Well I used to think that I had been in some pretty amazing thunderstorms until I woke up at the ghastly, black hour of 3:55am last Sunday morning. The torrential downpour in Hilton not only was hammering the roof so loudly that we couldn’t hear ourselves speak, but had also managed to trip the electricity – making my rather rusty pre-race routine a bit more complex. With my brother Luke coming up from the Cape to spent the weekend, we really felt like two soldiers gearing up for war as we headed out into the night. I felt like there could not be another soul on the earth with any consciousness at this hour – never mind an entire peleton of roadies suiting up for a swimming race on the roads around Eston.
It had been three months since my last race – and things just didn’t feel right as we flew through the sopping floodlit streets of Maritzburg. I had the sensation of restlessness – like I was about to wake up from a bad dream. Thankfully, the night grew lighter and the rain turned from a burst dam valve into a full blast tap and my hope grew – these were the conditions that created memories. Arriving at Van Der Merve’s petrol station in Camperdown (which has to be one of the more complicated venue’s for a race I have to admit) a scene of utter inspiration was laid out before me. All were suiting up and for a very wet day out on the bike. I donned some newspaper down my front and just made it in time for the 5:30 start.
After a brisk few kilometers on the clock, things got interesting. Some poor kid (Juniors, U23′s, Elites and Vets were all racing together) hit the deck hard and a scene of lifelike domino’s unfolded with me thankfully excluded. Up the first little kick and I felt great – I joined in the action and jumped across a gap to join a little group up front. Then at about 20kms in, a little shard of glass from some person of whom I have thought long and hard about wrecked destruction to my delicate rear tubbie and effectively put an end to my race. I was briefly devastated, but quickly looked for a vehicle for help. I watched in dismay as they all sped past, and suddenly it struck me as I stood in the pouring rain with no communication at all – 2011 was going to be a tough year on the bike.
10 minutes later a van finally pulled up and offered me a wheel. After thanking them profusely, I joined up with Brendon Davids (Jeep/Ellsworth) for a long, drawn out time trial session to catch up. We were stone last – and with the likes of Burry Stander, Brandon Stewart and the new Tasol/GT team in the group, catching it would be like attempting to chase a motorbike with a mountain bike. Still, we fancied our chances and set off hard. A long, rather uneventful chase where the meaning of life was contemplated many a time ensued.
We did not catch them – instead I left my compatriot Brendon and joined the main group on the finishing circuit one lap behind. Meanwhile, Luke Roberts (also riding for BMC) was having an amazing race up ahead – he had managed to get into the break of the day with the Brandon Stewart (DCM), Burry Stander (Specialized) and Richard Baxter (Tasol/GT). Stander ended up winning in a break, and Luke managed to outkick the other two and hang on for second overall – a top ride indeed.
Time to toughen up and tackle 2011 by the horns. It’s going to be tough, but I’m super motivated to give it everything. Next race on the charts is African Continental Championships in three weeks time – a big one for me as there are valuable UCI points up for grabs.
Till next time,