Nissan Trailseeker Series #1, Bundu Bash, Buffelsdrift
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!)
April 11, 2015
Yesterday the Puja ceremony was conducted at base camp. Our sherpas were excited about the Lama coming to bless them and their equipment. They built a stone stupa for him and adorned it with flowers (plastic), foods, yak butter and alcohol, rice and rice flour and prayer flags which only went up once he blessed them. There was a lot of praying and chanting involved over the 3 or so hours that it took and the Nepalese take it very seriously. They usually won’t move onto the mountain until Puja is completed.
I’ll post videos and pictures when I’m back in SA
Around base camp
All set up at EBC
April 11, 2015
Greetings from Lobuche again. Back here after 4 nights at Base Camp. We are very well set up there at 5350m on rock and ice. Sean, Rob, Nico, Wilmien and I each have our own tents which have mattresses and cushions dressed with white linen ….I half expected a mint on my pillow each evening!
Our head sherpa is Ongchho, he’s 40& has 4 kids. He’s our main go to guy and has lots of experience on peaks over 8000m.
Anh Kami is our camp 2 cook and has a very wizened and weathered face which one can’t help smiling at.
Phurna is our base camp cook, helped by Pursimba. It’s amazing what dishes they create ina tented kitchen. We’ve been spoilt with omelettes, oats, pancakes, pizza, lots of soups (garlic being the key ingredient), buffalo stew, yak meat burger patties, mixed rice, stewed fruit, roasted chicken and so forth. We might even be putting weight on in this expedition!
Actually it’s not possible. .. Just sitting around at altitude elevates your heart rate and Burns calories. One walk down to the toilet tent and back and we are out of breath!
Our Douwe Egbert filter coffee every morning is a real treat and TCP is in the hand washing water to make sure we stay clean and hygienic.
We are very well set up. Our comms tent is powered by a generator which charges all our technology. Inside we have inflated couches, a TV and sound system, and even a gas heater. It feels like glamping! No shoes are allowed inside so in the minus 15 temperatures we are wearing our down booties, wrapping ourselves up in our down jackets and huddling around the heater.
Every evening at about 5 we start a movie, then comes the call for dinner which always starts with a hot towel to wipe our hands and then the first course of soup. Dinner takes place in our smaller dining tent which boasts tables and chairs, spices and condiments.
After Dinner and fruit dessert er head back to the comms tent where hot water is kept on flasks so that we can make milo or tea while finishing our movies. Thanks to those who contributed their cherished movies to our trip. This week We watched Searching for Sugarman, Nachos Libre and last night ‘Joe’.
Bed time is inevitably before 9pm and then starts what’s sometimes a restless night, sometimes reaching for the “pee bottle” 2× a night (never fun). We emerge from our cocoon like states at about 8 am when it’s light and warm.
The day goes by with some writing in diaries, drawing, Reading, showering (we have a shower tent too) and afternoon naps or listening to music. Our barrels arrived from SA and we have unpacked some items we needed which was pretty exciting.
This morning we sorted our high altitude gear in preparation for Island Peak. We leave to climb the peak tomorrow in preparation for camp 2 on Everest. Island peak is about 6200m and we should be there for the whole week. Good news is that we got wifi at base camp this morning. $50 for one gig. .. We’ll see how it lasts.
We are early in the season, waiting to hear from “Kathmandu” when the climbing of Everest can start.
It’s going to be an interesting couple of weeks, the Khumbu icefall being our first challenge in about 2 weeks. It’s a waiting game to some extent.
food on the trip:Herbert and Liebisch: this one’s for you
April 6, 2015
Delicious cheese balls.
This trip is pretty much a no meat trip. Meat is not only hard to come by (everything gets trekked in so imagine meat coming up the valley over a few days) but also not the best choice for protecting oneself from gastro.
So its either potatoes/rice/noodles with some form of egg And veg.
Momos and tomato soup
Veg and rice curry.
Haven’t touched the Lindt chocolate. .. Can you believe it Bernard? ?
Thanks to my sponsors H&L for helping me “Eat my way up”
updates on the last two days
April 6, 2015
Dingboche yesterday morning after a light dump of snow. ..
We stayed in Moonlight lodge, run by a smiley faced Rum. After our acclimatisation walk up to 5100m we enjoyed lunch at the lodge… followed by cake and coffee at a “French bakery” which was in a warm sunny room.
I had a café latte and chocolate cake. Yum!
Food is mostly as follows: (my choices)
Oats and boiled eggs
Or omelette and oats
Chips and fried eggs
Egg veg fried rice
Cheese sandwich and chips.
Today it’s vegetable curry and rice.
Either of the lunch options or add garlic soup
Veg fried noodles
Lots of lemon ginger or milky tea is consumed. .
During down time we are either listening to music, writing in our diaries or reading and playing Bananagrams. Early to bed for us.
Darmik on top of Dingboche Ri 5100
April 5, 2015
After waking up to snow which didn’t last very long on the ground…we did an acclimatisation walk up to Dingboche Ri at about 5100m. It a bit a huff and a puff up there above 4800m. Took about 5 hours round trip and the views were spectacular.
The wifi here is very sparse and weak. Photos are on Facebook.
Thanks to Darmik for sponsoring the day…
First views of Everest
April 4, 2015
Today is the 4 April and we are at Dingboche 4355m “Hotel Moonlight” where the wifi is too weak for me to upload photos to the blog.
Today we left Debuche (Rivendell lodge) situated at 3820m @ just after 8 am. Breakfast was oats and boiled eggs followed by some of Robs French toast. We enjoyed beautiful views of Amadablam and when the clouds cleared we could see Everest too!
The walk was undulating and we quickly left the tree line behind as we followed the river up the valley.
We reached Sunrise guest house in Orshe at 11:20 am shortly after passing Pangboche with all its Stony walls, enclosures of some sort. .. perhaps for yaks. Yak dung was drying in some of them.
Some in the group have bad stomachs and headaches which is normal when eating new food and at altitude. Hopefully everyone feels better after resting here for two nights.
Lunch was fried chips and egg… At least once a day that’s the meal.. Or veg/egg fried rice.
We rested there for about 2 hours and 90mins and a huff and puff uphill later arrived at Dingboche where we stay for 2 nights. After the lodge keeper installed a new gas device I had a somewhat cold shower. .. Only for him to have a good giggle later that he’d forgotten to switch the gas on…
It wasn’t quite that funny when I was jumping around under the cold water…
Yesterday we left Namche at 8am and not long after being on the contour path we were treated to our first views of Mt Everest. Naturally everyone was taking photographs and soaking up the views.
After a long descent and passing porters bent double carrying crazy loads on their backs we stopped for lunch in the valley. I had mixed fried rice with eggs which was quite tasty and a couple of glasses of “milk tea”.
Then came the long uphill to Tyangboche monastery which took about 2 hours. .. The breathing was heavy but I drowned myself out with some tunes in my ears. I must have been breathing very heavily because one of the guys from another expedition walking at the same time as us asked if I was okay!
We had a look around the monastery under the watchful eye of one of the monks because no photo or “shooting of a movie” was allowed.
Then the quick descent to Debuche …
Acclimatisation day from Namche Bazaar
April 2, 2015
This morning we had breakfast of oats and omelette at Sona lodge Namche Bazaar 3443m. A few in the group didn’t sleep very well, which is to be expected above 3400m. The bladder also starts working harder to regulate 02 and C02 levels in the blood.
Namche sits in almost an amphitheatre in the mountains facing the peak of Kongde 4250m & is a colourful, bustling village where everything is for sale… From yak bells (I’m fancying one as my new homes doorbell) to climbing gear.
The acclimatisation walk took us straight uphill…400m to the above the Syangboche airstrip where we watched a Russian helicopter land on wheels.
Going up is hard. .. The breathing immediately becomes harder and the pace slows down.
The stairs we walked up alongside Juniper trees reminded me of the westcliff stairs we recently climbed… and I Thought of the athletes we shared that experience with.
When we reached the top of the hill we hoped to see Mt Everest far up the valley but there was a lot of cloud cover.
View down the valley
View up the valley
The mountains to the right of the valley are Thamserku 6618m, and most visible Amadablam 6814m.
It took us about 2 hours to reach the top of the hill and once there we enjoyed a cup of hot chocolate.
The walk down was very quick. .. There’s no speed limit on the downhills. We bumped into another group of trekkers from SA, our first ascent gear giving us away. Small world, Brian knows Tony (climbed Denali with him) from their kids being at the same school. They were excited to follow our progress.
Back in NB (by 11) we went straight to the “Everest Bakery” for cappuccino and breakfast which included cake.
After that I walked around town and when my sole came off my slop-like shoe I had to purchase another pair of shoes for relaxing in after taking off my boots. Fortunately gear is very cheap here.
The afternoon was spent relaxing, eating. Listening to music, updating loved ones at home and charging devices.
This is kind of the last outpost of civilisation.
Today was sponsored by Truter Jones. .. Thank you!!
Namaste from Namche Bazaar 3447m
This morning 1 April, (here I need to mention that i had two illy cappuccinos with breakfast – what a treat) left Phakding 2600m at 8 a.m and started the climb out of the valley along the Dudh Kosi River. The vegetation odds really beautiful, different to my last trip here which was in winter. The rhododendrons are in Bloom so you see pink or red splashes of colour amidst the green and brown.
It was hot at times and the game of stripping off then putting on again began and after a while I settled on two shirts, one long sleeve and one short.
I’m enjoying the quiet time, the peace and time for reflection. Every now and then the yak trains approach from the front or back and their bells ring alerting us to their presence and the need to get out of the way so they can pass. If heading onto a bridge. .. It’s not a good idea to take them on head on. It’s the first time we see trains of mules being used too.
Compared to 2003 there is much more development and settlements along the way.
Lunch was at about 11 at Jorselle (not sure of spelling) and since we need to avoid meat due to hygiene most of us had rice or noodles with cheese. Those who Ordered chicken were quickly disappointed with the toughness thereof.
While waiting for our meal we had lemon tea and played Sevens (card game).
We had to check in and pay R500 permit for the Sagarmartha national park and give other details… strange they ask what type of cameras we use.
After crossing a very high Bridge (which reduced some to tears) the climb started up to Namche Bazaar 3447m. We are at the Sona lodge and tucked into popcorn and lemon-ginger tea.
Now we sit around the dining room and rest or head into town where I spotted the famous Russell Brice from the Everest documentaries.
My day was sponsored by http://www.pwman.co.za/
Whether we go depends on the weather
Back at the airport…
Up at 5 a.m today from Thamel Eco hotel, situated close to Mandala Street, Kathmandu.
Not all of us slept that well because some Irish people were enjoying their evening rather loudly below us.
Fortunately after my massage and G&T last evening I slept soundly. We went to Kilroys for dinner, which was a blast from the past, having been there after the EBC trek in 2003. I had the same meal I did 12 years ago – Mutton Rogan Josh. The others are chicken tikka or tandoori chicken with naan bread. We avoid Ice in our drinks because of possible contamination.
Yesterday’s Momos For lunch were pretty good. ..A Momo is a kind of dumpling and is a popular Nepali dish. Mohan enthusiastically recommended we eat there.
In the afternoon we all did our own thing. I wandered the colourful bustling streets, my rainbow coloured umbrella bobbing above me head to keep the raindrops off me. I’m fascinated by the cashmere products and brightly coloured pashimas decorating the shop fronts.
Himalayan Java received a visit from me for a latte and a Brownie followed by a very oily massage at Mandala Spa.
Right now it’s 9:30 am and I’m sitting in a pile of luggage at the airport waiting to see if we get that flight to Lukla although we hear it’s raining heavily there.
As I was making my way to OR Tambo International Airport for the Cape Town Cycle Tour event, the news came through that I would be competing at this year’s Absa Cape Epic. Obviously at the time it was surreal to think that in less than 2 weeks’ time I’d be standing on the start line of an 8 day stage race, ready to take on the 739 kilometres and 16 000m of climbing which lay ahead. In stark contrast, the excitement that suddenly started to grow in me was undeniable!
This opportunity came about when two of the girls on the Sasol Ladies Racing Team had to pull out of the Epic for different reasons. Sasol asked me to step in as a reserve rider and with the blessing from Garmin, I grabbed the opportunity with both hands.
For the 12th edition of the event I was paired with my Epic partner from last year, Leana de Jager. Leana and I have completed several stage races together and have a very good understanding of one another both on and off the bike. Consequently all our focus and energy could be spent on the challenges the route, the terrain and the weather conditions threw at us.
From the 21km prologue that traversed Table Mountain to the final finishing line that awaited us at Meerendal Wine Estate, we barely changed our racing rhythm and strategy. The aim was to ride consistently and cautiously throughout the Epic and this approach saw us moving up from 10th place on day one to finally placing 7th overall in the ladies category by the end, and the 3rd all South African ladies duo.
The Epic is very demanding on your body, mind and equipment and getting through the Epic without any hassle is a rarity. Like the team we were, Leana and I shared in the little hiccups as Leana punctured on day 2 and had a small tumble on day 3, whereas I contributed with a broken chain on day 4. Taking into account that we spent 42 hours and 50 minutes on our bikes over eight consecutive days of racing, you’ll agree that it truly was just minor setbacks.
The Absa Cape Epic’s mobile race village is quite an impressive setup as it is able to cater for all the needs of the riders, supporters and staff members over a period of 8 days. The organisers provide daily meals, a bike wash service, laundry service, tented accommodation and ablution. On top of this you can get your bike serviced at various bike shop stands, get any bike part that you might need, get food and much more from vendors albeit at your own cost. Despite being able to get whatever you required at the campsite I couldn’t help but miss the warm hospitality you find at some of the other events in South Africa. I guess its kind off the same as visiting a capital city compared to a small town in the countryside. You might not always find what you need in a small town but the hospitality surely makes up for a lot and vice versa. Obviously it’s great to be able to experience both city and town but some people are just more attracted to the one and some to the other.
The Absa Cape Epic is surely one of the toughest stage races in the world as it takes you way out of your comfort zone in so many ways. For me this year’s edition was more a mental challenge than a physical one as the daily routes were very long and tedious. Spending most of the day on the bike didn't leave much time to run errands such as washing clothes, bottles, shoes, helmets, preparing nutrition for the following day etc. and eventually you have to give up some of that much needed sleeping hours to be able to get everything ready for the next day.
Having said that, we still had it 'easy' compared to most riders and especially the heroes at the back end of the field. Sasol provided us with lovely accommodation during the Epic, our bikes got looked after by Morne Greyling and the rest of the Cycle Lab Lynnwood crew and our broken bodies got put back together daily by two Physiotherapist that travelled with us the entire way. Sasol is doing a lot for ladies cycling and should be commended for their efforts to establish equality between men's and ladies cycling.
As there is so much that happens, it’s impossible to write about my entire Absa Cape Epic experience in one newsletter, but If I can sum it up I would definitely say I would do it all again tomorrow….
A big thanks to the Sasol Racing team, my teammate Leana de Jager and my Garmin Team for giving me the opportunity to be a part of this year’s Absa Cape Epic.
With one week to go before we leave for our 64 day Everest expedition, nervous excitement is mounting!
On the 11 March we packed 279kg into our barrels to be air freighted to Nepal ahead of us – the barrels were mostly filled with food and other supplies for our relative comfort at Base Camp. Lots of Enduren, Douwe Egberts coffee, Germkill hygiene products, high energy foods, games (thanks Paul) and the all important protein – biltong – went into the barrels. Thank you once again to those who sponsored us with these supplies!
Sean and Rob depart SA on Sunday, taking our high altitude gear with them – this includes climbing gear for Wilmien, Nico and myself. The barrels and gear will then be trucked to Lukla airport in the Himalayas, from where it will be transported to Base Camp by Yaks and Sherpas. Along with gear sourced in Kathmandu, over 1 ton of supplies will travel to Base Camp in order for us to live there for 45 days during our climb and acclimatization.
Wilmien, Nico and I fly on Friday – with only 15 kgs of gear because of domestic flight restrictions – along with 8 trekkers who will accompany us to Base Camp.
I did the Everest Base Camp Trip in 2003, and it is my most memorable and spectacular mountain trip to date. Follow us on our trek which begins on the 30 March. We hope to enjoy wifi all along the trek, and will be posting to Facebook and our blogs (below) as we go along. Communication is so important to us, so please keep in touch via social media.
The Imtech Marine Satellite phone will be used primarily only for the high altitude climbing days away from Base Camp, and for the call from the summit!
I look forward to wearing your logos, to enjoying your supplies at Base Camp, to sharing with you all our experiences, and flying your flag on the Summit.
Please check in with me as much as possible, and thanks for your support and belief in me.
That's ... that quote of the day ... Stage 08 Dakar
"On this day, you can write a book. The beginning was great because we were able to stay on the 130 km long flat-out section on the Salar de Uyuni in the slipstream of the Minis and keep up like this. Strange, but really good: We had a common cause with Nasser Al-Atiyah and made good time by the slipstreaming and pushing about half a minute on the rest of the field. It was like Nascar! On the next downhill piece we had no braking on the rear. But so be it: The first part went to us - we never expected it, because the amount we could lose at altitude was easy ten minutes. The second part also went off well before we had tremendous bad luck. After 15 kilometers, a helicopter of the 'Dakar' organization sat next to us and swirled so much fesh fesh that we could not seen anything more. We hit a rock and had to change the tire after that. That certainly cost us at least three minutes. Still, I think we were the big winners of the two marathon days. Instead of losing time we have made some time in total which is good. Super! "
Dirk von Zitzewitz after stage 08.
That was ... #Dakar2015 Stage 08
Connection: 24 km; special 781 km (of which 274 km neutralized)
Preliminary "Dakar" -Gesamtergebnis after stage 07
01. Nasser Al-Attiyah / Matthieu Baumel (Q / F), Mini, 26: 41.15 hrs.
02. Giniel de Villiers / Dirk von Zitzewitz (ZA / D), Toyota, +08.27 min.
03. Yazeed Al-Rajhi / Timo Gottschalk (SA / D), Toyota, +18.40 min.
04. Krzysztof Holowczyc / Xavier Panseri (PL / F), Mini, +54.38 min.
05. Bernhard ten Brinke / Tom Colsoul (NL / B), Toyota, +1: 22:52 hrs.
06. Erik van Loon / Wouter Rosegaar (NL / NL), Mini, +1: 25.51 hrs.
(Iquique, Monday, Jan. 12, 2015)
Connection: 0 km; Special: 0 km - Today is the day of rest ...
The word "day of rest" is at the Dakar Rally actually a lie. The mechanics experience the busiest and most stressful day of the entire "Dakar", especially after the two marathon days. After all: Their true "day of rest" is already done. During the marathon stage there was time for them to rest. Speaking of time to rest: although the drivers should not drive a single meter on the rest day of the "Dakar", they still have a full program. For the top drivers it is a marathon of media appointments.
(Info via Dirk von Zitzewitz)
And then there were only eight - de Villiers and von Zitzewitz increase pressure at the "Dakar"
Uyuni, January 10, 2015. Only eight minutes and 14 seconds - at the "Dakar" is a blink of an eye. Giniel de Villiers and Dirk von Zitzewitz on one of the toughest stages of the Dakar shortened Attiyah's lead significantly and increased the pressure on the overall leader Nasser Al-Attiyah in the X-raid Mini. On the first part of the marathon stage of Iquique in Chile to Uyuni in Bolivia they faced a tricky route again, and it was thus the hour of navigators. When they reached the 1st WP in Bolivia for the participants of the automobile class de Villiers / von Zitzewitz had caught up with their rivals and stayed with them till crossing the finish line. Although only Sixth on the day, they reached the marathon bivouac - 6:50 minutes behind stage winner Orlando Terranova (X-raid Mini) - but made time on Nasser Al-Attiyah / Matthieu Baumel, a total of 2:58 minutes.
The special stage was over winding mountain passages with hard, rocky ground. It was necessary to be conservative, especially with the tires. Only three spare wheels for two days and a total of 828 km were available to participants at the two marathon days and the trip to Bolivia. A service is allowed only in the evening by the participants themselves, the race trucks that usually run as fast helpers on the same rally route, are not available as they have driven to another bivouac. Incidentally, the last Dakar Rally marathon stage in 2009 decided Giniel de Villiers and Dirk von Zitzewitz's win that year.
That's ... that quote of the day
"A fierce stage! The height makes all the difference. I myself have a hell of a headache. We have caught just before half-time Nasser Al-Attiyah, who got lost. From 170 kilometers on so we have opened the route and did all the work. The navigation was extremely difficult today and you had to constantly be on guard, due to the large number of cars. The marathon is not over yet. But we are happy ".
Dirk von Zitzewitz after stage 07
That was ... Stage 07
(Iquique - Uyuni)
Compound 396 km; Special: 321 km
Preliminary "Dakar" - Overall after stage 07
01. Nasser Al-Attiyah / Matthieu Baumel (Q / F), Mini, 23: 11.50 hrs.
02. Giniel de Villiers / Dirk von Zitzewitz (ZA / D), Toyota, +08.14 min.
03. Yazeed Al-Rajhi / Timo Gottschalk (SA / D), Toyota, +21.16 min.
04. Krzysztof Holowczyc / Xavier Panseri (PL / F), Mini, +54.02 hours.
05. Bernhard ten Brinke / Tom Colsoul (NL / B), Toyota, +57.03 min.
Rally dakar-stages-6 (info from Dirk von Zitzewitz)
Daily and overall second place in the Atacama desert
Iquique, January 09, 2015. A normal working day in the "office": Giniel de Villiers and Dirk von Zitzewitz remain the strongest pursuer of Nasser Al-Attiyah (X-raid Mini) in the Dakar Rally. On the sixth stage of the legendary desert rally de Villiers / von Zitzewitz lost only 37 seconds on the day and still rank 2nd in the overall standings only 11:12 minutes behind Al-Attiyah. At the same time, they built their lead to Yazeed Al-Rajhi / Timo Gottschalk just under eight minutes to 17:32. Al-Rahji / Gottschalk are piloting an identical Toyota Hilux.
The special stage from Antofagasta to Iquique had two faces: At the beginning fast tracks on hard, rocky ground, at the end dunes with extremely soft sand formed the test of the day. During the first part, the lead of Al-Attiyah had built up to about two minutes but de Villiers / von Zitzewitz caught up the majority again. They found the ideal way through the maze of dune slacks and combs and proved perfect teamwork between the driver and navigator.
That's ... that quote of the day
"We were really good today. Giniel just drove great, had a good rhythm - fast but safe - just the perfect 'Dakar' pace. The first part of the stage was rather simple, but we immediately found our pace. Nasser Al-Attiyah was very fast in the first section but we caught back up in the dunes. The dunes were not easy, very soft. I think many other drivers here might have to dig a couple of times. Now we are preparing for the marathon stage. This is a severe distance in the next two days! "
Dirk von Zitzewitz after stage 06
That was ... Stage 06
Compound 392 km; Exam: 255 km
Preliminary "Dakar" - Overall after stage 06
01. Nasser Al-Attiyah / Matthieu Baumel (Q / F), Mini, 19: 30.44 hrs.
02. Giniel de Villiers / Dirk von Zitzewitz (ZA / D), Toyota, +11.12 min.
03. Yazeed Al-Rajhi / Timo Gottschalk (SA / D), Toyota, +28.44 min.
04. Krzysztof Holowczyc / Xavier Panseri (PL / F), Mini, +1: 00.53 hrs.
05. Bernhard ten Brinke / Tom Colsoul (NL / B), Toyota, +1: 04:23 hrs.
06. Erik van Loon / Wouter Rosegaar (NL / NL), Mini, +1: 06:43 hrs.
Omnicane Southern Tropical Challenge - Melt Swanepoel
What could be better than racing your mountain bike on a tropical paradise island, sharing time with good friends and eating local cuisine (yip, that’s a French word...) to refuel for the next day’s ardour? That’s exactly what the Southern Tropical Challenge in Mauritius is all about.
This Mauritian 4 day stage race attracts riders from all over the world with grand champions such as Julien Absalon, Thomas Dietsch and Stephane Tempier all toeing the start line at some stage. As well as being a sponsor for the event, Mauritian logistics company Velogic allowed me the opportunity to start this year’s edition alongside my regular partner Yannick Lincoln, who just happens to be the race organizer and founder too.
As you can imagine the cycling community on an island stretching a mere 60km x 90km is pretty small, but boy do they pull together to produce an outcome far greater than the sum of its parts. Yannick has a full time job as a biokineticist and in his spare time he is trying to qualify for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. With his limited time he relies heavily on the brilliant team around him and some committed volunteers to ensure that the event runs smoothly.
The race retained its popular format of a Thursday afternoon prologue followed by 3 longer stages, raced in pairs as is the norm at MTB stage events. Paradoxically, a puncture on the way to the start was actually good to get the adrenalin flowing and would prove to be our only slice of bad luck during the whole race. Another South African/Mauritian coalition of Ian Pienaar (Europcar) and Olivier Le Court beat Yannick and me by 7seconds over the 8,5km prologue course at the Dodo Club to take the first leader’s jersey of the 2014 race. The fact that I took an ignominious tumble in some long grass while attempting to pass a team close to the finish might or might not have had an influence on our narrow defeat...
Despite threatening rain clouds, conditions stayed mostly dry for the next day’s 65 km stage. Overnight rain had turned the Marc Bassingthwaighte signature cross country course at Domain Lagrave into a skating rink, making for some anxious moments on the tree root invested sections of the trail. Afterwards we continued descending away from Curepipe for the first half of the stage which meant a tough latter half as we had to climb back up to the finish venue at the Dodo Club. Most of that vertical gain was made on the Le Vallon climb where Yannick and I managed to separate ourselves from the 3 other leading teams. We extended our advantage on the interminable drag back to the finish with Thomas Dietsch (Team Bulls) and his partner Julien Nayener (Velo Vert) finishing second on the stage.
Day 3 featured the intimidating 10km Camphrier climb which starts out on painfully steep concrete strips, slowly merging into a mere footpath over the 750m of ascent. Loose stones, peaty earth and moss covered rocks are but a few of the challenges which make this climb so daunting. The beautiful approach to the climb through the antelope rich Yemen Reserve was like a death march as everyone knew what was coming. Towards the top of the climb Yannick and I finally broke free of our competition and we raced home steadily to take another stage win. We also extended our lead, but were always riding conservatively to minimise all potential risks.
The race's luck finally ran out on the last day of the race as a threatening cyclone that made its way past the island brought with it strong winds and copious amounts of precipitation. In reference to the previous night spent in tents Yannick said in his inimitable French accent – “eet was like sleeping in ze chopper!” Enough said.
The mud was thick as we left the tea plantations of our hosts at Bois Cheri and made our way toward the finish line at Point D’Esnay on the coast for the final stage. Yannick and I played it safe, watching as Ian and Olivier battled with Yannick Cornille and Stephane Urbain (team explosive Riders) for stage honours. The Mauritian coalition finally broke free of their Reunion Island competitors, taking the stage win a few seconds ahead of Yannick and me who rode in vigilantly for our 3rd consecutive STC title. In one of his last races as a professional Thomas Dietsch extruded the best from his partner and despite 3 punctures during the race they managed to hang on to 3rd place overall.
1. Yannick Lincoln & Melt Swanepoel
2. Olivier le Court & Ian Pienaar
3. Thomas Dietsch & Julien Nayaner
In the 6 years since its inception the race has really matured, annually improving on the previous rendition to become a premier event. Every year the accommodation, venues and catering improve and the trails on a lava born island are quite unique making for a singular experience. This race has the makings of a spectacular event and with the added benefit of a holiday in idyllic surroundings afterwards, who wouldn’t want to put this event on their bucket list...?
Until next time, happy trails!
Race report by Enduren's Adriaan Louw
Jurgens Uys of Team PSG asked me to race PE<Plett with him and I jumped at the opportunity as it is perfect prep for Pioneer and it's great to race at these new events.
It is a four day stage race from Plett to PE (changes direction every year) dubbed the 'tough one' and the organisers work hard at making the route really tough. This is a unique approach but a great opportunity for riders that are preparing for tough events such as Pioneer or Epic to test their abilities. As a second year event they still have to fine tune a few things but the race certainly has a lot of potential.
Stage one - 126km, 2500m
Stage two - 91km, 1800m
Stage three - 72km, 2000m
Stage four - 72km, 1600m
Total ride time - 15:50 hours
Jurgens was a great partner and we fought as hard as we possibly could for a stage win but the Kargo team of Rourke and Travis gave us limited opportunities to work with. Jurgens is a young rider with a lot of potential but as a full time student it was a tall order to race against two pro riders but I am extremely proud of how deep he dug and how hard he pushed right to the last km of every stage.
We finished 2nd overall and 2nd every day, and on the grueling first stage we were a mere 100 seconds off the two leaders. Perhaps we pushed a bit too hard on day one but it was the only real shot we had as Jurgens can handle the long distances very well. I am really happy with my form and recovery on each stage as I gave my all on the front every day to make sure that I take as much punch as possible to simulate what Pioneer will have in store come October.
I also used the event to test the SWIFT D'Vore Hardtail as a option for Pioneer but I am quite sure that I will go with the brand new SWIFT dual suspension bike (The Evil Twin) rather.
Lourens Luus and I will be going on a Karoo training camp from 27 Sept - 1st Oct to test equipment, train hard and scout the route. After that we will race the Seweweekspoort MTB race in Ladismith before resting up in the final week before Pioneer.
I also want to thank Schalk Louw from PSG for the opportunity and for respecting my sponsors by making custom kit just for the event.
Posts by various Enduren Athletes and other authors will appear in this Blog.