Monday, February 13, 2012

Ride the Rock, Cedarberg

Photo by: Patrick Baransky Kevin Evans

Ride the Rock, 3 Stages, Cedarberg.

Stillwatersports were the presenting sponsors of this three-day race in the heart of the Cedarberg. It would be my first trip to this part of the world, and there are not many places left I have not been to on my trusty mountain bike, but the Cedarberg as far as remote, tranquil, and off the beaten track goes, will soon become a destination that I will gladly head back to.

Small details like arriving at the camp site, finding that the organizers have reserved you the ‘deluxe’ cottage, complete with race registration boxes and entries already waiting inside for you, goes along way with pro-bike riders, and leaves a ‘I will be back’ taste in your mouth!

It was also great ‘Epic prep’ for us, complete with our newly recruited chef/nutritionist Sandi Bryan joining us, and our head mechanic Swen Lauer. It’s a fantastic backup team and a pleasure to have with us, plus we get spoilt with some of the best tasting nutrition known to sportsman! We were also joined by Patrick Baransky, head of Nedbanks sports sponsorships and our key man in introducing us to one of the most passionate wine makers we’ve found, albeit in the middle of nowhere with ‘altitude’.

Stage 1, 85km, 1550m

The first day of Ride the Rock is the toughest of the three, and the terrain, the conditions and altitude would make for tough racing. Also many of the teams here were using it as preparation for the Epic in just six weeks time. I guess the rugged and rocky terrain will also ‘iron’ out any last minute issues with bikes and or equipment choices that may still need to be made.

Despite the field of riders being fairly small, it still had some good quality riders, and it wouldn’t detract anything from the intensity of the racing up front.

Dave George was eager to get the racing started, and within five kilometers, there was a small group of about six riders with most of the top riders in it. We continued to ride hard at the front, and once the hills started rolling on, we started riding a really hard tempo, and soon, we had a gap over the rest of the field. Nico Pfitzenmaier was riding well, and the very rocky descends and sandy jeep tracks suited his riding style, and he joined us after Dave had to stop to inflate his rear tire, which had lost air. The most technical and dangerous descend of about 4km we negotiated with caution, as Nico managed to put about a 30second gap into us down here.

Once down this section, we were faced with a monster climb of about 5km at 10% gradient, and we quickly took back our time over Nico, plus then drove the tempo on to put a further minute into him by the top. The kilometers from here to the finished ticked by very slowly, and the harsh terrain definitely took the sting out the legs, but at least we were together and could make use of each other taking turns into the headwind home. Nico had to soldier on alone, but held off Team Blend, Charles Keey and Dave Morrison to take third, whilst team mate Dave and I dueled out a sprint finish.

(Dave obviously coming out second from that one!)

Provisional Results:

1st Kevin Evans (Nedbank Team 360life) 3hrs21

2nd Dave George (Nedbank Team360life) same time

3rd Nico Pfitzenmaier (Rob Daniel)

Stage 2, 60km, 950m

Fortunately with the cooler temperatures, the start was pushed back to 07:00am, giving us another hour of sleep, and although it can get unbearably hot in this area, riding conditions over the weekend were absolutely perfect.

Day 2 was a much ‘smoother’ day and the trails wouldn’t be as rough as the previous. The group rolled together through the beautiful Cedarberg Valley, until we hit some great singletrack. The racing started here for the Pro’s, and soon we were only a handful of riders. After around 20km, we started the climbs for the day, and I rode a hard enough tempo that I was soon alone in the front. Not long thereafter, Dave rode across to me, and from here we started another ‘team trial’ and rode consistently hard to try hold our gap over the chasing riders.

At this point we thought that Nico would be chasing us, but after another 20km, Dave Morisson and Erik Kleinhans joined us. Unfortunately for Erik, no sooner had they caught us and he had yet another puncture which would take him out of contention for the stage. Dave Morisson was riding as hard as he could to try and get some back on Nico for the overall, whilst Dave George and I just followed him for the last 15km to the finish, where Morisson took a well deserved stage win. We were happy to finish safely in second and third, gaining a little more time on the overall, and not having any mechanical issues.

The real highlight for us on the day would be meeting David Niewoudt with Pat Baransky, who gave us a ‘personalized’ wine tasting experience of some of the most exquisite wines we’ve come across. We even managed to persuade him to throw a few nice bottles into the mix for the final days racing, just for some added incentive! (We may also have had a few glasses that evening)

Provisional Results:

1st Dave Morrison (blend) 2hrs17

2nd Kevin Evans (Nedbank Team360life) same time

3rd Dave George (Nedbank Team360life) same time

Stage 3, 50km, 800m

The last stage was rumored to be the ‘queen’ stage in terms of technical, singletrack riding, and it definitely lived up to its pre-race hype. We climbed from the start, all the way up the side of ‘Wolfberg Cracks’ mountain, and once near the top, we would descend a tight, loose, sandy, rocky downhill that would prove to be as much of a challenge as some of the most technical routes I’ve ridden anywhere. Nico knew this trail fairly well, and put that knowledge, along with his technical skills to good use to apply some real pressure down here.

By the bottom of the trail, I was a minute down, and Dave George, Morisson and Keey probably a further minute behind me. I knew I needed to chase Nico alone, and the legs were still feeling relatively good, so I managed to make up that minute in the space of the next 10km. Once I caught him, I had only to sit on as he was trying to race himself into second place overall. With 15km left, through the rough jeep track, I attacked Nico and rode away to the finish alone. Dave had also caught him through this last section, so our first and second place for the overall was secure.

Although this stage was short in distance, it was action packed and resembled more of a ‘cross country’ style race with some incredible trails. Thanks to the race organizers for the effort they put in to make such great routes through this barren landscape.

Provisional Results:

1st Kevin Evans (Nedbank Team360life) 1hr55

2nd Nico Pfitzenmaier (Robert Daniel) 1hr56

3rd Dave George (Nedbank Team360life) 1hr56

Provisional Results Overall:

1st Kevin Evans (Nedbank Team360life) 7hrs30

2nd Dave George (Nedbank Team360Life)

3rd Nico Pfitzenmaier (Robert Daniel)

4th Dave Morisson (Blend)

5th Charles Keey (Blend)

Next race, we head back to that town, Tulbach, for the second race in the MTN Ultra Marathon series. Should be an interesting race with riders starting to hit some good form, and a testing route that lies ahead.

Till then, cheers.

Kevin Evans

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