I realized the Gauteng based Nissan Trailseeker Series is as popular as ever when I turned off the N1 highway only to be met by a sea of red tail lights with cars queuing to get to the new venue at ARC Roodeplaat dam for the first event of this year’s series.
Luckily the Advendurance team is well versed in dealing with big crowds and everyone was soon parked and good to go as we lined up for our 7:30am start of the marathon event. With only 800m of ascent to deal with along the 70km course, it was sure to be fast and furious.
From the start Team Europcar’s Nic White and Willie Smit were amongst the main animators with the Lowveld mafia of JP Jung (Bell’s Cycling), Gawie Combrinck (EAI) and Nico Bell (RE:CM) chipping in to keep the pace high over the first half of the race. Every time I glanced at my PowerTap Joule, it showed speeds of 30-40km/h! Almost everyone complained about the dust, but after riding in rain and snow for the last month I welcomed the dry and dusty Highveld winter conditions.
Eventually the high pace and demanding course took its toll and after the king of the mountains prime only four riders were left at the front – Nico, Gawie, young Neil Robinson, who won the prime, and me. I drilled it up the next incline to make sure nobody came back to us and from there the four of us took turns into the wind. We tested each other but it was only on ‘The Concrete Climb’ that the thread finally snapped, dissecting the group with Nico and me in the lead leaving Gawie and Neil to chase.
Nico led into the final singletrack and when he drifted wide on one of the corners, I made the mistake of doing the same and allowing him some breathing room. Nico noticed and hit the accelerator prising open a 10 second gap as we hit the final dirt road home. In his words: ‘he kept it at 400 Watts knowing I would have to ride (a highly unlikely and Fabian Cancellara-like) 450 Watts if I wanted to close the gap to him’.
Nico took a deserved win as he was the strongest, most technically sound and tactically aware rider on the day. Young Robinson outsprinted Gawie for 3rd place showcasing his sprinting skills.
1. Nico Bell (Team RE:CM)
2. Melt Swanepoel (Squirtlube)
3. Neil Robinson
4. Gawie Combrinck (EAI)
5. Guylin van den Berg (IXU Sport)
It was great racing on South African soil again and the unexpected result was an added bonus. Next up is the Ashburton Series Ultra Marathon race at Van Gaalen’s which doubles as the South African Marathon Championships. It’s sure to be a cracker!
Until then, happy trails!
(Picture courtesy of ZCMC Marketing - Thanks Zoon!)