Weekend of Racing at Home

Sardine Classic

After the previous weeks 3rd round, of the SA cup series up in Pietermaritzberg being badly supported, I was amazed to see the people down in the South Coast for the weekends events; KZN short course series #4 and Sardine Classic. For what was supposed to be an awesome weekend of racing the weather would play a large part. Throughout the week leading up to the race the weather was miserable, and the rain bucketed down until it eventually stopped Friday night.

The weekend began with a delayed start at the KZN short course #4, with the racing eventually started at 9am. Arriving early I was able to ride the track to warm up on the rather cold morning. Even though is was my home track at Duggies I had never ridden the course in the wet conditions that we ended up racing in. The first 4km of the track seemed to run relatively smoothly however towards the end on the course was more of a swamp, with streams of water at times covering the entire road for up to 20m.

The home ground advantage with the aid of a good start help me to complete the first lap in second behind Team Jeep South Africa team mate Travis Walker with James Reid on my tail. Through the second lap James found his way passed me and worked his way towards Travis as the race started to unfold. The third lap would prove to be crucial, as I took a moment to breathe I lost concentration for a second going through a patch of water and my knee smashed into my handlebars.

Being very cautious and nursing my knee Luke Roberts and Kyle Dorkin were quickly right up behind me and found the way passed in an opening in the single track. The racing from there until the end seemed to be rather quiet and lonely with the exception on Luke pulling out. I finished 5th in my batch and 2nd in the Juniors which I was very happy with in the muddy conditions.

The following day provided some more great racing through again muddy conditions. Sunday was the Sardine Classic and with an injured Justin Porteous commentating everybody would have a few laughs before the racing began. To kick off the day was the 40km mountain bike race, which would have some big names taking to the rough course, which was made tougher with the mud.

The race would consist of 2 laps the first 14km and the second another 26km allowing spectators to watch the exciting race. However, this meant more climbing for the racers and with tired legs from the previous day I struggled early on to stay with my main rivals on the hills. This continued to be the case as struggled to climb up the first 8km of hills, which we would end up doing again on the second lap. I was able to pair up with Darryn Purtell on several occasions which helped me get through some of the toughest and muddiest parts on the course on top on the main climb.

However, with the legs taking strain Darryn a long with a few others managed to pull away from me leaving me to ride to the finish alone to claim 11th on the day with my brother finishing a close 12th. Despite narrowly missing the top 10 I was able to finish 3rd Junior yet again behind Kyle Dorkin who came 2nd and Luke Roberts who won the Juniors and finished 4th over all.

World Cup in Pietermaritzburg

Photographer - Josh Reid

With a 2 hour drive to Pietermaritzburg and back on Thursday my weekend had began. This followed with a final practice of the course on Friday where Charles Stander drove up to Cascades. I was hoping to master the main rock garden before the world cup however this was not to be, as I fell twice in practice on Friday and bent my hanger. This along with 2 more falls in the same place a week before had convinced me to walk the final section on the rock garden on race day.

Saturday before the race was very relaxing I had decided to skip four hours of driving to Cascades and back to watch the elites and under 23 races, in order to relax and save my energy for my race on Sunday. This meant waking up at 5 o’clock on race day to do the two hour drive to Cascades luckily I was able to sleep almost the whole way to Cascades in the car.

I arrived to a surprisingly quiet Cascades, with people only coming later in the day to watch the downhill riders. However, the nervous started as I arrived and starting seeing where I would be racing for the next hour and a half. After sorting out water bottles and doing some last minute checks it was time to start warming up. With a nice tar hill close to Cascades I was able to do some sprints and get the legs nice and warm before heading down to the start line.

With people riding around by the start line you could feel everybody shaking with nerves. With the 13 man field made up of 11 South Africans it helped calm the nervous as I knew who I would be racing. However, never seeing the other two riders from Switzerland and France would add some excitement to the race.

The race started along the flat start straight but this did not help me as I still had a terrible start and was stone last after just 100 meters. I quickly composed myself and started to catch the pack of riders again. I entered the first, up hill, single track 2nd last and after the long straight towards the 2nd single track on the course I was able no move my way up to 9th. I was only able to catch one more rider on the last hill just before the second tech/feed zone. With the two of us together we had a battle for 8th for most on the first lap however, I was able to pull a small gap just before the end of the lap.

The gap seemed to stay the same then slowly started to open up for the next two laps. With marshals blowing whistles’ every time a rider went past them I was able to hear the gap between myself and closes riders opening up as the whistles’ started becoming softer. I had found myself sandwiched between two groups of two riders for most on the race where I was riding solo and was able to ride my own race, pacing myself up the hills.

The final lap I knew if I could maintain my pace I would finish an 8th as the gaps had opened up some more. With the junior women on course with us I would slowly make my way through their field as the final lap coming to its end. I would eventually see the finish line and with a few more peddle strokes I finished in 8th. I was very happy with my result as I had qualified in 12th leading up to the race.

Camping with my Boet

Karkloof 2011 was always going to be an interesting one, but camping just adds more fun to the whole ordeal. My brother and myself left home on Friday to drive up to my sister in Westville and stay over on Friday night. After a little bit of shopping for a skotel braai and gas we were all set to make the trip to Karkloof early Saturday morning with the Juniors XC race being the first on the day starting at 7a.m.

We arrived early Saturday morning and even had time for setting up most of our camp site before I had to head out for some sprints to warm up on a very chilly morning. Without having the opportunity of riding the track before hand I was forced to ask around and find out from everybody else how the track was running. I happened to find out from others that the track was super slippery but still fun.

With a very small but elite bunch of riders, this was to be a fast and tight race. Entering the first lap we hit the single track for the first, of what was supposed to be 5 laps. However this was later changed to only 4 laps for our race. I entered the first single track in 4th but, with the sun still low between the trees making visibility difficult and with the slippery conditions gaps opened between all the riders. This combined with not having ridden the course before made me very cautious for my first 2 laps with the technical single track.

After slipping back to 5th later on in the 1st lap I tried to enjoy the course and learn the technical sections before the last 2 laps. With gaps forming right in the beginning it opened up the whole race and racing was a less tight than expected. This meant the last 2 I could almost relax. I continued to race hard and enjoy all the down hills however nobody would be seen until the finish line. I held on to my 5th on what was a super fun course would love to race it when its dry.

Camping seems to be just as interesting as the racing. Having little camping experience and not having thought the whole thing through we were left without most necessities such as tables, lights and water but we made the most of what we had to enjoy our stay. With the brother being the more practical to say the least it easy for me to let him do all the work in and around the camping site. But probably the best part is having every meal made for you thanks boet! =]

Our idea of camping resulted in the two of us sleeping in the car with our bags and food in the tent. Sunday morning was the start of the Karkloof classic with an 8a.m. start to the 60km marathon it was yet another early morning. The race started with 50 people in the A batch with included all the favorites’ in this strong field and myself. After a good paced start a big bunch of riders of about 10 were able to get a lead after one of the first single tracks.

I found myself in the second bunch on the road feeling quite a strong along with Carl Calverly, Andrew Mclean, Benmelt Swanapoel, and Matt Gouch. We were cruising quite nicely and were soon the front bunch on the road as all the leaders unfortunately took a wrong turn at about 7km. However, luck was also not on my side as I had a technical problem with my cassette, which lead to myself pulling out at the 13.3km mark.

I was able to get a lift back to the start where I had about 2 hours to relax and shower before the elite man in the 60km marathon would come in. Which I used to pack up our camp site.

Had an awesome weekend up at Karkloof which is an awesome event and really well organized with amazing riding for people of all skill levels with there being a 60km, 40km, 20km and a 10km race. Sad to end the weekend with a technical however, it is back on the bike for some last minute training for the first leg of the SA XCO series on Saturday at Cascades.

Mudman take 2 – Cordwalles

After my first Mudman and multi-sport event a few weeks ago, which I really enjoyed I was eager to take on the challenge once again. However, its been way to busy with juggling school work and training on the bike, to have time to get in the pool for some training. This was perfect as on Wednesday leading up to the race I was contacted by Team Jeep Multi-sport athlete Ryan Redman as he had suffered with a knee injury and would not be able to run or ride.

He asked my brother (Elmo van der Spuy) and myself to join him in the team event. Ryan was able to swim as it was his best discipline and not damaging to the knee, Elmo also suffering with knee injuries wouldn’t be able to run which meant he would be riding. This worked out perfectly as this would also be his strongest event. I would be left to finish our race in the run it was not my favourite event, however running has always probably been my most natural event of the three.

Left home the day before with Justin Porteous, Darryn Purtell and my brother to stay in Team Jeeps athletes house in PMB. We picked up my sister on the way, with it being 4 guys we needed someone to organise us and act as our mother. A early dinner to miss Earth Hour meant a early nights sleep.
6:30 wake up call and with a short drive we were quickly helping Justin help put up all the Future Life banners and stands which barely fitted in the car. Being in the team event meant we needed to warm up well as each person would need to sprint their disciplines. A quick jog and stretching was different to the sprints in used to on the bike however, it would be the warm up routine for the day.

Ryan did a brilliant swim even with a injured knee as he exited the water in three overall and limped his was to the transition where Elmo nervously was waiting. I was now left in the transition as I waited for him to return. After his first lap I got an update and found my brother was in second overall. He road very well to maintain a high pace to hold Tyron Whites well to the transition. Not needing to change I was able to exit the transition area before everybody else.

The 5km run turned into a sprint as I was in first overall and didn’t want to lose that. I started a bit to fast and soon found out as I had lost my breath in like 2 minutes and struggled from there. I had some motivation to keep going as I could see Tyron behind me on every straight and up the hills would try put down a hard pace. The effects of not training for a running race came through towards the end however, was very happy with my performance. The team (Team Jeep) won overall which a team has not done for quite a while in a Mudman.

Was so fun to be able to race with my brother in a team event for the second time ever. Thanks to Ryan Redman for the awesome opportunity was definitely a great race and loads of fun. Well done to Justin Porteous for a good second and Darryn Purtell for a brilliant finish in the top ten in his first attempt in a multi-sport event.

The Team Trophy

30 Minutes to Go – Marathon Champs

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.

SA XCO Champs – Cape Town

Mark Austin Photography - SA XCO Champs

The weekend of SA XCO champs is normally very well organized in advance so I can relax with the build up to the race. Well nobody can be organized when your flight is delayed by 9 hours, but been over the weekend of the Argus this only get worse when the airports lose your bikes and make you walk everywhere to try find them. Almost two hour of searching for bikes we finally got them but was too late to head down to the race course as it was already getting dark.

Good thing the track was not technical at all because with the loss of a day in airports we only had one day to test the track out. While riding the track for the first time, was really not feeling good and didn’t know how the legs would feel the following day. A few more laps and was a bit more confident to race a round this course with the steep hills around every corner for the first 3km of the 5.7km track.

After the practice laps and a chat with the boys around the lack of single track and was time for the carbo-loading and relaxing to finally begin, while we watched the Sharks win there forth straight game in the Super 15. Unlike most SA races I was feeling really relaxed knowing the pressure wouldn’t be on as I wasn’t a favorite as I was still trying to make up for the month holiday in January.

An early nights sleep and a late wake up call as I was only racing after 12 meant I was well rested by the time us and the bikes were in the car heading to the course at 11. Got to say after a tough African Champs I was felling very intimidated as I road along the road during the warm up and watched others fly past during some sprints.

With a second row seed I knew the start would be important to a good race and this proved as standing behind Luke Roberts as he missed his pedal at the start cause a few guys further back to go down in the start straight. The first hill also had its technicalities as people were littered everywhere and made passing and riding the smoother lines impossible forcing myself to go up on the harder side of the hill in order to pass a few riders. This however worked as by the top I was in a good position to have a good race.

By end of he first lap I found myself chasing down a few more riders and had two riders on my wheel trying to hold on. This continued as we made our way up the last climb up to the second tech zone on lap 3 where Charles Stander miss counted and said I was in 5th when I would later find out it was 7th. I pushed on the 4th lap to hold on to my “5th” and eventually dropped the two riders on my back wheel up to the second tech zone on the second last lap. The way back to the start/finish I tried to maintain a good speed to hold this gap while saving the legs for the last lap. This paid off as the last lap I was able to extend the gap as I went around the track for the last time. This secured a good race in which I was able to pull of a 7th while being a little under trained. Congrates to Luke Roberts for the brilliant race to become SA XCO champion and team mate Brendon Davids who pulled off a good 3rd for Team Jeep SA.

First Triathlon

After another Saturday ride at Dura Cycles sitting around having a nice cup of coffee before the ride home, Justin Portious (Future Boy) having a random moment of “genius”. Invites me to the Mudman Series #2 held by Epworth School on the 6th of March. My first thought was more pain not that excited about that. However, he insisted and soon I found myself saying “yes”.

My brother was more excited than me to hear that we would be “racing” a triathlon and jumped at the opportunity to organise our lives as we only decided the day before to compete. Sadly this meant cleaning the bikes in the hot sun.

The night before a race there is normally a few pre-race nerves but we were just going to have some fun instead of racing. This meant a very relaxed night on the couch watching a movie with some friends and a bowl of pasta precedes the early start waking up at 5 O’clock.

Soon we would be entering at Albert Fall Nature Reserve for the 9 O’clock start. The race compiled of a 750meter swim, 20km mountain bike and a 5km run. As being a mountain biker I was looking forward to this leg on the race to make up some time on all the others. I also have done some cross training with running so I knew I would handle this part on the race well.

This would have to be the case as I knew the swim would be a major disadvantage as swimming is definitely my weakest event. Right from the start of the swim I would find myself going backwards very fast and at the half way mark noticed that brother was also struggling next to me. Eventually I finished the swim WAY down the field (felt like I was in the water forever) and I could enjoy what I do best and the bike lay ahead.

The slightly shorted bike route meant I had to pick up the pace and make up some time. That’s what I did passing people from the moment I got on the bike until I moment I got off. Passing got a bit tricky around a few corners otherwise the relatively flat course was all about powering through and passing as many people as possible and that’s what I did.

Coming onto the 2nd transition and starting the 5km run I was feeling a lot better and ready for the hill that would start the run. It seemed like there was nobody else in the race for the first 2.5km lap as I ran by myself with only at one time seeing another athlete as they raced past me. The 2nd and final lap would be very different as I had to make my way through all the back markers which made the run I little more interesting but I was able to continue running my own race. Was able to finish comfortably in the top 20 and can only improve from there.

I got to say multi-sporters are tough to race these all year. However, not taking it all that seriously and using it as a little bit of training for next weeks South African Championships MTB in Cape Town this was a lot of fun and enjoyed every moment. Definitely going to be doing some more triathlons in the future, just need to do some swimming training before next time.

African Continental Champs

Hayley and myself waiting for the race to start

Exactly 6 days after arriving at King Shaka from Atlanta City I found myself boarding yet another plane this one heading to Cape Town. Was quite an experience going to my first African Continental Championship all alone, and the hardest part was not knowing how the legs would react after my long five week holiday to America. During my time in America training was sporadic as some places such as Las Vegas it was actually against the law to train in the gym if you were younger than 18 years old, I was luckier in other places such as Orlando where the resort had stationary bike which I could make use of daily.

Upon arrive to Cape Town on Thursday evening I was greeted by a familiar face as Charles Stander picked me up from the airport. Arriving two days before the big race left me with one day I which I can learn the technical 4.2km course. However, after a delicious breakfast with Charles, Nicky and Darryn I found myself standing in the kitchen of the smallest flat I have ever seen. It consisted of two rooms and a bathroom. The first was my and Darryns bedroom, the kitchen and lounge conveniently my bed was in the kitchen and my pillow would be against the side of the fridge for the next two days. The other room was the other bedroom, dinning area and office. However you could stand at the door and see the whole house. To my surprise the cupboard was the biggest part of the house and fitted my whole built up bike.

Arriving at the course on Friday morning I finally bumped into my Team Jeep team mates Brendon Davids and Ryan Ellis who had both been in Cape Town for about week. Soon it was the traditional official practice which meant registration time and finally to hit the track for the first time.

Brendon Davids and Ryan Ellis were both by now well in tune with the forever changing course as every lap would present new challenges, as the lack of rain had caused loads of soft sand and loss rocks which seem to move every lap. This helped them during Saturday (race day) as the both did brilliantly even though Brendon would have a close race he came through on the last lap after attacking on the flatter road section and maintaining and slowing building his lead to achieve a well earned first in the Juniors. Ryan also maintain a more than solid pace and drove on throughout the race to achieve a 9thin a very strong U/23 class. Team Jeep South African however, dominated the morning with the lady’s Mikaela Johnson and Hannlie Booyens winning their to races it the early morning.

With the lady’s winning, and riding with team mate Brendon Davids a good race for Team Jeep i was on the cards. The 10:30 start was good, as we finally got to sleep in on race day. With I solid starting position on the front row, does not always guarantee a good start! I found myself slipping very fast down the field with a bad start. Finally I was able to find my speed just before the first single track but was a little too late as chaos broke out I don’t think there was even a moment where you were not being hit by a bike or a falling person.

Photographer Zoon Cronje - Technical problems

After making it out the first single track alive it was time to start making my way back up the field and it worked as passed 2 or 3 people before the top of the main technical hill. The rocky down hill proved to by my undoing as one of the only non-South-African in the field fell in front of me and caused me follow him on the way down. The fall seemed to do no problems at the time but that was not the case as it happened to cause my cleat to loosen and on the 2nd lap I found myself battling just to stay clipped in. Just before the technical hill I felt my cleat not clipping in at all and soon I would find out the cleat had some how pulled out my shoe. The race seemed to go down hill from there, excuse the pun. After losing a few minutes while Nicky Smith showed his skills fixing my cleats I was unable to carry on as the end of the 3rd lap was also sadly the end of my race.

Not the way I expected the season opener to unfold after a whole season last year with hardly any technical issues. A thanks must go to Nicky Smith for feeding me and technical suuport even though he had his own daughter racing at the same time, and Darryn Purtell who stood in the 2nd feed zone half way up the mountain with all the spares and bottles to feed me in the hot sun with his race starting later in the day. Charles Stander for all the support on the weekend and driving half an hour to fetch me from the airport.

Thanx to those who helped through out the ride