Words: Tim Dunford/Team Mountain Trax/Vauxhall Motors
Day 1 catch up - 26 April 2013*
Today was the first stage of the 2013 Joberg2C mountain bike stage race. Featuring 9 days from Johannesburg to Scottsborgh on the coast a mere 900km away. We’d signed on the day before, the trip into downtown Johannesburg in a large motorhome was a little stressful and I had needed a few squares of chocolate to calm my frazzled nerves! The 5.30am wake-up call was most certainly not welcome. But the day dawned clear and sunny once again. It’s the beginning of the South African autumn and the leaves are turning amazing shades of golden yellow. They have it hard here, autumn days in the mid 20s with not a cloud in the sky, a rare occurrence in our summer let alone any other season!
We lined up at Karan Beef ready for 116km to Frankfort. Karan Beef was not a strangely named town as I’d thought but an enormous cattle station. Clue’s in the name I guess. Today was not officially a race day as the result wouldn’t count so there wasn’t the usual bundle to be on the front row at the start. We wanted to be fairly near the front though to avoid queuing in the first singletrack section, which came after a short but sharp climb out of the start. At the top of the climb the trail split. I followed everyone else which meant some sharp braking as riders in front were still nervy early in the race. Ben opted for the alternative trail. The descent was a blast, snaking across the hillside and very dusty. A herd of zebra took off as we clattered down. Different! At the bottom I couldn’t see Ben, I assumed he was in front but after a few kilometres I thought I should wait as I could see the front of the race and he wasn’t in it! A couple of big groups came past until Ben arrived. Turns out wasn’t so much of a B line as a lengthy diversion! Lesson learnt.
The race then settled down as big groups formed on the unsurfaced roads. We were comfortably in one of the large groups when Ben pulled over, a large thorn in his front tyre the culprit. After a quick bit of pumping we quickly caught up, keen not to lose the shelter of the large group. As we weren’t ‘racing’, the pace was relaxed so we could get to know our fellow racers. Most were experienced hands having raced either this or the Cape Epic. Just me as a newbie then. After 26km we reached the first feed station. It’s not adequate to call it a feed zone though, more like mini banquet with pancakes, pastries, sweets and even barbequed meat! I opted for a Nuttella pancake, or two. The feed zones were manned by hugely enthusiastic local children. Would I like a boiled egg? Er, not right now thanks!
At feed 2 it was my turn to puncture. As I frantically tried to re-inflate the tyre, local children seemed determined to feed me up. Cake sir? No I’m good thanks. Another pancake sir? Er, alright go on then! Tyre inflated we turned the corner only to find everyone queuing to cross the river. By canoe! Bikes were loaded onto motorised boats while the riders boarded their canoes. My flat had meant I started in the third boat, but our skipper was very effective at getting the motley crew of riders to row in time and we were the first boat to disembark. Bonus!
The trails then changed from the wide gravel roads to bumpy doubletrack across fields. As we skirted a small lake a flock of ostriches kept pace alongside. We were in the lead group now which was soon whittled down to just 6 of us. As we neared the end the helicopter hovered alongside, look I’m on TV mum! We finished “second" on the day taking 4h25 for the 116km, but more importantly won the race to the showers and lunch, whilst more local children enthusiastically scrubbed our bikes clean. There’s service for you. Although not super technical it was a great day with a more relaxed feel and a relatively easy start to the race. I’m sure tomorrow won’t be quite the same!
*(Due to a 'technical hiccup', Bike Magic is playing catch up with these reports so look out for a quick succession of Tim's race reports!)