Cape 600km, started at 3am from Stellenbosch on 25 April 2015.

150306helicopter-jpgThis year’s bush fires continued to play havoc with cycling events, this time closing Bainskloof pass and forcing a re-route of the Tip of Africa 600 via Du Toits kloof. Fortunately, although a somewhat tougher climb and a much busier road afterwards, the diversion made no difference to the control points and only around 1km to the overall distance. Picture from EWN.

Safety car

Rob Walker sat out the 2015 edition of the Cape 600, instead driving safety for the first couple of controls. 12 riders started the event, although sadly Andrew Wheeldon was forced to pull out at the first control with a bad stomach, and later Marius Nel also succumbed and withdrew due to a medical issue.

Finishers

The remaining guys battled on – and despite headwinds, a range of bad mechanicals, missed wake-up alarms and wrong turns, there were 10 finishers overall — Nico Coetzee, Ernst Engelbrecht, Gideon Krige, Gary Kuhnert, Daniel Langenhoven, Derek Lawrence, Peter Müller, Wimpie Van Der Merwe, Gerhard Van Noordwyk, Chris Van Zyl.

PBP qualified

The following (10) Cape Randonneurs are now qualified for PBP: Nico Coetzee, Ernst Engelbrecht, Gideon Krige, Daniel Langenhoven, Derek Lawrence, Peter Müller, Wimpie Van Der Merwe, Gerhard Van Noordwyk, Chris Van Zyl and Rob Walker.

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Andrew, Derek, Marius, Gerhard, Daniel, Ernst, Chris, Nico, Wimpie, Gary, Gideon, Peter.

Special mention to Peter Muller

He displayed true Randonneuring spirit to ride 360km alone and finish just 8 minutes inside the cutoff. Some would call that a perfect full-value ride, but for Peter out on the road it must have been a lonely day and a huge relief to finish in time, bagging the final qualifier he needed for PBP.

Nico summed up the elation of seeing him finish as follows —

The 3 most special sporting events I’ve witnessed are as follows. First was Joel Stransky’s drop goal during overtime in the 1995 rugby world cup final that we won.

Second was when we sat at the finish line in 2013 at Cascades in Pietermaritzburg and saw Greg Minnaar emerge from the trees at the final corner ahead of everyone else to take his 3rd World Downhill Champion title right here on home soil.

And the 3rd was seeing Peter Muller’s bicycle light appear between the vineyards just 8 minutes before cut-off, after having cycled alone for almost 400kms. It must have been one hell of an emotional rollercoaster.

Peter wins a Durcall battery. Never say die.


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Gerhard’s report

Well, that was by far the most challenging thing I’ve done in my life, both mentally (more so) and physically.

Some stats from the ride before I describe more of the detail:

  • Total time: 39h08m
  • Ride time: 28h33m
  • Temperature: Between 7 deg and 28 deg
  • AVG heartrate: 132bpm
  • Calories burned: 10 968
  • Climbing: 5668 meters

12 guys started the brevet at 03:00 on Saturday 25 April. We had a last minute (authorised) route change since the mountains above Wellington were still ablaze. Instead of going over Bains Pass we went over Du Toitskloof Pass at about 06:25, just at daybreak. Just after our second control at Rawsonville (where a rider abandoned due to stomach problems), I got a front wheel puncture. About 10km further I realised something was wrong when I could feel the wheel bobbing up and down on the road surface. The tire did not seat into the rim properly when we inflated it after the flat, which was causing the bobbing.

We took several times to take the tire completely of, refitting and inflating with the same results. Meantime precious time was lost. I phoned Hein Kroff, who suggested that I kept riding until Robertson, where I could (hopefully) get it fixed at a local bike shop. Although I mentioned to the mechanic at the bike shop what should be done (as instructed by Hein), they kept on trying their own methods until I just got so irritated that I told the guy to do what I wanted. Thanks Hein, problem solved immediately. An expensive lesson (in terms of time lost), but a great learning for future events. Daniel, Marius and I have now lost nearly 3 hours due to this incident and we knew we had our work cut out to try and make up lost time while also managing our reserves, because we still had 400km to go.

At Bonnievale Marius fell ill, but bravely soldiered on. At 249km done (at the top of Stormsvlei) Marius made the call to abandon. I know how difficult and disappointing that must have been to Marius, since I abandoned this very event in December last year with stomach problems.

From Stormsvlei to Bredasdorp we had the same nightmare as last year – terrible headwinds. We eventually got to Bredasdorp at about 21:00. I was in a very bad state at that time, but knew I had to force myself to eat. We ordered plain burgers with 2 soft-baked eggs on top. I finished the burger and eggs, but left more than half of the portion of chips on my plate – not something that I’ve ever done in my life before.

11169420_10153257828317320_1944265911690097305_nAs we started towards Agulhas, I was slowly starting to feel better. We encountered a few drops of rain on our way to Agulhas. First a group of about 5 riders came past us (already on their return leg from Agulhas) and then the lone figure of Peter Müller past us. We reached Agulhas at 23:53 and then the return started towards Bredasdorp.

11065096_10153257825102320_2497575810430238272_nAlthough we planned to try and ride through to Hermanus, we realised at this point that it was not going to be possible. Daniel was at this point already riding with our bag, carrying all our supplies, for most of the route. Where I was getting tired, he was just plain fed-up and wanted to sleep in the bushed next to the road after seeing me fall asleep on my bike a few times.

11092115_10153258880262320_5794546602613964639_nWe decided, however, to push on to Bredasdorp and find a place to sleep. This is where the now (in)famous cardboard box sleeping arrangement at the BP Garage occurred. We were just too tired and/or too fed-up to care. The petrol attendants thought Daniel was joking when he asked for the boxes to sleep on/under. Daniel first tried a bench outside the garage, but they then offered us the ladies toilets to sleep in. That was by far the shortest and most uncomfortable rest of my life, but if you’re that tired, you don’t really care about comfort.

We were up at 03:45 again and while riding through town looking for hot coffee, Nico, Derek and Gary spotted us. The five of us then started off together again. The climbs from Bredasdorp through Napier to just before Akkedisberg Pass were brutal. There are a few unnamed passes on that road and Akkedisberg definitely is not in their class, so I’m not sure who decided that it should be called a pass! At about Stanford Daniel and I got separated from Nico’s trio, but after a lovely breakfast in Hermanus we met up with them again at the control point in Onrus.

One important thing I learned on this ride is the value of the chocolate Steri-Stumpie. Man, this works magic. From Onrus to Kleinmond it was just a hard slog. After Kleinmond we pushed the envelope because we were worried about the time. We must have passed them somewhere, because on one of the climbing sections of the coastal road, Derek and Nico came from behind. We then rode together to the control point in Strand. We got separated for a while, but they caught up with us again just before Stellenbosch.

Just before the second to last control in Klapmuts I could feel the my body was now close to complete shut-down. For more than an hour I could not control the bike when I wanted to eat or drink something – I realized it was my forearms that were so sore. I had to come to a complete stop to eat or drink. When Daniel and I arrived at Klapmuts, Nico and Derek were already on their way to the finish. By know I was also off-balance, stumbling of the bike and looking like a drunk. Then the magic Steri-Stumpie again did its job and the last 10km went by very quickly. At the finish there were a few cold beers, organized by Nico. Thanks to all that made this ride possible, especially Daniel who were with me the whole way.

All glory to GOD. This ride, like all the others, are dedicated to David, my beautiful autistic grandson, whose daily life is much more difficult than any bike ride could ever be.


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Peter’s Report

“Sur la route de Paris” (On the road to Paris)

Back in 1891 a few crazy French cyclists chatted about what would be the most audacious cycle race one could think of. They thought of an impossible ride from Paris to the far away coastal town of Brest; an unbelievable distance of 600km. Apparently, a few glasses of vino later, they just doubled this up to do Paris-Brest-Paris. This 1230km race/ride has been held ever since and is one of today’s classic rides.

About one and a half years ago, a few crazy cyclists (deja vu) at the southern tip of Africa were chatting about the upcoming Paris-Brest-Paris (PBP). One thing led to another and we were able, right here in the Cape, to get a few PBP qualifying rides (BRM’s) registered with the French authorities. To qualify one has to do a 200km, 300km, 400km, and 600km BRM. Crazy me, did my Cape BRM600 this weekend. I even bought a new bike (like any decent cyclist would). Already having done one BRM200, two BRM300 and two BRM400, the 600 felt like a natural progression.

The start

Was at 3am from Vrede Wine Farm, just outside Stellenbosch. I slept less than one hour that night (damn that barking dog! Damn, damn, damn that stealer of my sleep.). There was a last minute route change due to the Bainskloof fire. So off we went, 12 of us, over Du Toits pass. Still clearly seeing the close-by mountain fires, while we cycled through the night.

Rawsonville (94km)

First sunlight and a quick coffee and eats, thanks to Rob. We had our first cyclist dropping out for medical reasons. Few km later, Gerhard’s dropped chain turned into a complex mechanical problem that was finally fixed at the Robertson cycle shop after a 3 hour wait; Daniel and Marius stayed with him. A few of us had a quick bite to eat at a farm stall just before Robertson. Others had breakfast at the Robertson Spur.

McGregor (179km)

Was just a quick drink stop. Most of us re-grouped. GaryK struggled with a painful knee. When I got to Bonnievale (228km) with Gideon and Ernst, we had made very good time. We stopped at the local hotel to eat and Ernst tried to fix a snapped spoke. This turned out to be unfixable as part of the rim was ripped as well. Luckily his wife brought a spare wheel by car. Much time wasted, but we had a great banting burger, coffees and drinks. Little did I know that this would be my last proper meal till the next day at 8pm.

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Having a proper meal – Gideon, Ernst & Peter.

The 74km via Stormsvlei to Bredasdorp –

Is feared by Audax cyclist as it is empty, hot, with a constant SE headwind while one cycles up those never ending and very steep rolling hills. The other riders cycled ahead as I was too slow up those hills. Was okay with me as I reckoned I would either catch-up with them or meet-up with Daniel & co behind me. So I slogged up all those hills into a bastard of a wind. Then it started to get dark and my front light’s battery stopped working. Now that is a problem. And my cell didn’t work either; seemed to have gotten wet despite the Ziploc bag.

What to do, what to do?

There was some moonlight, and my two red back lights worked. So I continued on the dark road, hoping that either the guys up front were waiting or Daniel & co would catch up. Had to go slow. The road was narrow too.

At this stage I didn’t know that Gerhard’s mechanical set them close to cut-off time while I was in Bonnievale six hours ahead of it. So there I was slogging carefully through the dark night. Every time a car came from any direction, I stopped and got off the road and let it pass. Once when I stepped off the road I fell into a deep dark ditch. I don’t know if there were any creepy crawlies, I mean that, it was so dark I couldn’t see anything.

And then, finally, I saw those typical slow moving and bouncing lights approaching from far behind. Yes! There is Daniel, Marius and Gerhard. I stopped and waited with a big fat smile on my face. 10min later they were here –and it was not them! Just some buggered old asthmatic bakkie going at 40km/h along the road with some funny lights. And did I curse them and everything else. Back on the bike for my slow night ride. It took very long to get to Bredasdorp.

Bredasdorp (302km)

Nico had organised the school hostel for a short sleep stop. Great! Got my drop-bag. Grabbed that much needed spare battery and stuffed my face with fruitcake. Life was good again! Washed my face and 15min later was on the bike again. Got a coffee at the fuel station and off to Cape Agulhas. Lovely rolling downhill ride through the night. Just before the lighthouse I saw most of our team passing me in the opposite direction, returning to Bredasdorp. Really great to see them!! It has been 9 hours since I have seen any of them.

Cape Agulhas (340km)

Grainy pic taken at the lighthouse and a quick sms to my much loved Bron (cell seemed to have dried out and is working again). Cycle back to Bredasdorp was uphill but fine as the wind was from behind. A few dead animals on the road, including a curled-up puffadder, which I missed by an inch. Just before Bredasdorp I saw Daniel and one other cyclist starting their cycle to Aguhlas. I only found out after the ride about Gerhard’s mechanical, that Marius dropped out at Stormsvlei for medical reasons, and that they were struggling. I was sure that I would meet-up with them at the hostel.

Bredasdorp (379km)

At the hostel, the other cyclist wanted to only sleep for 1 hour and get an early start. I told them that I had a bad night before (damn that dog) and needed 2,5 hours. Daniel & co did not come and sleep at the hostel as they were too late. And then my cell alarm did not wake me up (damn that wet cell). I overslept; 5min later I was on the bike, no breakfast and no coffee. All that extra time I made-up the day before was lost.

Onrus (472km)

The road to Onrus seems to be scenic, but that was lost on me. I had to make time. Cycling through the morning night, looking for food in my pockets, through to Napier (no coffee places open) and up and down all those stupid hills. Push, push, push. Flipping-me then misses the Stanford turn-off (I don’t know how) and a while later I realised I am not moving in the right direction. Checked Cue sheet and km – turn around, cycle back to the turn-off (which no one could have missed…). Stanford, bless that petrol station with proper filter coffee – long overdue!  Coffee, chips, droewors, winegums, lemonade and water – I feel human again. Hermanus and then Onrus. Cutting it way too fine time wise.

Kleinmond (502km)

On the road to Kleinmond I am feeling flat and have no energy. Going slow. My cut-off time situation is driving me crazy. Coffee, muffin, soda, two nougat bars. Now the sugar is gushing through my body. With some wind from behind I was flying along the flat road; 30-40km/h! Finally I was making time. At Rooi Els, when I could see the geographical finishing point (sort of) and my home at the foot of the mountain, I became very emotional. Stopped to take a pic. Back on the bike and flying along the coast road. The wind is now my friend.

Strand (557km)

Finally my time situation looked good. Stopped at a petrol station for drinks and more nougat bars. And then, somewhere in Strand, I took the wrong turn-off. How can that happen? My brain is only working at 30%. Can’t think straight. Got into the industrial area. Time won, time lost.

Slog up to Stellies11182538_10152913158208736_7248576138931713287_o

Off to Klapmuts (595km) and then in the dark down to Vrede wine farm. When I got there I just had to ask Nico and his family: “What is the time?”(It was dark so could not see what time it was). “You’re fine, 10min to spare!” Struggled to get of the bike. All smiles!


 

And some pics of Wimpie & Chris. Well done.

 

Thanks to all who contributed to make this another fun event, especially to Rob for the safety car.