People always ask me how I will prepare for the Tour d’Afrique. It’s simple, I do what I always do and race day and multi stage events. Apparently one gets fitter and stronger as the tour progresses. Everyone can go at their own pace and less fit riders will just spend a little longer in the saddle each day. I aim for a good base and prep as best as possible to ensure I can complete 12,000km, fast or slow that needs to be seen.
With the last half of this year in full swing, I decided to mix up the one day events with a couple multi stage rides including Dr Evil, Pioneer, W2W and Origins of Trails, just to get my legs and body used to prolonged effort. After all I will need to sit in the saddle for 4 months nonstop.
Coming out of my mid year break in August, which I always use to travel Europe and visit friends and family, I had Dr Evil scheduled as my first multi day race. The name doesn’t do the race justice as each stage is less than 80 km long and elevation is never more than 1200m. I’d say it’s a perfect event for novice riders, those that don’t want to kill themselves in a race but looking for fun. All in all, a great event to start off into the second part of the season. I knew that I won’t be in peak form as I completed my base block only two weeks before the race, and the off sick days didn’t help either. However, with some Wattbike and altitude riding at Concept Studio I was reasonably prepared for the race.
I teamed up with Kathy Milne, who I had raced against at Tankwa Trek earlier in the year. There we finished very closely each day and knew that our riding style and similar fitness would make a good team. So there we were, lining up for the first stage at Dr Evil. It had rained throughout the night and knew we were in for a mud party. The first stage started with a neutral zone, which is always excellent to get the legs warmed up knowing that the first long climb was just around the corner. We went pretty fast the first 20km, trying to stay as close as possible to the leading lady’s team. But I simply wasn’t strong enough to keep the high pace going and needed to slow down to find a maintainable rhythm. The first stage led through a lot of the beautiful forests, scenic mountain passes and valleys. There was even a pretty technical downhill section which I personally enjoyed the most! It became quickly clear that Kathy was in great shape and that I had to work hard to stay with her. She was especially fast on the up hills and I lost a bit time there but tried to compensate with fast and furious descents. We kept that game going for most of the race. My Garmin decided to ignore 500m ascent and so I was very surprised when I was told that we had done all of the climbing for the day. It’s always a great feeling to see the finish and was pleased with the full body mud mask, which I hope will keep us forever young.
The second day promised to be as muddy as the first day. We started at a different venue by Cairnbrogie. The morning was nicely miserable, misty, grey with a light drizzle. One of those morning where you wonder why the heck you got out of bed. Finishing in second position the previous day, we were of course motivated to keep that spot on the podium and try to get closer to the first team. Kathy set the pace from the start and I tried my best to stick to her tyre. After about 10km into the race, my derailleurs were nicely clogged up from the mud and I struggled to shift my gears. About half way into the race I slipped in a huge mud puddle and hit the handle bar very hard in my quad, leaving a massive bruise still visible three weeks later. To put it simple this wasn’t my day and I was very grateful to see the finish once more in under 4 hours securing our second position.
The third day was a short course with under 50km of riding and less than 1000m climbing. Kathy had developed the flu over the previous night and it was a miracle that she could sit straight on her bike. She is such a champ and was determined to finish the third day. Along the way, I tried to support her where I could to get her to the finish in one piece. After all, it was our great team work, positive spirit and mental strength that led us finish Dr Evil in second position overall.
The event comes highly recommended. It was unfortunate that the weather didn’t play along but the organisers pulled off a great multi day race showing us their beautiful secret trails of Plett.
One event down, the next one to come. Cape Trek Pioneer is my next big multi stage event on the radar, clocking up the miles and in pursuit to get my butt friendly with the saddle.