300 km, Stellenbosch 11 October 2014
(Paris-Brest-Paris 2015 prequalifier)
by Rob Walker, pictures by Emmerentia Jacobs
Slightly chilly and blustery at the start, once dawn broke the chill lifted and it was a glorious sunny day, quite hot across the middle of the afternoon. Headwind was only really an issue up Franschhoek pass where it was very strong at times, and then occasionally on the leg to Rawsonville. After that, the wind lessened. When it did pick up later in the day it was a helpful tailwind into Hermon, dying down nicely for the final stretch from Malmesbury. Moonlight helped visibility for first couple of hours at the start, but good lights still needed, and especially later on for the final night time stretches. Also grew quite chilly again on the last 30km or so home, especially in the fog hollows between rollers.
Routing worked well in general. There is a stretch with no safety lane for the last few Km into Villiersdorp, and then again once down the pass until about half way to Brandvlei Dam. Traffic was a little heavy along those sections, and also at the start of Slanghoek. Once past the wineries though the traffic was noticeably lighter! Despite being narrow, the climb back over Bain’s Kloof Pass had light traffic, and most cars gave enough passing room. Road surfaces in places are a bit rough, but nothing too nasty: there is a stop go section on Franschhoek pass with rough stone chips; and the last part of the descent of Bain’s Kloof needs some care with some bumps and holes in the shade of trees that at speed could be a hazard. Aside from these, nothing more than a wary eye for occasional potholes needed. The smooth tar on the R304 just before the 4-Way stop for Durbanville was truly a delight for sore bums! The scenery on the route is stunning – but this does not come for free! The two big climbs of Franschhoek and Bain’s Kloof Passes are needed to earn that reward. They do add some challenge, but not to the extent of making control close times unreasonably tough.
Satisfactory. The late start meant that the Galleria coffee shop in Villiersdorp was open. This is directly opposite the Shell 24 hour next to Remax. They do a decent coffee and bacon toastie – well worth watching out for, especially if you need to fix a mechanical anyway! Rawsonville has a range of shops to get water and supplies – along the road in Slanghoek are more options if a sit down and hot food are needed. The winery our group tried was closed for a wedding so we pushed on to the bush pub at the foot of Bain’s Kloof for a beer before the climb. The Shell in Wellington has a takeaway Steers that proved ideal for a quick refuel. Riebeeck Wes does have a nice looking café/pub at the start of town – but our group just refilled with water and rode on to the Engen in Malmesbury for a Wimpy before the last leg home. Don’t try and convince the server your dog is a guide dog though – serious lack of humor on that! You had to be there to understand how canine accompaniment was acquired on an Audax ride.
The distance came out to 305.6km measured on the road, a shade over calculations but ideal for what is needed. Additionally, the ride started around 30 minutes late – in part this was a bit of faffing around, and also uncertainty over whether to wait for expected riders. For the future, a standard process for late arrivals will be followed of leaving brevets and cue cards in a visible spot on the Vrede stoep. Added to the late start was an early mechanical, which meant that by the time Villiersdorp was reached around 1 hour had been lost. Even with this the control close time was made, and by Rawsonville the group had pulled back to an hour ahead of schedule. This margin was easily maintained through the rest of the ride, even with a relaxed pace. Minor revisions will be made to the cue sheet before the February 2015 300km ride to adjust for distance, and also correct a signpost cue in Rawsonville. The cue needs to read ‘SP Slanghoek’ – the Goudiniweg sign is now straight on, which could be confusing.
Of the 6 or 7 riders expected, only 3 arrived on the day. This did make it a very easy call to all stay together as a group though, which made for a thoroughly excellent day of cycling in great company.
The group was joined by Emmerentia Jacobs at Wellington to act as safety vehicle for the remainder of the ride. This was most welcome, especially as night time fell on the stretch into Malmesbury. It really was immensely reassuring to have the comfort of a safety car keeping an eye on us at intervals on the final stretch down the R304. A massive thanks to Emmerentia. Definitely need to find a way to cajole some volunteers for at least the homeward/night time stretch of future rides.