We arrived in George to beautiful sunshine! Yes, no rain, no flooding, no gum boots but beautiful summer weather.
It was a long day in the saddle for me with just over 6 hours of riding but certainly very eventful. It all started this morning in Mossel Bay. The leader’s jersey riders, including me, were allowed to start in front of the A group. Lined up and with 10 minutes to go I was standing there next to Jennie and Robyn, Esther Süss a few meters behind me with all the other big names. Definitely a special start to a race for me. And no hopes there, I was prepared to be dropped in light speed. After the first 9km of neutral zone through Mosselbay, all the pros and most A riders were gone on the horizon within 1 second. The organisers decided to take out the Diaz Point beach ride due to high tide and instead led us right through the town of Mossel Bay. I certainly did not mind and was rather happy to have a few kilometers of neutral zone to get the legs going, especially after yesterday’s short but fast and furious prologue. Ahead lay 106 km and 2300 meters of climbing. I was told the night before that we in for a 5-6 hour race. The only race where I rode that kind of distance and hours in the saddle was at the Amarider 100 miler. Yes, it is a bit longer but it is only a one day event. So I opted for a more conservative race pace uncertain how my body behaves going through long and tough stages in the days to come. Nonetheless, I was keen to defend my leader’s jersey and was not planning to take it easy. Starting right in front made it difficult to know where my contenders were and so I rode for the most of the time against my own time. Lara-Ann passed me at the 30 km mark. For a while I rode closely behind her but then decided to ride my own pace and see if I can catch her at a later point in the stage. The first quarter of the stage was mainly open road and so I tried to tug in behind some of the teams. The scenery changed from the open roads where we climbed gradually towards the Outeniqua Mountain range, to forest trails surrounding Friemersheim village. Then we went onto the contour roads hugging the southern slopes of the Outeniqua before we entered George on a short piece of single trail. The 6 hours of riding felt, oddly enough, relatively short and I was surprised every time when my alarm on my Garmin went off to remind me to take in nutrition. It was a relatively fast stage which required a lot of concentration, especially on the downs. Riding Solo, it is always tricky to find a team or even bunch to ride with and usually companions change several times throughout the race. I managed to stay with Desiree and Marleen for parts of the stage, which kept me paced and motivated. I usually do not see much of the scenery when racing but I believe that we had some stunning views today, even wild life. Pity I missed it. I will try to look up and take in some scenery tomorrow. At the end I did not catch Lara-Ann and build up a 20 minute gap which places me second behind her after today’s stage. I choose a more conservative tempo today and hopefully pays of tomorrow for the hunt of the jersey.
The Montagu Mettle awaits tomorrow with 86 km and 1550 m. Looks easy enough. Let’s see how it feels.