad bike stuck in one of the ridges.. few more strides and we’d arrived at race village with the biggest smiles ever. I needed that happiness. Well done to the route planners!

I must say, this day was tough as most riders went on about how it could have compared to an Epic day, I’m certain had they put sharks in the river crossings and a young current for extra torture as the wind twirled in utter happiness on flats and climbs, this would have definitely been an epic day.

PrincessPinarello taken to Powasol for a good wash, Food, shower, supper, route briefing, sleep, neighbour chopping trees snoring… my first proper giggle, pass out.

Day 2 Gamtoos Ferry hotel to Oyster Bay (103Km-756m ascent, became 103Km -1600m ascent)

Breakkies, that feel good moment as legs felt ready to take on the wind again, we headed out.
This day had promised 30Km of beach sand at the finish, thank heaven this did not happen.
Lovely day out, 2 massive climbs made for a fun start, going onto rolling hills, gravel, sandy bits humid enough to be rideable of sorts, riding along the sea has to have been the highlight of this day.

The last 20 odd km’s was quite interesting as I saw Mike have his first wobbly, he’s the most calm person I know but he was sick of the gravel roads.. I was too… but I had bigger things to worry about.
Finally after hours of saddle time, we could hear Greg the MC from afar, a beautiful technical descent saw us into the race village.

For the first time since Epic, I rode in the red today, not legs but head space, tent not being ready when we arrived,, cold water in shower stopping while covered in soap, which lead to finishing off shower in the mens, spotting what a saddle sore looks like, food having run out, then the cherry on top, buckets upon buckets of rain, this day had to end.

Day 3 Oyster Bay to Storms River Village (104Km – 1066m ascent, became 100Km - 1433m ascent.)

Roadie day out. This was sad, makes sense as they had to get us to Storms River, this is called a Transition stage as per Neil Frazer, they had to get us to the next town. Understandable, though I do hope as the years go by, more track will be cut to connect the villages.. today was gravel day and bunch riding proper.. and we all know where I sit in that regard.

Nice late start due to heavy rains the night before and a possible re-route in the morning meant we started at 9.30am, late start was so well deserved considering how miserable the previous evening had been, breakkies and we were headed out.

Michael and I rode mighty well today, I didn’t care anymore for the climbs so steep you could see where they ended, better yet how little you felt next to them, I didn’t care for the winds, they had won 2days running and I refused to let em win again, today was to be better, though gravel all day.. passed 1st water point shoving down 2 eggs, coke and headed out, after an Epic one doesn’t know how to linger at a water point.

I’d had the privilege of experiencing my first ever saddle sore, from middle of day 2 the suffering had started, my Pinarello hardtail was not making it any easier on that rough terrain.. Vasbyt was taken to a new level, it wasn’t the legs anymore but the mind.
We rode strong most of the day, gravel and grass stumps.. sigh.. as the men complained on Softtails, a young reminder to HTFU as I rode silently on my hard tail in serious pain.

Another windy bit that just broke me, I hate being pushed, Michael knows this, having to put my pride down 40minutes later of hardly moving as the head wind, the potholes the gavel and my head fought, I caved.. it was 40minutes of torture as large groups caught up and came past us.. ‘Michael can I get a push please’.. with the most massive sobs waiting to unleash in my throat.. this was hard for me, as Michael pushed, getting back my mental strength, sick and tired of seeing cows and dairy farms, it was home time, passing a million more cows that clearly make for more of the population than people, was silence to WP2, we had entered a beautiful foresty bit, stopped at the Redbull zone to smash some redbulls, ahead of us, a young downhill.. today had hurt.. we headed down the hill, some climbs and before you we knew it was WP2, ate, shammied, washed face, toughened up and off we were, more gravel, road, climbs .. yes.

The pearler of this day was 2 of thee most beautiful fast crazy long downhills, on the last one catching up with a few teams, as we got to the bottom, I remember looking back at Mike saying, ‘hope you took all that happiness in, as we need to climb all that downhill to the top of the village, the finish’.. this was thee most beautiful 5km climb ever, foresty, green, not too steep, young pushes and good fun, seeing the last bit of the climb, we sprinted to the finish, on a whole big ring effort -this was the most fun we’d had! 
After realizing that there was no single track at all today from WP2 we put the hammer down, Michael finally got to have some fun, he had the biggest smile as we got to the finish and he asked what had happened in that last 30odd km’s as we hammered.. well ‘the legs were always there, you just never asked’ I replied as we bid day 3 farewell... Powasol wash, shower, food, dinner, the coldest night ever, as we were told tomorrows start would be at 6.30am.. uggg!

Day 4 –Storms River Village to Plettenberg Bay (77km, 1382m ascent became 89Km-1400m ascent)

Any Mtb’ers worst nightmare would have to be riding towards a clear mountain and forest ahead, that would obviously have mass single track-that excitement, just to be diverted onto road.. this had happened yesterday.. it was just traumatic.. yes I wished my bunch riding skill had arrived already, for yesterday’s sake.. but thank heaven today had been promised to be a proper mtb’ers day.. all of that Tsitsikamma forest was to smash into my face to thee most passionately ridden day since we got here.

At breakkies, a young 4 spoons of cement was ingested, TOUGHEN UP, was the order of the day, I’d managed to rise above the mind yesterday, and today was gonna be my day, I’d Vasbyt without reservations and have fun. Serious fun.

The morning was not as cold as expected as we headed out the start, up and down a tar road, jeep track and into… FOREST SINGLE TRACK!!!!.. now picture me. Go.Crazy. .. an uphill rocky bit had the field walking.. I didn’t understand why.. as we pushed, a gent tried to get past as he asked for track, and another rider screamed ‘we all walking’ … in this moment I knew, this was to be my day, and walking was not part of the plan, I would make a way, mounted on bike, called track to another rider who wouldn’t give track, young fall, back on bike and off I was, determined, this was my day, my terrain, that mud.. was my heaven as Michael and I took off, riding in mud, the works… oh boy we rode that single track flat between calling track and catching up, we flew.. up climbs through it all.. my heart was overflowing.. through a technical bit, onto a bridge, a young fast section.. this day was amazing.. we klapped the climbs till we hit a road bit, riding at a nice pace, a roadie bunch passes, sheesh I have respect for roadies, I tried to sit with no luck as they churned, in this moment, Michael reminded me to ride within myself, we still had 3 big climbs ahead of us.. calming down my excitement.. and into more track.. wow.. this day was heaven!!

A compulsory portage down, where the Otter trail run series goes through, riding down the technical bit before the portage, taking dives, jumping back on steed.. I was in my element! Great conversation walking down the portage bit, more track, more beautiful downhills, a river crossing and just more awesomeness… climbs in single track are amazing.. most massive smile and onto the 1st big climb- The old Bloukraans Pass, the 2 big climbs of the day were both on tar, both long and never ending passes, thank heaven for the ‘arm of grace’ , mixed teams rock, a young forever to the top as we came across the Redbull zone, music, happiness, happy Zandi, beautiful loooong downhill, some more singletrack, out onto the WP of the day, smashed food into face, coke, cookie for my pocket and off we were onto the next big climb, this took it all.. the pass was long, but rideable and manageable, the most beautiful trees and forest as we climbed the pass, rode to the top as another Investec rider gave a young push, I see how one could get addicted to the arm of grace, eventually getting to the top, hooking a left into single track, a young rest was due as we played!

The most beautiful technical downhill, out onto more greens and climbs, boys not playing nice with girl wanting to ride track, after a young ruffle, boy makes way and I ride this technical bit that makes my heart race in excitement.. this step bit.. I don’t know how to describe this beautiful technical bit.. all I knew was, if I came off, I’d come down proper.. luckily I didn’t as Michael grunted ‘you definitely won’t die not knowing if you couldn’t ride any part of todays trail’ ..this was hilarious as I laughed myself silly.. before we knew it was the portage up, this was the last big climb of the day, these logs going up.. was a few Km’s I’m sure.. this was hard as we got to the top and Michael said this wasn’t the top, it was a false top, young downhill and more logs to the top.. this hurt.. in this herding my Princess to the top on foot, I decided, short people should never walk stuff.. it just looks clownish as we push grasping for air with our short little legs and our big 29’er wheels.. we need to look into this.. anyway, the day got more awesome as Suunto indicated we were nearing 77km, the finish, yet there was no finish in site.. nowhere near.. and this is where my calm partner lost it, we’d passed people stopping at shops for water, and he had run out, the day def needed 2 WP’s for the amount of technical bits.. one last hairy downhill nearly had me smash my face into serious rocks.. I knew riding it would be trouble but coming through so fast, there was no stopping, only committing through as anything vaguely unsure would land me in hospital as I heard a sharp pssssssss… I’d cut my wheel, a snake bite as the sealant spewed out.. oi fek.. twas bound to happen at least I still had my face as we pulled over and Mike fixed it - plug, bombs and off we were as he asked me to ride the safest line possible.. this was the hardest ask ever.. I was unsure how to ride.. as I attempted my best onto tar and track,12km’s extra, a million climbs more, we arrived at the finish at 89Km’s.. past the mechanical, I was one hell of a happy, few gashes bruises and cuts but I’m certain if you stop falling, you’ve stopped learning, luckily no broken anything :)

Shower, George airport, home.

Thanks to the Investec team for making this stage race happen, that extra day sure makes a difference to training.. Mike Glover.. good man, well done, the last day sure made up for the pain and suffering from the last 3days :), and the biggest thanks to Powasol for sponsoring Michael and I's entry!A whole lotta growth happened here - paradigm shift, stronger faith... #Daughter*

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