Today was hard for me, extremely hard. The stage started with the usual neutral zone to get safely out of De Rust. The pace picked up to lightening speed as soon as the vehicle pulled over. I was in the front bunch and could stay for exactly 2 minutes before I dropped off. As soon as the pace had picked up I could feel that my legs were very tight and had no power. I was shocked. I was so motivated to ride hard and stick with Carmen and Lara-Ann. But my legs had other plans and so I opted for a ‘survive the day’ ride without loosing too much time. The first 40 kilometers were primarily district roads with lots of rolling hills leading us through scenic valleys towards Spitskop. I struggled to stay with passing riders as my legs simply did not want to do the high-speed, high cadence grind. I lost lots of time on this stretch riding mostly on my own. We turned of the gravel into the bush and slowly made our way up the trail to Spitskop. My legs felt more loose than and tried to put up a gear. The descent was short but fun. After Rust en Vrede we were treated to some more lush green single trail. We headed through the foothills towards De Hoek. As soon as we hit tar and gravel my legs began to protest again and had to grind slowly up each incline. At the 56 km mark we were faced with the mother of all climbs up the Swartberg Pass. 11km of climbing right to the finish on top. Lets just say I managed and valued my granny gear up the pass. I am now in 3rd position in GC a few minutes behind Carmen. Lara-Ann Envers increased her lead to just over 1 hour. Well done ladies!
We rode all the way from the Swartberg Summit to Prince Albert our race village for today. The descent was rough and corrugated with a set of brake pads going out of the window. Tomorrow we ride the same Pass up again just to make sure we enjoyed the incredible view sufficiently. It will be the toughest of all stages with 108 km and 2300 m ascent, including around 40km of technical climbs and descents. My chance to catch up. Wish me luck that I have legs tomorrow and can give the girls a run for their money.
By the way, I am stunned by the incredible orchestrated organization behind the Pioneer. We move every day to a new place but the transition is seamless. As soon as the riders arrive in the finish one of the Dryland team members welcomes you in person, takes your bike to the wash, and hands you a recovery drink. I lost my heart rate strap yesterday and was able to pick it up at the Dryland office this morning. The tech zone, massage and physio area, bike wash, laundry service everything runs flawlessly. The food is out of this world. We are served Ostrich meat in all its shapes and have become a big fan!