Maccabiah Games Road Race, Golan Heights, 110km, 2200m
The road race took place in the Golan Heights, up in the North of Israel, and I could not have asked for a better circuit that suited me. We would race a ten-kilometer loop, eleven times with very hard short climbs, and technical corners. Also to factor in the heat, my preferred racing conditions, I was confident of a good result.
The Time Trial had given me all the information I needed on who the good riders were, or at least so I thought. My tactics would be fairly simple, to follow Gobrovskyy and then somehow try and get rid of him before the run into the finish. He had won the 2005 under/23 World Championships with a late attack in the final 3km, so this would be no easy feat. Simon Adler, the only other SA elite rider, would go in the early move, to make sure all I had to do was stay on the wheel of the Ukraine.
The race started with attacks immediately by Israel who had the biggest team. After one lap there was four Israelis in the break, and Gobrovskyy decided he would close the gap. I followed him as we bridged across to the leaders, and then settled down into what was going to become a race of attrition. Patience was going to be key. However I soon realized that the two Israeli riders left in the break with us, never raced the time trial, and was a little unknown. Guy Gabay put in a good attack with four laps remaining and we had to work hard to bring him back into the fold, but I countered off his move taking a chance. I was feeling good and thought Gobrovskyy would have to do all the chasing. They worked together though, and kept me at around 20seconds for two laps, until I decided to rather wait for them and save my energy.
As expected, a big attack by the Ukraine rider on the penultimate lap saw the end of the Israeli, I had to dig deep to stay on his wheel, made easier with a huge amount of support for me through the start finish, and into the ‘bell’ lap. I had to take another chance on the last lap.
On the first of three climbs, I set a really hard tempo, I knew it was make or break, and just near the top, I heard him shift off his big chain ring. This was the small advantage I needed, and put my head down with eight kilometers left. I extended the gap to about forty seconds, enough to just make the final climb, with cramps starting to bite the legs.
It was a very emotional finish, with my father, friends and teammates all waiting at the finish, finally a gold medal for the cycling team.
It wasn’t the only medal for the day, with Issy Zimmerman taking bronze in his own category after also having a tough day in the saddle.
It has been an amazing experience and I’m grateful for the opportunity given to me by the South African Delegation.
Now its time for a short break, and then a busy last quarter coming up, back to the dirt!
The 19th Maccabiah games, held every four years in Israel, and essentially known as the ‘Jewish Olympics’, kicked off with the opening ceremony on Thursday evening in Jerusalem. Some nine thousand athletes from 72 countries were present to represent their various countries and delegations, and the opening was a huge success with the president of Israel, Peres present to give a talk, as well as messages from the US President and UK Prime Minister, began sending waves of nervous energy around the stadium.
After a fair bit of traveling around the country, I arrived safely in Rosh Pina, the small town up north close to the Golan Heights. The individual Time Trial took place yesterday, and the elites would set off in the heat of the day. I had seen the course over the past two days, and the rolling 26km, with 160m of climbing would be a fast course, yet favor a powerful rider with so much flat and windy open roads.
I went through my normal warm up routine, and was fairly nervous yet excited to finally arrive on the start ramp, healthy, fit and ready to compete for the medals.
I had planned how I was going to pace myself, but being the forth rider off, I had no elite times to go by, and rode my own tempo as I had practiced. It was important not to go too hard too early but also, you couldn’t finish with any energy left in the tank. I kept my rhythm, stayed relaxed, and focused. The far side of the course had some drags up to the turn around point, and this was where I began to go as hard as I could. I knew I could recover on the descend after the turn around, and again settled into a tempo at my threshold. Once I hit my last 4km marker, I began to open up what I had left, and powered into the finish up the last climb with everything I had left.
I crossed the line with the fastest time of the day, and then it was the horrible part of waiting half an hour for the remainder of the riders to come in, anxiously checking there times.
The previous medalist, Israel’s Yoav Bear was closest to me around 52seconds behind me, but I knew the Ukrainian, and 2005 under/23 World Champion who rode for the ProTour team, Quickstep was the favorite and as expected, came flying in at an incredible average speed of 49,7km/hr. This was a super impressive ride from a pedigreed rider.
I was happy with my performance and although a gold medal was first goal, I was content with silver for our country.
I wasn’t the only silver medal for SA, as Benjy Stock also took second place in the 40-49 age category.
Now we look forward to Thursdays road race. Issy and I rode up to the road race course today, and it seems it will be an honest race, 11laps of a 10km circuit with 220m of short sharp climbs per lap, and a few fast and technical corners, plus the heat, will be a tough day.
The cycling team will be hoping for a few more medals then!
presented by Rehidrat, 3km, 23km, 7km
The Knysna Pezula leg of the Xterra series bit me a few years back, and
seems to attract me every year to come back for more. It’s such a fantastic
event, with great atmosphere in a special location, its hard not to come back
each year, especially being ten minutes down the road from home.
This year the competition was great, with a lot of big names taking
part. I had prepared slightly different this year. I had run consistently for a
month leading up to the event, and I had busted out a new pair of Salomon shoes
for the run. This is the only leg of the Xterra that I’m able to do, mostly
because I cannot swim to well, and the Knysna leg is more like a duathlon with
just a run/cycle/run.
Tactics for me on the day are fairly simple, limit my loses on the
first run, make up as much time as possible on the bike leg, and then get to
the finish in one piece on the second run.
Luckily for me, heavy rains the night before would turn the mountain
bike course into a nightmare. The extreme mud would prove to be very technical,
and this would give me another advantage on this section. I managed to make up
all the places I had lost on the first run, and the last person I passed was
Stuart Marais, who is such a fast runner, I would need to put as much time into
him as possible.
Its always exciting when you get to the transitions, and the
commentators do a great job of giving you time splits, and letting you know how
slow your transitions are!
I went into the final 7km trail run with a healthy three minute lead,
but against an exceptional runner like Stu, this would only get me to the last
2km, where he came flying past me.
The trail run is quite technical, and I didn’t take any chances, nor
expect to stay out in front, it was more a matter of when he would catch me.
I call this part of the race, ‘buy now, pay later’, as the body
continues through fitness, but in the next few days, becomes really sore and
stiff from recruiting different muscles. Fortunately this year was not too bad,
as the training had helped with the post race soreness.
Thanks very much to Stillwatersports for having me at the event; it’s
always great to take part. Maybe next year I can have a special number to
secure a spot on the ‘Pro rack’!
Next race, exciting as I fly to Israel to compete for South Africa at
the Maccabiah Games, in the road and time trial. Will keep you posted.
The Knysna Oyster festival mountain bike race is one of my top events
on the calendar. Not only because it’s a ‘home town’ event, but the route, the
trails through the indigenous forests and the atmosphere around the week of
events is fantastic.
The weather for the week was great, and the trails would be mostly dry
for a change. But it’s always fresh at the start, and we rolled out of town
heading into a cold forest. Usually the race splits up early, on the first two
climbs, Simola and Gouna. The field was strong this year, and we were a group
of around ten riders as we completed the first section of the race up to the
It was though the next 18km section of ‘Petrus se Brand’ where first,
Neil Macdonald started to increase the tempo, and thereafter I took
responsibility for turning up the pace. The group was too big and I wanted to
make sure there was a select group after this part of the race. Soon it was
only five riders, still a fair size group, but the last thirty kilometers
around the back of Knysna is tough, and on one of the steep climbs, I managed
to put in enough of an effort to have only the newly crowned South African
Marathon champion, James Reid, left with me.
I had decided I would avoid a sprint finish at all costs, and put in a
final few hard attacks to finally ride him off, where I was then free to ‘sail’
to the end. It’s always a special race to win, but always better with a quality
field. Johan Rabie held on for third place, and Brandon Stewart who had helped
me up the first few climbs rode well to finish strong in sixth place.
The Sunday morning saw us take on the road riders in the Road race. The
race was shortened to 80km due to road works, but with no major climb at the
halfway mark, it would be fairly fast and easy for the bigger teams to control.
Nolan Hoffman took the win for Team Abuntu, whilst we were happy to win
the overall combined prize for the fastest mountain bike and road race of the
A great weekend of racing, thanks to Clive from the Knysna Hollow for
hosting our team, and Zandile for the support.
Next race will probably be in Israel when I compete for the country at
the Macabbiah Games, Time Trial and Road, in two weeks. I forgot to mention the
Pezula Xterra on Thursday, another top event attached to the Festival, will be