Cycling South Africa really knows how to kick-start a year with back-to-back SA championships in two weeks. First with SA XOC Champs followed 7 days later by SA Marathon Champs. This meant a good lead up to SA Marathon Champs as training would be already done two weeks in advance so it was time to maintain a good level of fitness between events.
I was able to drive up and stay in my sister’s flat the day before the big race with good mates; Darryn Purtell, Nick Porteous and of course my brother and sister. Lets just say even though it was a early night it was not boring to any extent and was filled with some true laughs and a few nervous ones (nerves were starting for then race to reseed the following day). This continued on the morning of race day. Nick doing work like always, was responsible for bringing three enormous bean-bags for sponsors Bryton’s stand at the starts/finish. A lack of space ended up with only 2 making it to the race and the final 1 somewhere along the highway in Westville. Sorry to anybody driving behind us our stretchy broke so technically it was not our fault.
The drama was not yet finished and with 30 minutes to go I was on my way down to the start-line to give some support to Darryn Purtell, Craig Paul (Team Jeep South Africa team mate), Justin Porteous and Jono Downham. However, never got there as on my way down the tar road which I was warming up along my small chain ring (27 thooth) seemed to simply fall off much to my shock and horror.
Who would of thought that the giant multi-tools handed out at race entry would come to use as I was able to remove my crank and my small chain ring as I did not have screws to re-attach it. With a short little warm up to check if the gears were still working I found myself on the start-line with only my big (40 tooth) chain ring and a few steep hills needing to be climbed.
With a good road section to start the race I was well positioned as we hit the dirt for the first time. I quickly found out the differences between XCO and Marathons as the group stayed together for a while before Brendon Davids put down the hammer up the first steep hill. Every body scrambled for wheels as the group finally split as 5 riders got up the road and I found myself with two other riders chasing for the next hour and was able to move our way up to the 4th rider on the road. The group of three of us however, could not be broken as up every hill there would be a sprint and nobody would give up the fight.
With 2km to go there would be no more opportunities to get up the road and ride solo to the finish, and a sprint finish was on the cards. I was able to come down the last single track behind 1 of the other riders’ right where I wanted to be. He kept the pressure on and coming closer to the line I realized I would need to attack up the inside as two slower rides happened to get in the way. With a last gasp effort I took my opportunity to try to pass on the short straight to the finish. Coming round on the inside, I ran out of road to the finish line and felt as if we finished “perfectly” in-line with each other and would have to wait for the results to see who would take 4th. The results where eventually displayed and found myself in 5th and losing what was a very close sprint.
With only 1 chain ring and a few hard hills I couldn’t complain and was chuffed to just be able to race at such a high level. Could not have done it with out being fueled by 32GI, it really got me up the hills with all the energy needed.
Big thanks to Max Cluer, Ryan Redman (who didn’t race but was the in support of his father) and the rest on the Team Jeep SA for all the support always good to feel welcomed to a race. However, lets not for get the locals all over the course, awesome to see you all out there in support makes a race so much better.