Final Cape Qualifier – 300km – started at 00:00 on 16 May 2015. By Rob Walker.

Expect the Unexpected

The first unexpected aspect of the final Cape 300 was that 14 brave souls pitched up to ride at midnight with a distinctly unpromising weather forecast. I must confess, half of me had been hoping that no one showed up and I could go back to the warmth of my bed – some chance! It was cold but at least dry when everyone set out – sadly that did not last long. A light drizzle started within the first few kilometres, soon becoming a steady downpour that looked set to be far more persistent than the occasional showers predicted.

Before long the next unexpected scenario unfolded as the tail group caught up with four of the faster riders huddled around an upturned bike.

“Does anyone have a spare tyre?”

I suppose in Audax terms, shredded tyres are not totally unexpected, but rare all the same. Oddly this was the 2nd time on our Cape Audax series, both of them happening on the 300. Sadly on this occasion, the other unexpected element of this scene did not help – one of us does actually carry a spare, but at 28mm wide it was too large for the bike frame. We did at least manage to share a spare tyre boot to get the guys underway.

The railway crossings on the approach to Franschhoek contributed the next unexpected, and thoroughly unwanted element. It was hard to gauge a safe trajectory in the dark, and they were extra slippery in the rain. A number of us skidded and slid scarily across these, and two of our riders fell. Derek was badly scraped and bleeding by the time he reached us on Franschhoek Pass but able to continue. Sadly the other fallen rider (Walter) had broken his rear derailleur and was forced to withdraw. Barely a couple of hours into the ride, and we were down to 10 riders – three of Walter’s friends deciding to pull out with him.

The rest of us battled on up the pass – the rain was pelting down and it became icy cold on the descent. Rounding a bend somewhere part way down the pass I came across a worrying scene. Just in front were the headlights of a stationary car, bikes gathered all around. My heart skipped several beats as memories of the recent tragic accident on this stretch of road flashed into mind. Fortunately the truth was far more bizarre – the guys had stopped to try and help the motorist, who had somehow got his car stuck on top of a giant rock.

Unexpected doesn’t really come close to summing this one up – all that could be seen of one of the guys from the car were a pair of legs sticking out. There was no sign of him being able to shift the rock, and was in serious peril of being crushed by his own car. At one stage he screamed that the wheel was stuck on his foot. Eventually sense prevailed, and with 6 or 7 riders plus the blokes from the car, we managed to bounce it off the rock. Once moved, it was clear how futile any attempt to roll the rock out from underneath had been – it took at least 2 of us to lift it to the side of the road.  It’s hard to decide which of the 2 events are more unlikely or unexpected here: that someone could manage to drive onto a rock so big that the car became completely stuck; or that a bunch of cyclists would be seen coming down the pass at 2am on a miserably cold and wet morning to help them off it. You had to be there.

Progress through the next couple of controls was happily devoid of further unwanted events. The rain stopped around 4am, and although still bitterly cold the riding became a bit more pleasant. Our group of riders did manage to litter the floor of the 24hr Total garage in Rawsonville as we fuelled up on snacks and coffee.

Slanghoek valley and Bainskloof pass were wonderfully scenic as ever, although this time the surrounding view was brooding mountains draped in mist and clouds rather than the blue skies of the last couple of editions of this ride. After observing the traditional Steers stop in Wellington, we did at least get some sunny riding through to the other traditional stops for beers in Riebeeck West, and chips and toasties at the Wimpy in Malmesbury.

The final leg home brought up our last two unexpected events.

The first of these was no wind. It was a wonderful relief after the dreadful weather at the start of the ride to be seeing the leg home in daylight, with easy headwind-free riding.

The second of these comes with a very definite “do not try this at home” warning.  Ever wondered what happens if you use a 16g bomb on a road tyre and then unscrew it from the adapter without venting the remaining CO2? In this case, the adapter had become jammed to the tyre valve, so it was an attempt to free things up. The attempt did not go well and what transpired happened so fast that we stood there in shock, followed by fits of laughter. There was a loud crack, the bomb shot within millimetres of Theunis’ leg, flew across the road, and disappeared somewhere hundreds of meters away in the field opposite. By a miracle no cars were passing – the deadly missile would have probably cut right through. An unlucky cow or sheep close to the fence the other side of the road would also in all probability have come off rather badly.

The few remaining kilometres of the ride were peaceful and serene by comparison, arriving back at Vrede just in time to watch the sunset. Oh, apart from Theunis’ second mishap – discovering that electronic keys do not like sitting in soggy cycling jersey pockets for hours on end. At first the key was unable to unlock his steering, and then refused to work any of the electronic systems in his car. It required a hasty lift back to Somerset West to collect a spare key. I must confess, my car’s key is also electronic and it’s never occurred to me that riding in the wet could kill it off. Definitely going in a plastic bag next time!

Our 10 brave finishers were as below. Special mention must go to Desiree and Louna – it takes a brave and determined soul to even turn up in such unfavourable conditions, let alone tough it out and finish your first Audax in them. You are also among only 3 women to complete one of our Cape Audaxes. Chapeau to you both!

  • Marius Carstens
  • Nico Coetzee
  • Theunis Esterhuizen
  • Gary Kuhnert
  • Derek Lawrence
  • Desiree Naude
  • Wimpie van der Merwe
  • Louna van Tonder
  • Chris van Zyl
  • Rob Walker

Bizarrely there was yet one further unexpected event during homologation. Somewhere the wires got crossed between South Africa and France and the event was homologated as a BRM 400. Maybe we were granted an extra 100km free for the foul conditions. Either way, all riders will get their official 300km medal and I am reliably informed the homologation numbers will be valid for PBP or SR purposes.


End of Series Braai

Don’t forget the end of series braai – Friday 12th June, 6pm @ Vrede. Please RSVP to Nico if you haven’t already done so to make sure we have numbers for drinks and catering.