According to the website there were just under 50 entries, and from what we’ve gathered around 40 starts, with half of the field finishing the event. A long ride indeed – and only a handful of entries from outside of Europe.
List of entries (about 50% completed the event)
1 – LAURO Scagnolari – Mompantero (TO)
2 – FOR LETH JAKOBSEN – Herlev – Danmark
3 – PETER DE FILIPPI – Milan
4 – UWE SCHIWON – Rehau – Deutschland
5 – CHRISTIAN Moehl – Minden – Deutschland
6 – FRITZ SCHOEN – Bielefeld – Deutschland
7 – STEFAN OLLERDISSEN – Bielefeld – Deutschland
8 – RUDOLF KERN – Nieder-Wiesen – Deutschland
9 – JUERGEN Leibig – Heidelberg – Deutschland
10 – ANDREA BESSONE – Roccaforte Mondovì (Cuneo)
11 – PIERO RIVOIRA – Villafranca Piemonte (Turin)
12 – SIMONATO MARIANO – Cogollo del Cengio (Vicenza)
13 – EZIO CAUDA – Campiglione Fenile (Torino)
14 – IAN TO – Swindon – England
15 – SCOTTI GIUSEPPE – Rovagnate (Lecco)
16 – MARCIN Durman – Miechow – Polska
17 – Gernot Stenz – Muenchen – Deutschland
18 – GERHARD Schmutzler – Hof – Deutschland
19 – FURLANETTO MAURIZIO – Dolo (Venice)
20 – Raffaele Bertolucci – Novi di Modena (MO)
21 – EZIO USAI – Venice
22 – Giancarlo BARISON – Dolo (Venice)
23 – MICHELANGELO PACIFIC – Milan
24 – WILLIAM SALVIOLI – Carpi (MO)
25 – JONAS GRIGENAS – Vilnius – Lietuva
26 – RIMAS GRIGENAS – Vilnius – Lietuva
27 – DOUGLAS Migden – Seattle Washington USA
28 – Gianluca GALLEGATI – Faenza (RA)
29 – RAINER SACKS – Poing – Deutschland
30 – ROMAN PIVA – Laives (BZ)
31 – GIAMBATTISTA CASSINELLI – Cogoleto (GE)
32 – PERSON AND – Vancouver – Canada
33 – CARLA TRAMARIN – Bovolenta (PD )
34 – HENRY DE ANGELS – Pisano (NO)
35 – ALBERTO SIMONI – Modena
36 – RIGAMONTI ALBERTO – Barzanò (LC)
37 – STEFANO Baraga – Milan
38 – FERDINAND FALCO – Milan
39 – MIGLINI ROBERTO – Monvalle (VA)
40 – ANICETO BULGARELLI – Nonantola (MO)
41 – CHRISTIAAN VAN ZYL – Welgemoed (Republic of South Africa)
I am not a sissy and I do have the right clothes for extreme weather, but the June Audax ride I count as one of the coldest rides I had on a bike. Until sunrise we experienced temperatures close to freezing point. At one point I thought the only solution for my freezing fingers and toes was amputation. I just did not know if they were on the handlebars or somewhere in the void. There was just no feeling. When I arrived home I soaked myself in a steaming hot, scalding bath. Within minutes I had to drain water to fill up again with hot water. My body slurped up the heat.
Nine riders started and finished the ride to Tulbagh and back. The route took us over Du Toitskloof and back over Bainskloof pass. The Boland had rain the days before, which made the area wet and cold and the mountain streams brimming with flood water. We were blessed with fair weather and unlike winter predictions, had a Southeaster to contend with on the way back.
The groups for faster and full value riders separated in Paarl as we approached Du Toitskloof pass, with the faster group consisting of Marius Carstens, Chris van Zyl and myself. We had sunrise as we crested the pass, giving us a panoramic view of Paarl and the Boland.
On our way to the first control in Rawsonville it seemed we became part of the biker group on their way to Goudini as we were leapfrogging them. Rawsonville’s refreshments, consisting of anything that was warm, got us going through the Slanghoek valley with a wind in the back. Since there was no typical winter weather it became a crisp autumn day, making up for all the discomfort of the freezing cold an hour or two ago.
Chris van Zyl just returned from a 2,200 km Audax in Italy and we had ample time to hear his experiences. His legs were not yet fully recovered and I think both Marius and I were grateful for that! He was the only one with mechanicals, the only flat tyre for the day. Whilst changing tubes we saw Marius’ back tyre was under serious threat if there was a mosquito attack. He was riding on cotton, super slick tyres…
Wolseley produced a beautiful autumn countryside of multi-coloured vineyards as we entered the main road. The British block house, built to protect the bridge and railway line, stood there as silent monument, a reminder of a war fought more than a 100 years ago.
By the time we reached Tulbagh we were ravenous and after finishing local restaurant supplies they wanted to close down for the week because they reached their turnover target through us. We had to inform them of the rest of the group that was on its way and that if they stayed open longer they will reach the next month’s turnover target too! As we left, the full value group pulled in at the restaurant.
The fun started as we left Tulbagh. The chilly Southeaster picked up in ferocity and we had to ride against it up to the finish. Even going up Bainskloof there was no respite. At least the pass had active fountains, supplying us with water on the go. The waterfalls high up in the mountains were cascading, something you don’t see too frequently.
In the light that Audax rules do not prohibit you from riding longer distances than the prescribed route, we decided to go the longer route through Paarl to Klapmuts so we had more protection from the wind by the town’s structures and trees, rather than being caught in the open on the Windmeul road. Though we road further we arrived there faster. Chris and Marius had to continue on to Vrede, whilst I went home, another 40 km, having ridden to the start by bike. It was a ride from dark to dark, possibly the first 200 Audax where we started with lights and finished with it too.
Five cyclists came out of winter hibernation and had a brisk quickie to Auntie Evita in Darling. We left Vrede in thick mist and it started clearing up only at Wellington at daybreak. Since there were no clouds and the weather fair, we had a very crisp morning so that by the time we reached our first control in Hermon, we were in need for something hot and strong! We stopped for a couple of cups of coffee in succession.
We decided to make it a full value ride, all riding together, stopping whenever we needed and loosening up the carbon residue in the engines. Taking photos on the way was a way of resting…
We dashed over the first pass at Riebeeckkasteel like mountain goats. Rob took King of the Mountains and Nico Coetzee King of the Downhills. We found a sweet spot for the group to ride in. Whenever someone’s engine seized up, there was someone to help pace or push and keep the sheep together. We reached Auntie Evita’s monarchy in Darling, in time for lunch.
There was a Western Cape MTB race on in town. The locals eyed us with admiration when we moved about at the restaurant and in the street. It seemed that we were deemed the winners, because the others were still on the course!
We left Darling without meeting her majesty. For some the pace of the day was becoming too much and we all came to a screeching halt at the Malmesbury McDonalds to top up with ice-cream, cooldrinks and whatever could fatten one up for all the calories expended over 200+ km.
The faster riders then progressed ahead and though the others followed at their leisurely pace some still set a personal fastest Audax average pace.
The inaugural Cape 1000 AUDAX was a thriller from start to finish. The date for 26 April 2016 was already set the year before so it coincides with a favourable holiday timetable. What could not be predetermined was the weather. Around April May we have the transition between seasons and this is exactly what happened. During this period summer transitioned to winter, literally within hours. This would eventually have an outcome on the amount of successful finishes.
A uniqueness of this event was the use of live satellite tracking of each competitor. Someone following from overseas made the observation that for the duration of the ride it was like a reality drama, creating a much greater online and public participation than any Audax before. This element has captured the imagination of people across the world. There were several WhatsApp groups operating for the duration of the ride. As riders we fed these groups with photos and comments, sharing our experiences, our highs and our lows. It was a way to be encouraged and break the monotony of days’ cycling on end. It will be good to have this feature again for future long events, not only for the sake of safety, but for the sake of the interest the public has in ultra long distance events, where it’s like will the rider be able to complete and how are the others around him doing?
As with any long distance event preparation determines the outcome of it. I and I believe Chris, who completed the ride, are of the opinion that this event, if it is to be repeated, has to have qualifying rides before the time. The event has the potential risk of frightening riders from ever riding again. At times I thought of selling my bike to the first bidder enroute.
My focused preparation for the Cape 1000 already started 5 months earlier. The last quality training was 2 weeks prior to the event, by doing sir Lowry’s pass 20 times (235 km/7,000 m) and still I had the utmost respect for the distance and the climbing that awaited us.
Each participant planned his own strategy that suited him best. My opinion, when I arrived at the line, was that most of the other competitors were loaded too heavily with luggage. Chris and I travelled with less than 2 kg of luggage. Over 1,000 km this becomes significant, more so if you have to wear it on your back.
The drop bag system applied for this tour worked superbly. You hardly needed to carry any luggage along. Based on our experiences from PBP you could put in enough clothes and provisions in the bags to cover your needs between stops. The drop bag system helped for this route in particularly, especially to cover for towns where there is nothing to eat, drink or buy after sunset and before sunrise.
It is always difficult to say where you will experience a bad patch or where you will need a shut-eye, before you start. Chris and I understood the danger and challenge of Robinson pass at the halfway mark and the time when we shall be crossing it. It is a HC class climb. You can be so tired that you waste too much time getting back, because you were too tired. We either had to sleep before the pass and then do the crossing and continue to CPT or ride fast enough that we can cross it whilst corpus mentus and then sleep in Oudtshoorn. That would be determined on what happens enroute.
We made the decision to cross over and on the return leg sleep at 720 km. As we departed from Oudtshoorn to Hartenbos we turned into a terrible headwind. We comforted ourselves that for every step we suffer into it up the pass we shall have that same wind push us back over the pass to Oudtshoorn. But how cruel can nature be? We crested Robinson pass in the dark and as the sun set the wind dropped and there was no wind to push us back.
The Hors Category section from the top to Eight Bells we were freewheeling at over 100 kph. Before Eight Bells there is a hairpin, just after we went through it my battery ran dry. It was instantly pitch black. Had it happened a minute before it could have been catastrophic, because racing down the pass and going through the corners needed split second decisions. That was one of the closest ‘what if encounters’ in my cycling career.
We left the halfway mark after grabbing a Wimpy burger at the control in Hartenbos and hoped that the predicted cold front for the Western Cape will only find us in the Boland and not in the Klein karoo. We were following the weather forecasts by radio.
We decided to catch our first shut-eye between Oudtshoorn and Calitzdorp for 3 hours so we can get going at daybreak. Two km away from our destination we saw this lonesome light coming from the front, Michelle Gahan. She was lying in third position and still had to cross the pass. She was more than 200 km behind us. We admired her tenacity and courage to be travelling woman alone in the elements and for that distance. Through our WhatsApp groups we were kept up to date about who packed up and how far each competitor was on the course. At that point it was only Salim (a couple of minutes behind Michelle) in the fourth and last position, too still having to cross the pass.
At our planned stop we quickly showered and tried to heat ourselves with the next shift’s dry clothes. Night time in the Karoo is cold and with a lack of glucose in the body the body’s ability to heat itself up, is lessened.
By 07:00 we were on our way, feeling the breeze from the front picking up. We still had protection against it in Huisrivier pass, outside Calitzdorp, but once we were on our way to Ladismith we had the wind in the face, increasing in ferocity up to the Lord Charles hotel, where we finished in Somerset west. Due to the ability to track us, Rob Walker, driving the safety car, could find us at a local restaurant in Ladismith, us eating their last rump steak, which had more fat than meat and we did not mind.
Finding food along the way during daytime is possibly not difficult if you have time to scout and time for the meal to be prepared. I packed ample amounts of cheese in my drop bags and luggage, supplying fat energy for the long haul. I used over 800 Cal/hr, with an eventual calculated total of 45,000 Cal. This was not supplied through food and drinks alone. Both Chris and I wasted away, becoming contenders for Mr Concentration camp.
The ride was not all about covering the distance as fast as possible. We had some fun. We stopped twice at Ronnie’s Sex Shop between Barrydale and Ladismith. The second time, possibly due to fatigue, I saw from afar: ‘Ronnie’s Sex Swop’ and I wondered how I could have missed that the first time, because it now made perfect sense to me. The roof of the bar is covered with bras, hanging with all shapes and sizes, so I determined the owners swopped their ‘dubbelloop slingervelle’ (traditional weapons) for something Ronnie had to offer!
Trying to find out what R10 can offer you.
Gerhard kindly offered to drive a safety vehicle
We arrived in Barrydale at nightfall, nearly 2 days in the saddle now. We realised that with the wind there was no chance of doing a fast time. Finishing was the priority. At the rate at which the wind was sapping our energy we realised we were at risk of not finishing at all. We decided to do a shut-eye at the backpackers for 3 hours. As we were readying ourselves to leave by 22:30 Michelle and Salim arrived, dropped off by Rob Walker. We were now the only 2 contestants left. We tackled Wildehondskloof pass now from the steep side. Luckily it was dark so we could not see the never ending road. The wind hit us as we crested. The downhill to Montagu was reward for a long suffering. However, we ran dry with water and we could not find a tap in town without risking an irate house owner or jumping fences with a dog taking a chomp from you.
We hit the front properly as we went into Ashton and rain as we left Robertson. The temperature drop was significant, bringing it close to zero. The snow clouds were moving over theWitzenberge and Breederiver valley. Between Robertson and Worcester we had our first mechanical, my right hand pedal loosening up. One of my clients stayed on a farm 5 km away and we missed the turn-off to the farm several times. We needed to find a spanner to tighten the pedal. It turned out not to be the pedal, but the insert in the carbon crank that delaminated. Eventually it failed totally, but fortunately close enough to a control and with enough time in hand to source a replacement bike, albeit neither the extra 90 minutes sitting in the cold, wind and wet, nor the stress of such a problem so close to the finish were welcomed.
It was heart warming to see the responses on WhatsApp, people riding out with their vehicles to cheer us on to the finish in the final stretch. This was made possible through the tracker system so people could constantly be informed of our progress.
Eventually the finishing time was 66:55 hours. We climbed close to 14,000 m, with 1,039 km on the clock.
An experience like this cannot go by without reflecting on the impact it has on your life. You were part of making history. Very few have done what we have done. Very few have attempted to do what we as a group have done. The question is it the sport or discipline forming your character or is it your character making you select this kind of activity? I think it is a little bit of both.
To be successful in doing this kind of activity you need to be an independent, highly disciplined, have a singleness of purpose, a capacity for suffering, not taking no for an answer kind of guy. You have to be a sucker for punishment and have a capacity to manage pain and suffering. Mentally you have to be rock hard and very single minded with an extra dose of courage. You are just not an ordinary kind of person. Any ordinary kind of person can do it, but will not excel when circumstances start to overwhelm them. Having said all this there are still basic pillars one need to base your attempt on:
1. Respect the distance
No matter how fit or well prepared you are it is worthwhile and sensible to respect the size of the job at hand.
2. Pace yourself and if in doubt, go slower
The success of a successful endurance athlete is his understanding of spreading his energy over the full distance. The key is constant effort and not constant pace. If you do this you need not fear climbs and wind because you are still keeping constant effort.
3. Know your abilities
One of the purposes of training is to get to know what you are capable of in a given moment, physically and mentally. With this make-up and prior knowledge you will have to make best with what lies ahead of you. You don’t have to be super fit to complete an ultra distance.You just need to know your abilities.
4. Have courage to conquer the unknown
Many times we don’t take the ship out of the harbour. Try distances that are completely bizarre. Once you have conquered them you have a confidence for similar attempts.
5. Be your own greatest encourager
Mohammed Ali and now Donald Trump, taught us that you need to be your own greatest cheerleader, especially on the lonely road where the negative inner voice would want to convince you of failure.
6. Quitting is NOT an option
Rather rest and start again or change your expectations. Quitting is permanent. Quitting should not be part of the internal conversation or external, when riding with others. Quitting becomes easy when there is an easy way out like a support crew/vehicle that can collect you or when others in your group quit, leaving you as the only participant.
7. Overcome the boredom
Riding day in and out can become very monotonous. It will be difficult if you have not yet overcome it in training. You must be able to keep your mind active and focused. I find my Garmin with my bio-feedback a way to keep my mind active. Some plug an earphone in the ear to listen whatever they want to.
8. Exercise patience
Ultra distances are not completed or won on the first day. Since you will be riding much slower than during your normal distances, exercise patience. If you become impatient you will ride faster and pay the interest late on.
9. Eat the elephant bite by bite
Whatever the goal is you need to accomplish, whether the full distance or the sections between controls, break the goal up in manageable sections. Even the portions you share the pace can be planned. There is a sense of accomplishment when you complete a set goal. You are one step closer to the final goal. Chris and I came to points over time that we became so tired that we needed to pep one another and the saying was: ‘just keep moving and moving in the right direction. How fast, does not matter.’
10. Keep the internal conversation positive
When I train on my own there are always two persons present: me and myself. Many times they have a long conversation going. I monitor the conversation like a fly on the wall and umpire it. The moment the conversation goes negative I blow the whistle for time out. I need to understand when and how this conversation takes a bad turn. If it is because of fatigue I need to address the fatigue before it becomes a stumbling block, because fatigue makes cowards of us all. Others are just not accustomed to have only themselves to speak to. They run out of topics and fight with themselves.
It was a fantastic venue and very challenging. If the level of challenge wants to be maintained for future events, keep the route, but let riders qualify. Keep the tracker system. It was a fantastic idea and will make events like these open to the public and increase attention for these kind of these events.
PS, thanks to Spot Africa for providing the tracking systems – it worked beautifully and kept the attention of a number of supporters, local and abroad. Find them online or visit their facebook page.
Herewith Pawel’s account of his lonely and wet Cape 400km BRM. Good stuff.
18 Mar 2016. BRM 400. The Cape.
The usual week of “do I pack this or that” and of checking the cape weather forecast first thing in the morning. Flying complicates things a bit. Friday, got up early, drive to JHB, meeting at Accenture, drive to OR Tambo bleeding the work stress out of the body and missing the right off ramp. The airport a mayhem before the long weekend. The BA flight delayed 45 min on the ground.
Tamarinda shuttles me to her place, I frantically assemble the bike and pack the kit ( 1h flat), dogs nip at my hills and bark. Sweating like a pig. Must be the moisture in the air. Into the car and to the start at Vrede. Called Nico from the road – will be 5 min late. Drizzle on the windshield. They leave as I arrive. All seven of them. Never to be seen again. Brevet card etc. and I am gone 21:15. Starts to rain before I reach Stellenbosch. Glasses. Unknowingly to me three abandon in the rain.
Got to the first control nervous with a minute to spare. It rains more as I go along through the darkness. I put on the jacket and the arm warmers. Get wet right through. The cycling computers die in the rain. Have you ever tried to operate touch screen phone in the rain? ( gps ). Even the high light setting is not enough. It becomes “let the force be with you” exercise – I ride blind and fast through the wet night smelling of fermenting wine skins. Wind in my face. Sometimes stopping to dry the glasses. “Do not go gentle into that good night” rattles in my empty skull propelling me on with new found courage.
Rain stops in Wellington – just as the weather forecast would have it. More clothes, stretches… Riebeek Kasteel.. Cruising through the ginger bread town listening to the clock strike 2 am on the tour. I forgot my credit card, a selfie will do. Starts to rain again as I leave – exactly not as forecasted. I could put the contacts in, but will I see the map? A board at the roadside says “Allesverloren” – and I think – “Not just yet.”
Moorreesburg, soaked I get into the 24h petrol station shop – coffee and water. The slowest guys are 1.5 h ahead of me. The faster ones 2.5. Road repairs – stop / go. I ride undeterred. Controllers give me priority – cars wait, sometimes I move off the road. Rain stops.
Aliens have landed
A row of mysterious red lights emerges on the horizon and they stay there for hours feeding my speculations as to their origin. To reveal itself in the down light, as I approach Velddrif, to be rows and rows of wind turbines. For a change the wind is from the back, almost.. I cruise… I have built 2 h lead on the cut off.. It stays like that till the end.. Could not eke out any more.. :-(. A pie, water, coffee.
Onto West Coast Park
Saldanha – an unpretentious Secunda by the sea. Pizza shop closed. Two Bar Ones. Iscor plant like a dark sinister castle. Getting warmer. Langebaan – ugly collection malls, security complexes and villas incongruously dumped on the West Coast wilderness. But drivers are courteous and give me wide berth. Where the hell did those hills come from… Crawling up to into the National Park… and through.. The sapphire lagoon stunning. The heat becomes uncomfortable.
The deceptive false flats sapping my strength in head wind. Turning off into Swartland. The route cut in small segments, each shorter than the Sunday morning ride. Fooling myself. Surely next 40 km should be no issue. And the next. And the next… Hills which don’t look steep at all roll towards the horizon of brown fields. I attack with gusto only to watch with dismay as my speed drops 22, 18, 15, 12.. as I click into the bearable gears. Wind. Why do I always end up practicing the Art of Suffering. So predictably.
Water but no pies at Darling. I don’t eat enough. Two chocolate milks. Some droewors. My biceps are killing me. I give in and pop two Tramacets. The colours come back into my washed out world. Malmesbury. It was much smaller last time I visited.. And not as hilly!! 40 km to Paarl. Just a Sunday ride…
The moon is big and high, the setting sun projects my shadow on the roadside and I have a company. Hello rider! Doing well? Huh! I dress up for the night and set up the lights. Thanks God for the second battery I lugged around for the last 20 hours. I just ride.. faster, slower.. into the wind. As it goes.
Lights of Paarl emerge, the guys at the petrol station look incredulously at the brevet card. Cruising through tree lined streets, passing well lit coffee shops and restaurants. Then again the false dark flats of Old Paarl Road, the courteous drivers, slicing the distance into manageable pieces.
A 25 hour day
Last turn left, then into Vrede. At 22:15 – now it is finished. Tamarinda’s car is somewhat smaller now. Oh.. Just after dropping me off 25h ago she got into a pile up on the highway…. Flight back smooth and uneventful, full of the Cape Epic guys getting home. I get the emergency exit seat.
So far we have around 11 participants, including Chris, Wimpie, Ernst, Gideon, Peter, Nico, Theunis, (Rob, injury permitting) plus our friends from the North – Michelle, Kenneth & Salim. Entries remain open. Spread the word.
It is an out-and-back route from Somerset West to Hartenbos and back. Start at the Lord Charles Hotel in Somerset West. Hop onto the R44 to Stellenbosch. Turn right onto the R310 to Franschhoek (at +-16kms). Go over Helshoogte pass and through Pniel. At the t-junction at the end of the R310, turn right onto the R45 to Franschhoek (at +-33kms). Go through Franschhoek, over the pass and along the Theewaterskloof dam to the next t-junction. Turn left onto the R43 towards Villiersdorp (at +-73kms). Pass Villiersdorp and stay on the R43 till you reach the Aan-de-Doorns cellar (at +-123kms). Here you turn right towards the R60/Overhex train station. Carry on for 6kms till you reach the R60. Turn right (at +-129kms) onto the R60, passing Robertson (at +-165kms) and Ashton (at +-182kms).
The R60 now becomes the famous Route 62. Stay on it until you reach Oudtshoorn, passing the following towns en route – Montagu (at +-193kms), Barrydale (at +-255kms), Ladismith (at +-332kms), Zoar (at +-350kms), Calitzdorp (at +-380kms) and then Oudtshoorn. Get your brevet card signed in Oudtshoorn (at +-430kms), turn and come back just a few kms to turn left onto the R328 for the final stretch to Hartenbos.
The last +-75kms from Oudtshoorn to Hartenbos on the R328 includes Robinson Pass, with the summit in the Ruitersbos Nature Reserve. There are no towns on this stretch, but you do pass the Eight Bells Mountain Inn (at +-482kms). As you enter Hartenbos (at +-507kms) there is an Engen garage with a Wimpy. Turn and go back the way you came.
Well done to all finishers of Saturday’s Cape 400 – in truly testing weather conditions. Thanks to Henri for standing in. And special mention to Pawel, who came all the way from Secunda, had a delayed flight, started late, cycled unknown Western Cape roads through Friday night and into Saturday night, all on his own – and still finished on time. Give that man a Bell’s.
Herewith Wimpie’s account of the event:
AUDAX 400 – March 2016 Report
Eight committed riders (not sure if that means to the psychiatric ward), arrived at Vrede farm at Koelenhof to start a very long ride. All the weather predictions indicated rain and headwinds all the way of the planned 400+ km. Mother nature was not very kind and she tested our mettle all the way, turning the wind when we turned.
As we left the exit of Vrede a car came in and it could have been our guest from up country, arriving late from the airport. We felt so sorry for him, because that was a very unfortunate and unkind start for him. No one wanted to delay the start any longer and hoped that he would catch up with the back group soon.
As we entered Stellenbosch for the first control it started pouring. The first 3 faster riders have by then identified themselves and the rest decided to follow at a more sedated pace. Chris van Zyl, Marius Carstens and myself rode the rest of the distance together.
We had our first puncture just before entering Riebeeckkasteel. As expected, the route we followed was not very conducive for provisions at that time of day. It was just after midnight and we needed water badly. We tried the hotel and arrived as the doorman was closing up. We convinced him to fill up our water bottles for us. By now the temperature had dropped, the northwester was in our faces and we were taking turns eating each other’s back wheel spray.
In Moorreesburg we found the 24 hr garage open and some of us tried out the little bit of warmth their coffee could offer. From my experience from PBP 2015 I stocked myself well with Brie cheese. I ate my first of several blocks, a solid 1,000 Cal at a time.
As we left town we engaged the road works with some lonesome, very early morning, following traffic, lighting the road up for us with their headlights. Marius had so many bladder release stops enroute we considered sending him for a prostate check-up afterwards!
We arrived in Velddrif after 03:00. Nothing was open. We could not find provisions or water. The way we were eyeing each other made me think that we could soon resort to cannibalism, so it was safer to proceed at bike-length distance from one another!
We pressed on to Vredenburg and faithfully the wind turned south as predicted. The rain stopped too. We arrived there just before 06:00, ready to find ‘Slap Sakkie se Vuil chips’ opening up for early business. None of us could finish half of the amount of chips offered…
It became sunrise as we left Saldanha. We were becoming fatigued and concentration waning. We had to discipline ourselves not tripping over the back wheels of the rider in front of us. We stopped in Langebaan, stimulating the local economy and pressing on through the nature reserve towards the West Coast highway.
We wanted to get going and waste little time because we were informed that Auntie Evita was preparing a scrumptious breakfast for us in Darling.
We speed over the long rollers to Malmesbury to take on provisions and complete the last section through Paarl and back to Vrede, but not without a last flat wheel in Paarl. The wind was heart breakening. Chris van Zyl did the lion’s share to get the sheep home. We were back in less than 18 hours, having spent more time on this occasion at breakfast than with previous occasions. Perhaps Auntie Evita spent a little bit more time than usual with her make-up for her preparation of our coming.
It’s that time again. We start next Friday (18 March 2016) at 9pm from www.vredewines.com.
The route takes us into Stellenbosch for the first control, then out on the R44 through Wellington to Riebeeck Kasteel for the next control. Carry on, passing through Moorreesburg en route to Velddrif (turning right at 139 & 153kms to stay on course). The Velddrif control is just shy of the half-way mark.
We return by passing through Vredenburg, Saldanha, Langebaan (great pizza stop on the lagoon) and then through the lovely West Coast Park to join the R27. At the Darling / Yzerfontein crossing we turn left to go through Darling to Malmesbury.
And now for a different ending. We swop the usual suspect (windy R304) for a quieter and potentially more wind protected return – from Malmesbury we take the R45 to Paarl and then the R101 (Old Paarl Road) through Klapmuts to return to Vrede. High five.
Our thoughts are with Rob, who came off at speed on the Blue Route section during Sunday’s Cycle Tour. He is in great spirit, all things considered – his mind probably in a much better state than his body. Rob, heal soon, we want to see you on the Cape 1000.
Cape 300km, 19th February 2016, words by Rob Walker
In one sense, a full house of finishers could be seen to justify the decision to move from a 3am start to 9pm the previous evening. But in contrast to the 300km brevet last November, the weather concerning us at the start certainly wasn’t heat. Whilst the entire Cape were celebrating the arrival of some much needed rain, eleven hardy Cape Randonneurs were kitting up and heading out to Vrede amidst varying levels of downpour.
What lies ahead?
The rain had at least stopped by the time we gathered for the pre-ride formalities and rolled down the driveway, but it was hardly a promising forecast. An ominous ring of clouds loomed over moonlit mountains all around us as we made our way towards Franschhoek. Together with the occasional scattering of stars peeping through the clear patches, it would have made for a rather beautiful scene if it didn’t also represent the very real possibility of a drenching with a long cold night of riding ahead.
Different sides of the coin
The pace of groups on Audaxes varies so much that it’s never really possible to write a report that sums up the multitude of different stories and experiences of rider’s at different places on the route. This brevet presented possibly the most extreme case of that we’ve ever experienced. Up ahead the front group rode into a band of heavy rain on Franschhoek pass.
The group of remaining riders passed those same roads without so much as a drop from the heavens. There was still plenty of surface water though, and combined with the always treacherous railway lines made for yet another fallen rider. Markus became our third rider to taste the tarmac on this stretch. Thankfully both he and bike, whilst battered were unbroken and able to continue.
A few remaining clouds scudded across the summit of the pass, but as the route wound down the weather began to lift taking with it any last threat of rain. Descending the still damp roads required attention though, which was not always easy as the cold started to bite into the hand control needed for careful braking. Eventually all were down safely and heading towards the first control at Villiersdorp.
Welcome, old friend
Along this stretch came the first indications of the actual weather which was going to plague us – not heat, nor rain, but that most dreaded of all – wind! A lone pub was still open as we rolled through the near deserted main street. Fortunately our regular control of the 24hr Shell Garage was open for water refills, and even better was seeing the owners had fixed the coffee machine. The coffee has not improved sadly, but it was warm and contained traces of caffeine, which at the wrong side of midnight on a cold night was very welcomed. We were entertained by our own support crowd too – in the form of a drunken bergie, who alternated mutterings on why where we riding at night and begging for money.
To each his own
The strengthening headwind and differing riding speeds comprehensively split up the group of 7 riders into a chain of small groups and individual riders slogging away to the next control in Rawsonville. It’s really a struggle to find anything much good to say about this stretch – apart from the fact that eventually, after being battered endlessly by an unseen foe, it did at last come to an end. The wind had stripped most of us of any kind of good humour by the time the 24hr Total Garage came into view. Henri Meier was just rolling out with Leon Lawrence as we headed in. His words shared later over instant messaging added to the tapestry of stories unfolding on this dark, cold, windy night:
Leon was only in his cycling top. I caught up with him at Villiersdorp and was able to loan him my extra windbreaker to get his core temperature up again. Interesting thing – at the evening prep I was wondering whether I should take it with. Sixth sense maybe!
There was not a lot of enthusiasm to rush back out from the control, but eventually the group rode out as seven riders again and stayed together through Slanghoek valley and onto the foot of Bainskloof. There were occasional sheltered spots from the wind, but for the most part it was more of the same – battling through the headwind. The pass itself was at least sheltered, and as the road rose up the first light of the new day gradually began to pick out details of the hillside around.
By the summit the Boland farmlands below were bathed in the early dawn light. It seems hard to believe, but the road surface on the way down seemed even worse than the ride a couple of months ago. It was a jarring, jolting descent with gradually numbing hands. At least there was hot chocolate, coffee, and hot food available at the Shell Garage in Wellington, our usual choice of control. Although notably, they don’t have a toilet – something somehow we’ve not noticed before!
The stretch to Hermon saw a gradual separation and regrouping of riders, again pestered by headwind but without quite the same force as the night time section. It must be said that the wind was infinitely preferable to the 40 degree temperatures of the last time we rode this stretch. At the Riebeek West control, Theunis, myself and Markus decided a proper sit down breakfast was in order whilst Gideon, Ernst, Ingrid and Richard pushed on. It’s debatable who made the better decision. Despite not having French Toast on their menu, the Ox and Wagon pub obliged our taste buds and served up delicious helpings covered in bacon and syrup. On that count, ours was a good call.
However, a quick weather check revealed some alarmingly familiar news – the wind was predicted to shift South East by 11am. Despite getting back on the road again at learning this news, we were too late to avoid this cruel fate. By the time we rolled into Malmesbury, any hope of a tailwind home had disappeared.
We were at least greeted by a couple of club mates, Desiree Naude and Sue Kirk, who had turned out to support us and cheer us away on the last leg home. Incomparably better to our alcohol fueled cheerleader from ten hours earlier.
The spoke that broke the cyclists’ back
Very few words come to mind about the final 50km home apart from “painful slog”. And yet again, I’m sure faster riders, possibly even the four who skipped breakfast in Riebeek West, managed to avoid yet another dreaded battle against wind along the R304. Two good things did come from the onslaught though –
The first was the superb teamwork of my fellow riders – despite varying degrees of fatigue, everyone took their turns on the front sharing the workload out between us for the whole 50km stretch. The second is my resolve to re-plan the 300km so we never have to ride this stretch again. So watch this space – the next 300km brevet may still have headwind, but it won’t be on the R304 from Malmesbury.
Never a dull moment
It’s surprising how the same ride can be so different each time – and this one, despite the lack of heat or rain, was certainly an extremely tough one. Well done to all of our riders for successfully battling to the end, and especially so to our newcomers Ingrid Avion and Richard Baufeld. If there were an award for best turned out bike, Richard’s lovely machine would have walked it – a very smart Trek Domaine, with top grade Vittoria Open Corsa tyres, and an impressive array of technology mounted on the handlebars.
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.
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.
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.
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”.
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!
Chris Van Zyl
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.