A very welcome breeze – WC200

Cape 200km, 23 January 2016, by Rob Walker

It’s not often that cyclists welcome any kind of wind, especially on a 200km ride, but on this particular day it was a lifesaver! Lessons were learnt from our sweltering 300km in December and moving to an earlier start time made for a pleasant few hours of dark riding on the way out to Hermon. But with temperatures already in the mid 20s, it was evident that a much hotter day was coming. Eight of us formed the tail group – although it’s hardly accurate to use the term “tail” really, since we arrived at the first control less than 15 minutes after it opened. Progress was so good that the lead group were still in sight climbing Bothmaskloof as the time was noted down for card validation, albeit their ride had already been slowed by a visit from the puncture fairies.

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Our own climb of Bothmaskloof was greeted with a rather unusual sight – the full moon setting behind the mountain. We’ve seen the sun set in the exact same spot on the 300km in the past, but watching the moon go down there was a first. The picture was complete as we paused at the top, with the sunrise being seen through the V of the pass behind us as the last couple of riders caught back up with the group. It was only around 6am, but the heat of the day arrived with those first rays of sunlight, building relentlessly throughout the morning. A rapid pit-stop was held at the Engen in Malmesbury – no need to stop for control purposes, but water bottles were emptying rapidly in the conditions. Keen to get as much riding done as early as possible, the group pushed on quickly to Darling. A confluence of events conspired to fragment our group along this stretch. The first of these being someone at the lead of the group pushing the pace a bit too hard along the undulating road. OK, yes, I admit it, I was at least partly to blame for that one – getting too carried away enjoying the riding. The second was the puncture fairies visiting our group and, as bad luck would have it, they picked the rear of the bunch to strike. So our arrival in Darling was a little scattered, but at least there was shade on the opposite side of the street from the Spa as we stood around snacking on sandwiches, sodas, chocolate milk, and various other goodies.

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Our group did a better job of sticking together on the return leg to Malmesbury – settling into a nice even pace, and stopping together as the puncture fairies struck again, this time Gideon being the victim up front. They hadn’t chosen the kindest of spots either. At just after 9am the temperature was already above 38C and the only sliver of shade was a low wall with just enough space to crouch behind. Our very own weatherman, Ernst, gave us friendly updates on the ever rising heat as we ground out the remaining kilometers back to Malmesbury – although a couple of ungrateful riders asked him to stop telling us (OK, that was me again – sorry Ernst!). Another rarity occurred at the Engen Wimpy, this time an unwelcome one. The aircon was barely working, and the normally friendly and reasonably quick service was totally absent, and a simple stop for toasties, coffees and shakes took an hour.

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With a little frustration at the delay, the eight of us set out again to battle the final 50km home and the worst heat of the day. A friendly bet was taken at what point the temperature would match the kilometers remaining, and the answer came up rather too quickly as Ernst announced we’d hit 40 degrees with 40km left to ride. The one thing no one ever wishes for on the ride home from Malmesbury is wind, but on this occasion it couldn’t have been more welcome. The slight breeze wasn’t really enough to be called a wind, or in fact all that cooling, but it was just enough to keep us from feeling the full force of the heat. Only towards the very end of the ride did our group split fractionally – and by no more than a few minutes, a couple of riders pausing in the shade before the last couple of kilometers. It’s not often that you can say you’ve enjoyed riding in such extreme temperatures, but the camaraderie and social spirit in our bunch made it an absolute pleasure. So much so, that one final and very welcome rarity occurred at the end of the ride – we decamped across the road for a post-ride beer and some pizza to celebrate an excellent day out on the bike. The Cape 200km is rapidly becoming our “Social Audax”.

Finishers

A full house of 12 starters and 12 finishers – pretty impressive for a ride where final temperatures hit 44C. Stunning job everyone, and a special mention to Leon Lawrence – you picked a tough one for your first Audax!

  1. Nico Coetzee
  2. Ernst Engelbrecht
  3. Theunis Esterhuizen
  4. Gideon Krige
  5. Leon Lawrence
  6. Wynand Louw
  7. Henri Meier
  8. Peter Muller
  9. Desiree Naude
  10. Chris Van Zyl
  11. Rob Walker
  12. Tom Wittenberg

Based on the success of moving to an earlier start time, we’re considering moving the February 300km to a 9pm start on the Friday evening before. Keep an eye out for announcements on that.