So, I have a few notes to put down before I write the race report..
1. The route for this Pioneer was beyond amazingly beautiful, every single aspect of it was pure art, but alas, there is nothing that the route planners can do with acts of God, so take it with a pinch of salt and try figure what the days lesson may be, so, be it mud surfing of sorts, or navigating bike without brakes… seeing through heavy rain.. figure it out and make it work for you.
2. The hardest ‘ pro’s ‘ to manage are the ones in C/D/E/Z batches, forget Batch A, re-routing here is harder than asking Sauser to wait 5 minutes while the course markers re-route to minimize broken bones, these things happen, deal and dance in the rain.
3. Rain is unavoidable, there’s worse things that could happen, especially considering it was not cold or windy, it was just warm heavy showers.. like gale force winds, hail and cold with the rain or extreme heat.. conditions are not always going to be perfect, I’m certain this is part of the reason we take part in stage racing, if good weather was a given… it would take away from the many stories you tell little people one day.. I mean really, where else are you gonna tell a story of having run out of brakes, slipping and sliding praying you don’t fall off a cliff as that would mean your downhiller baby dream comes to an end???? Anyway, lets not jump the gun
4. Lastly, You always hope for the best, after training hard, you hope your body arrives for you, but sometimes things don’t go according to plan, as you could ask the front line as the elite men’s podium chopped and changed every day, or Phil buys and World XC Champ dreams, and when things don’t happen according to plan, you work with what you have and hope for the best, this was me, super tough week, just battled to put the power down, but once you accept the best your body’s going to give you, you win, giving up is never an option.
The Bridge Cape Pioneer Trek is not only amazing for the gob-smacking single track, crazy mind-blowing downhills and the steepest never ending climbs, it’s amazing for the Bridge and Dryland staff that make it extra amazing. I can’t explain how everyone is there for you and will help as best they can.. it’s crazy.. says a lot about the Spirit of the Pioneer, the amazing villages, coming ‘home’ to warmth, good food, and amazing people.. yes.
Prologue - #BuffelsBattle : Buffesdrift Game Lodge, Oudtshoorn (14.8Km – 354m ascent)
The Prologue route was awesome to say the least, this year they added in little XC jump-offs as part of the route, it was amazing! Last year we had chosen to not ride the route before Prologue day but the Bestmed ASG racing snakes were not going to let me to my own, so Prologue was ridden the Saturday, as the cold, knot-forming feeling dawned upon me on the 2 steep climbs.. the reminder of how hard this stage race had been last year- much as I enjoyed it.. panic.. yet somehow, riding it on Sunday was much better.. the elephants had come out to wish us luck again.. it was good fun.. and the 2 steep climbs didn’t = gasping for breath at the top like a choked squirrel, this felt good and was an indicator for an awesome week ahead!
Day 1 - #RedStoneRumble : Buffelsdrift Game Lodge, Oudtshoorn to Calitzdorp High school, Calitzdorp(105Km – 1768m ascent)
The excitement as we rode from our guest house to the start at the Buffelsdrift Game Lodge, the start venue, nerves, realizing how strong the field was. Prologue results were no indicator of anyone’s fitness really, just how well you could ride technical single track.. and everyone could ride really well..that’s all.. panic.
Fast start out, in the rain, light rain, managing to sit a good bunch until the mayhem… the sand in Oudtshoorn turns to clay in the rain.. I wouldn’t know how else to describe it, even when you managed to sit on your bike and pedal through it, about a km later you would hear rocks hitting your frame.. from your wheel.. this was crazy.. stopping to look what was going on was shock horror.. the mud had caked up so bad, it had collected the stones as well, and mud was everywhere.. no rock/branch could move it efficiently so my right glove was off permanently as I kept removing the mud, using my water to release the chain.. so everything could start working again.. oh this was a tough day.. then I tried lifting my bike to put on my back to carry as riding was pointless.. PrincesssPina doesn’t weigh a lot.. I’m certain she was closer to weighing 30KG’s.. no one could lift their bikes the mud was so heavy.. as expected, mechanical after mechanical spelt the royal mess up of what that day had been.. heart broke for the front line as I passed 4 Pro teams.. broken derailleurs.. broken chains.. punctures, plugging, bent rims, single speeds… mechanicals was the order of the day for all– you just had to get in line with your woes, better yet, get over it., manual gear shifting with that ‘clay’ stuck everywhere.. sigh.. this day was an adventure of note.
Rest of the day was a blur, except for the awesome single track that had been added in.. the 2 Olympic rowers James and Matthew i think, came past me at about 8hr30 we had been out, this was cut off time, they had also been plagued with mechanical after mechanical so there was no point complaining. We arrived at the finish to find cut off had been extended by another 2hours, to which later on at supper, James said ‘whatever delays the front line by 30 minutes, delays the back by about 2-2hr30.. and cut offs should be adjusted accordingly, The Bridge Team had, perhaps this is the difference here. And on this day, I cared for nothing else but the immense emotion of finishing.. getting to the village.. at one point it had seemed impossible, wow.
Happy to be home, shower, eat, sleep, what a day!
Day 2 - #SwartbergShowDown : Calitzdorp High School, Calitzdorp to Summit Swartberg Mountain Pass, Prince Albert (92Km – 2760m ascent)
This was the big day I’d been waiting for a whole year, the Swartberg Pass and I had a date and I looked forward to being the perfect date! This climb had broken me the year before, but this time round, I was ready for it.. excited for it if I may even!
Day started out lovely, it wasn’t raining, there was no weird mud, just happiness on route.
The realization of what makes this stage the most prize worthy is the mind games involved in bagging the stage, up to WP 1 all is good and well with some beautiful climbs, dare I say so myself and amazingly fast descents.. yes the descents were amazing, with that, I started looking forward to the next climb, knowing 1. I won’t be disappointed, but 2. There would be a crazy amazing downhill in store as a treat for all that work going up.. yes this mentality was to work.
WP 1 stop, quick drink and off I was, beautiful descent, crazy climb too, on climb, get a puncture- getting flatter as I kept riding hoping to seal it, plugged with Ernie & his partner –bless, they’d been amazing to ride with, managed to get done and off I was again.
The race only begins after WP 1, the climb, if you had burnt too many matches in the clay-mud factory the day before, this would be evident on this climb.. rolling hills between WP1 and 2.. then the last trek to WP3.. it was quite interesting to ponder the front line tactics as I merrily rode, rolling hills that actually was a never ending climb.. I would have paid good money to see the team that arrived at the top of Swartberg pass first.. they deserve every penny.. we all know the whole front line is strong enough.. I think it was a question of who was the smartest.. anyway.
Past WP3, Diffie being awesome as usual,headed to the Pass, on one of the descents, the sound no one wants to hear, rim on ground, I had a serious flat, manage a stop and realize the plug we had plugged earlier had come out, the plug had been hitting the frame so I guess it was to be expected, fixed with Christo and his partner, bless.
Off they were, off I was, 300m past the ‘Swartberg Pass’ sign, as I powered with glee.. my pedal came off.. it was the weirdest thing ever.. the pedal was still attached to the bottom of my shoe but not on the bike.. trying to fix it with no luck, guy comes past saying if I ride inwards ill manage.. right.. eventually Anton and Bridgitt coming past as I’m pushing PrincessPina up the Pass with the 1 leg drills not working, he tries to fix it, off they are, 2min later I slip off the pedal again.. and just like that, the date I’d waited a whole year for, didn’t happen.. the Pass pitched, on time too, I didn’t.. heart sore as I walked to the top.. arriving at the finish was another emotional moment after trying to not get upset with self as I walked up the Pass.. bitter sweet as Paul welcomed me to the finish.. another crazy day on the bike.
Wine with Paul as I waited for Diffie to take me to the village - the downhill from the top of the Pass to Prince Albert is actually not all downhill, so one pedal wouldn’t do the trick. Perhaps I postpone my date with this Pass to 2014.. I love this race.. and with that, was a new date set.
Shower, food, source new pedals and cleats, converting back to Shimano, I’m clearly not cool enough for Egg beaters, sleep.
Day 3 - #MeiringsMagic : Zwartberg High school, Prince Albert to NG Church Grounds, De Rust (107Km – 1543m ascent)
…hmm… this day.. this day is pretty much a roadie stage.. my life.. leaving race village was straight into wind and bunches forming.. and before I knew it.. just I and the wind.. oh heaven it was horrible.. sigh.. 45/46 km’s to WP1 took me 3 odd hours.. boy I hated life right here.. passing WP1, into this canyon.. the morning had been so disastrous, I prayed I wouldn’t be by myself as the mind wonders to very scary places in such happenings.. most majestic mountains and the mass walk to the top as I found a stranger here as well, Sean.. this was needed as we chatted to the top.. heart was desperate for a crazy.. we finally arrived at the top as he asked me if I descend fast, I looked at him and said, ‘yes I’ll go first, I need this’.. with this was the last I saw of him until just before WP 3.. this downhill was amazing.. it got me smiling again.. crazy massive rocks scattered everywhere.. knots in tummy from uncertainty if I could ride some bits as I rampaged on figuring we’ll see later if it was rideable or not, luckily they all were.. this was the most amazing part of the day.. the downhill was long, fast and technical.. just how I love it, little bit on to the most crazy rock beds, no I didn’t ride all of them.. fear of running outta talent and another puncture, I couldn’t handle another one..
WP2 as I saw the international team that had been on podium the night before.. something had to be seriously wrong, and off I was, more road, open gravel roads.. joy.. a little of what felt like an eternity, I was at WP3, Diffie.. meat.. I remember this.. from here, twas single track up,, down, then road home.. with that I was inspired.. single track was amazing.. there’s no feeling like that giggle that surprises your inner as it breaks free.. into the most glorious smile filled with happiness.. this is what I’d come back for.. re-living this moment brings such happiness.. wow... and out onto the tar road I was.. 10km to home I think it was, little bit of wind but lots of happiness..
Arriving at the finish, Beer with the tandem, crazy talk, shower, food, massage, bed, I’d suffered.
Day 4 - #KammanassieKanon : NG Church Grounds, De Rust to Louvain Guest Farm, Herold (70Km – 1950m ascent)
Kammanassie.. this is a beautiful day of note.
Trek to WP1, lovely refreshments, and a… insane downhill.. hell of an amazing.. there’s no words to describe that downhill except, eyes gorged out in anticipation to see how fast you can you can go and still have control over the bike.. wow!
This was very well deserved considering up ahead was quite a bit of walking.. attempting to ride some of it, walking most of it, before I knew it, chasing the voices in the twisty Kammanassie forest, finding irritated stragglers, from the sun and the walking, as you get to the top of the 1 mountain, looking across to see riders on the next mountain.. mind games, mounting on PrincessPina.. the millionth realisation that walking sucks and being on bike is amazing!
A young steep climb as we burn up all we have.. I loved this day.. then we were at the top again after another young push.. then flat.. then mind blowing downhills.. I dare you to come tell me of any other stage race that has downhills as thrilling as Pioneer downhills.. I live for these, by now we know I only climb to descend like a crazy rocket.. amazing.. another crazy one on this stone like thing oi.. who needs brakes!
Slow down through the river, climbs, awesome rolling hills, Diffie (WP3) then the craziest last trek.. into head wind, then into the mountain, up down up down up down.. this was frustrating, my back wheel was flat and slipping everywhere, in all this I knew I’m not stopping to fix it, Suunto says we a few Km’s from home yet these up downs aren’t stopping.. we clearly weren’t camping at the top of the mountain for the night, eventually going through a gnarly descent, a young tumble at the bottom from an uncertainty on which line to pick as I landed in push up position, in front of me was the most beautiful forest.. Louvain race village is beautiful.. its ridiculously beautiful.. the trees tell of a magical past as I rode through this heaven.. few more pedals and I was on the grass, ahead, the finish line, all was forgiven, Louvain is beautiful.
Day 5 - #DevilsDescent : Louvain Guest Farm, Herold to Van Kervel High School, George(70km- 1698m ascent)
This was the bestest day ever.. everyone I’ve spoken to rates this to have honestly been the best day. We woke to rain and rode the whole day in the rain, some parts with heavier rain than others but a whole lotta fun… yes, thee most amazing!
Off we were in the rain, into some awesome single track that I’m certain would have been amazing had it been dry.. but, in the moment, live it, love it, enjoy it, out onto a little grass climb, then biiiig climb which was aided with walking.. like with all things, the suffering ended and a crazy downhill came.. yes, smiles. Fast & crazy then a mass climb.. it was big.. granny gear big, like all climbs here and again, another treat waited in store for us.. this route was magical.. pure art, what we were riding was insane.. you could see riders going up and down while you were on your own section.. it was like a roller coaster ride.. thrilling downs, climbs not even considered as you chased the next happiness!!
Here, as PrincessPina and I were having a mass party, was the pulling of my brakes, right down to the handlebars.. and no response.. no slowing down.. in panic as I attempted to ‘pump’ the brakes aaand nothing… in this, all I could picture was me and PrincessPina flying off a cliff and my downhiller kids dream coming to an end in all this happiness.. chances were taken and managing to keep calm and manoeuvre bike.. dreams were still intact, I in one piece as I stopped.. one of the riders, Max , coming past as I asked if he knew how to replace brakes, luckily I had an extra pair in my bag, he was willing to help – replacing brakes is a mission but we managed to get it done. Happiness meant I could ride like a crazy again, lots of mud and rocks all rideable… I loved this day probably more for the fact that it was all things that I loved in one.. mass happiness.. I think there eventually was a brake crisis at the water points, like day 1, the derailleur crisis, this day ended quickly, Meiring’s Pass a beaut, even in the rain.. this whole day had been such a treat..
Diffie (WP3), a re-route as the last bit of single track would be dangerous to ride, and arriving in Herold, our accommodation for the night being the school hall with the field filled with tents, wet.
Warm shower, food, more crazy talk, food, bed.. somehow, there was more than 1 person snoring in our hall but everyone was so kak tired, there was no bugging the tree choppers, bless!
Day 6 - #ChandelierChampagne : Van Kervel School, George to Oudtshoorn High School, Oudtshoorn(Was 91Km – 1584m ascent, became 68Km -896m ascent)
Today had to be cut short as we were riding to Oudtshoorn, it had been raining, there was lots of single track and we all know the fear of the clay happening from day 1, so, 96 km to 68Km, and 8.30am instead of 7.30am start- score!!!
Breakfast at this village was amazing.. they had a fruit affair going and everything else you can imagine for breakfast, bless, this was amazing.
The only thing that bugged me about a re-route was, we were routed to my favourite.. gravel.. lots of it.. only it.. roadie stage.. my life…
Nice paced start and before we knew it, we were on Montagu Pass.. hmm.. this Pass goes on for forever, you decide what forever is but all I knew was to not rush it, an attempt to enjoy the pass was successful.. yes.. it’s a beaut.. steepest towards the top, last year I’d walked parts of this pass, this year, I’d ridden to the top, and I was proud of self. The top dealt dessert as usual, a fast downhill, rolling bits, WP1.. rest of the day a blur, fun rolling hills as legs finally felt good, I’d been longing for this feeling all week.. standing on the bigger climbs over.. body had been kind, and what a way to finish.. lots more fun.. before I knew it.. WP3.. but no Diffie.. this meant we weren’t far from the finish..
As quickly as it had all started.. it was all over.. tar to the finish, the feeling of crossing that finish line so surreal.. the finish was never a given.. I didn’t think I could.. and there it was.. it had been a tough week of all sorts.. thank heaven for the Finish line!
Castle Lite, Shower, Pannekoeke, home.
Sad to have missed the finishers dinner but it'd been a long week and work awaited.. fun and games*