Well, the boulders part should be rocks, rocks, rock, more rocks, sand, rocks, sand and more rocks at the Isuzu Ride the Rock 3 day Mountain Bike stage race in the Cederberg last weekend. It really is a beautiful area to get away from the hustle and bustle of town, as soon as you enter the Cederberg on the way to Sanddrift, no more cell phone reception – beautiful!
The fact that the race fell over my birthday weekend caused me to initially consider not going to the Cederberg, but it has always been a fantastic event, chilled, relaxed and tranquil, so off I went by my lonesome on Thursday afternoon having to drive like Serge Damseaux (without Vito Bonafede to navigate) on the dirt and dusty roads to the oasis in the Cederberg, for now…
Arriving at the camp site and seeing the familiar faces of the Stillwater Sports & Entertainment crew was great, looking at my bike, not so as it changed colour and weighed about 3kg’s more with all the dust that accumulated during my rally stint to the venue.
Anyway Friday was a subdued day as I settled myself in a tent, the first time I have tented since Hlalanathi in the Drakensberg with sisters and brother in-laws, where coffee and Amarula were the preferred drink of choice in the winter cold. Not when you are in the Cederberg, red wine is the preferred drink of choice, but more about that later. The tent was not too bad and one has ample space, choosing the right tent is just important because you do not know if your neighbour would be snoring, farting or talking and wrestling in their sleep. My choice was good and hopefully I did none of the above to my neighbours in the tented squatter camp.
Tented sleep night one done and rise and shine on my birthday for an 81km mountain bike ride. The normal happy birthday stuff from all and Paul Valstar on the PA making the unnecessary announcement that I’m older on the day, anyway off we went and knowing what to expect I paced myself. Former Springbok captain John Smit and his friend Shane Chorley also attended Isuzu Ride the Rock in preparation for the Absa Cape Epic and they came flying passed me just after the start. I eventually caught up with the after the second water point as we hit the serious technical stuff, and when I say serious, I mean serious, it’s not called the mine shaft for nothing as you experience riding the rocks at Ride the Rock and off I went ready to tackle the $itch of a climb that nearly killed me mentally in 2013. And it’s here where us to big boys bonded as we both strolled up the moer of a hill at a pace fitting for two ex-front row rugby players. Yes we did k@k off but chatted about the Absa Cape Epic challenge ahead and numerous other things with regards to cycling and so forth. (I did not mention I’m a Bulls supporter). John is a great guy and during the weekend he made time for everyone that wanted a chat, a true legend and leader and overall great guy (besides being a Shark).
Now this is where things got messy, in 2013 it took me 7h34mins with lifts in a bakkie from time to time to finish stage 1, this year I did it in 7h13 on my peddle power (including the Big Walk and fighting the head wind going home) and as I crossed the finish line got handed and ice cold beer from Paul Valstar and so my rubber arms got twisted into an afternoon and evening of consuming just the right amount of Cederberg Merlot / Shiraz to make my birthday unforgettable as we had a great time during the evening with the crew, friends and even John & Shane being ambushed when they attempted to go to sleep. So we had to be the last that evening to go in search of the tents in the ProNutro branded squatter camp. Between myself, Paul and Corrie we managed to take the best photo of the event (see below) – I won’t elaborate but the fact that the credit does not go to one person should explain a bit… And yes, red wine does make you thirsty and yes you do struggle on the bike the next day and yes I will do it over again, it was my birthday after all.
The next day I rode 5h37 vs 6h12 the previous year although the route was different, well rode is also not entirely the correct word
as we guided ourselves and our bikes through the Cederberg beach front to only go and ride, sorry Walk The Rock (s) as the single track day turned out to be fun, the parts I was on my bike anyway. I blame David Nieuwoudt for producing such excellent wine. Saturday we celebrated Gertjie’s birthday, time keeper at most of Stillwater’s events, so needless to say the same crew were the last to depart the tented camps. I did learn from the previous night though as I did split my wine consumption 50/50 with water.
Day 3 includes another moer of a climb and I was ready for it as I had a much better day on the bike until 15km to go when this lean body just had no more fat reserves to provide energy. I did stuck it out and made the finish line in 4h01vs 4:48 in 2013, a slight improvement. This was a really tough race and I think good preparation for the Absa Cape Epic as the terrain we rode were really, really tough and relentless. I will be back at Isuzu Ride the Rock as it is such a unique and chilled event with riding in the most serene areas and of course the award winning red wine.
Thanks to everyone that made this weekend great and to all the birthday wishes (and cupcake) I received. To John Smit, good luck in your final preparation for the Absa Cape Epic, as you said it will be a colossal challenge but the competition is just with the finish line as us big boys will be spending a lot of hours on our bicycles I am sure I’ll see you on the route and look forward to having a beer in Lourensford on the 30th of March.
Off to the Chiropractor as for some unknown reason this back is crooked again – the tent or the mountaineering on the bike…