Usually I would fear participating in any big event around this time of the year.
After a very cold, wet and dark winter in the Cape one is always a bit doubtful regarding ones fitness levels. However, a shorter distance mountain bike stage event like the Ride2Nowhere was pretty ideal to test your character and abilities, especially if you were doing the final prep for the triathlon season which starts around the end of September.
The race was advertised as being designed for the weekend worriors and racing snakes alike, but make no mistake, this only meant that the shorter route options were for the weekend worriors, while the longer routes were hard, making you work for your result, whether it was for 1st place or down to the last cyclists to cross the line.
On our arrival in the small town of McGregor, which I have only visited once very briefly during the Cape Epic, we were greeted with a very big smile and warm heart. The race village was set up right next to the church, the biggest and tallest building for miles around. The unbelievable irony is that the community doesn’t even have enough resources to maintain an active ministry.
A massive marquee tent played host to the race village, offering us live entertainment by the local community and General Con, (Constand Viljoen) whom we found very entertaining in his own right, as he was trying to communicate the route layout. With the support of local businesses, like the “Overdraught Bar” and Lord’s Wine Farm, and the fresh aroma of home cooked food, the marquee was transformed into a very energetic and vibrant village with all you needed right at hand. Denver Knoetzen, Corne Barnard (Rockhopper Adventures), Brendan Snyman (Cadence Nutrition) and I had the privilege of being some of the last people to take leave from all the evening activities, greatly due to our FOMO (fear of missing out).
Day 1 saw us covering 58km with 1430m of ascent through very challenging terrain. The pace was tough from the start and soon had the long course field spread. I found myself in no-man’s land. Every now and then a male team about 1 km up ahead and another about 500m behind me came into view, serving as the only confirmation that I was still on the right course. Should you get lost in those mountains I’m not too sure that anyone would find you. After a hard work-week, it gave me plenty time to recap and make plans regarding a few upcoming business opportunities.
One should never look only at distance or ascent when judging the degree of difficulty. Mountain bike race difficulty is determined by many diverse characteristics like the course condition, weather and also the route surface.
At Ride2Nowhere we had the privilege of encountering most of those: endless and strenuous loose rocky climbs, freshly cut single track (no, not all single track is smooth), and very fast descents – one specific section took us down the mountain for 9km, all brand new single track.
After endless playing and hard riding we got to the final stretch that took us home where Shaun Roos and his partner, Niel Swarts picked me up and kindly agreed to assist me for the final 5km of gravel road and jeep track, getting us across the line in 3h02mins.
Once cleaned up, sightseeing and some pub-crawling were next on the agenda. We had the privilege of meeting numerous locals giving us a bit of background regarding McGregor and the small community, which we found very entertaining and educational.
Once again we were treated to an entertaining evening and feast with the race briefing and prize giving and ended off the evening with the lovely wines from Lord’s Wines.
Day2 saw us covering 68km with 1460m of ascent. It started off with an easy 9km of gravel road, travelling at very high speeds. All of this came to an abrupt change as we encountered our very first climb of the day – 5km of hard and steep climbing. This was the start of a day that mainly consisted of climbing for 5km, followed by a quick descent. Like they say: what goes up must come down.
Shaun and Neil once again caught up with me midway into day 2, working so terribly hard together that I never had the chance to feed or hydrate properly. Eventually I started losing vision of what was happening in front of me, and all that mattered was not losing their wheel.
I spend around 4 minutes at the final water point, which at that stage felt like it saved my life. We have to give credit to the effort that was put into all the water points, which in fact should have been called “Fresh Stops”. If you were out to have fun and enjoy the incredible scenery, these stops would have been a treat, offering spreads of food, drinks and great personality. I remembered seeing Eulogy, the event organiser at every single “Fresh Stop”, which had me confused at times, as it clouded my judgement regarding where on earth I was at that point!
With 18 Km sounding like 100 Km at that stage, I just managed to scrape together sufficient energy to continue with my journey. Finally the food and hydration had me back on track and I had the pleasure of riding the final 10km with 3 other riders. The moral support was much appreciated as we crossed the line in 3h12mins.
The finish line was a welcome sight! Hitting sugar lows due to bad nutrition and hydration is not ideal and something we as athletes should try and avoid at all times. If there was anything to learn from the day, it would be that we need to stick to sustained eating and drinking and also not to drink too much, as it could also lead to over hydration, known as hyponatremia.
Lunch was served and provided the ideal recovery meal after a hard days cycling. We took it easy for a short while before we ventured into Robertson for more food and exploring. The final prize giving evening and race briefing was very entertaining and once again we had to treat ourselves to Lord’s Wines, wonderful wines from the district.
Day3 was always going to be the easiest of the three days with around 900m of ascent over the 50km. This day suited the road cyclists for the first time with very little technical climbing and a fair bit of open gravel roads where you could form fast moving bunches if you were so lucky. I found myself in a large group up to the final “Fresh Stop” where I made my move. Over the final 15km I told myself not to look back and just grind my way to the finish, managing a time of 2h04min.
After spending 8h18mins cycling through supreme scenery, challenging surfaces and rewarding racing, the Ride2Nowhere receives a massive YES.
The closing ceremony took place around 12H00 where we had the opportunity to crown all the exceptional performances by the leaders in all categories and ended off the friendly and festive weekend with more local musical brilliance.
After a very vibrant weekend for McGregor, all the locals could settle back in their usual routines with minimal noise and no traffic. McGregor showed off her ability to play host to a mountain bike event, which WILL be sold out next year, so please enter to avoid disappointment.
A massive thanks to the Ride2Nowhere’s partners, which supported everyone to cross the finish line in fine form, laying the foundation for a wonderful event! Rockhopper Adventures in Greyton – Cadence Nutrition – First Ascent – BreedeNet WIFI – Aquelle Water – Pick n Pay Robertson – Lord’s Wines – Motorex Chain Lube – The Kimberley Rose Cancer Foundation – Langeberg Municipality – McGregor Tourism.
Also a special word of recognition to my partners, Puma SA, for making sure I’m dressed for success and running fearless, 32Gi for always keeping me hydrated and in top form, Kilowatt AV for our supreme new racing apparel and Enduro Hub for giving me the opportunity to race and explore South Africa.
Please follow me as I blog and race as part of @TeamEnduroHub