It’s a little before 8:30 in the morning. And it’s Wednesday. But this is no ordinary weekday. I’m not sat at my desk working – instead I’m cresting this morning’s climb. It’s been a long, tough, and utterly delightful haul – made even more pleasant for a number of, also unusual reasons. Firstly the bike I am riding. We are far from home, and we have a full 160km of riding planned for the day, but I am not on my normal heavily loaded Audax bike. I am on my Giant TCR Advanced – a nimble rocket-ship that has just made effortless work of the first 40km and 1,000m or so of ascent to this point. more “A gem of a tour”
Calitzdorp, 643km – 06:30 Monday 12th December 2016
One bonus of no longer standing any chance of making the 75 hour cutoff time, was that it made our stops considerably more relaxed affairs. Nico and I were both still keen to complete the full 1,000km route, but there was no longer any specific target time hanging over our heads – aside from a vague notion of “sometime tomorrow“. As a consequence, we didn’t exactly hurry to get moving after our sleep. Both of us grabbed showers, and once again I sat on the wall outside drinking my tea whilst Nico got the rest of his kit together. A flock of small hawks took flight from the tree they had been roosting in a couple of blocks away. Raptors are generally solitary birds, so even without a close look I knew they would be lesser kestrels – their SASOL bird guide entry describes this exact behaviour pretty much word for word. My tea drunk, I went back inside for a last check around the room and to chivvy Nico along. I was keen to get started on the steep climb ahead before the day got any hotter. more “Battling The Beast – part 3”
My eyes opened to a faint light creeping around the edges of the blinds. I didn’t recall the street lights outside being anywhere near that bright and then it dawned on me (quite literally). I rolled over to check on my phone what my eyes were already telling me. It read 05:00.
Crap, crap, CRAP!
16:30, Saturday 10th December 2016,
Slumped over a table in a garage, sun-burnt, heat exhausted, probably dehydrated, and struggling to make any headway on the burger and fries in front of me – I slurped on a chocolate milk shake in a desperate attempt to get some form of calories down. Comparisons with my Joburg 600km DNF didn’t end there. We were 330km in and, as on that earlier failed ride, both Henri and Kenneth were sat at our table. The omens, if you believe in such things, were not good. It felt like we’d battled weather and terrain the whole of the way so far, often both at the same time. Our riding time of 22.5 hours to this point was already dangerously close to the cutoff time, and for the second time today I was giving serious thought to quitting. more “Battling The Beast – part 1”
7th November 2016
A faint trail of dust rises up behind the bakkie, depositing a fine coating on frames, saddles and bars of our bikes, before swirling across the arid landscape and fading out completely. It’s somewhere after 7am, and the morning air is fresh and crisp as I step out to open one of last gates as we leave the farm behind us and head back to civilization, family, jobs, and lives where something other than cycling takes centre stage. more “Climbing a South African icon”
Landroskop Hike, 29th October
Two non-cycling related posts in a row – this is getting to be a habit. Don’t worry though, there are plenty of meaty ride related posts just around the corner.
Few things are more enjoyable for me than an outdoor event with both a significant physical element, and a load of logistics which also need to be planned. In this case though, the much anticipated and discussed event was not a cycling one – but a family hiking trip. Over the past couple of months we’ve been gradually inducting our son Ben into the love of a good ramble. He’s surprised us both to be honest, both in his zeal and his lack of complaining. So much so, that neither of us were remotely daunted by the task ahead – a strenuous, largely uphill 12km hike to a hut in the mountains for the night. Even the low grey clouds scudding through the mountains around us, and the light drizzle that was falling couldn’t dampen our spirits. We’d been excited about this trip for months and now with backpacks loaded (perhaps a little too heavily) we were about to set off into the hills. more “Walking doesn’t suck either”
Bentonville, Arkansas, 6th October 2016
Business travel can be a chore, but it becomes significantly more interesting when one’s destination is new. Not only had I never been to Arkansas before, I’d never ventured into the southern US states either. I must confess, our destination of Bentonville, Arkansas was a complete surprise. I’m not really sure what I expected, but it certainly wasn’t a hipster cafe society vibe – complete with uber-trendy coffee shops and art galleries. It was easy to forget we’d actually swapped from our regular venue in Sausalito, California. But this was not just Arkansas, it was “North West Arkansas” – a subtle but important difference which we were reminded of more than once. more “Running doesn’t suck”
10th September 2016, Cape 300km
I’d already resigned myself to the fact that in all likelihood I would be riding most of this 300 alone. In fact I’d said as much to Yoli the evening before. Neither Gerhard nor Theunis were riding, and everyone on the signup sheet was a faster rider than me. So it came as no surprise to see the blinking tail lights of the main group slowly shrinking ahead of me as the gap between us widened. It was 4am, and I was completely alone in the dark – the civilization of Franschhoek was still 15 or 20 minutes riding ahead. I reminded myself that this would be my reality for two whole weeks if I take on TCR next year, so I’d better get used to it. more “Assumptions and Angels”
The impossible dream, spoken in a south-east London accent by Del Boy to his younger brother across countless episodes of the BBC hit TV series Only Fools and Horses. Something they’ll probably never attain, until of course almost by accident they actually do (albeit briefly). It’s pretty much how I feel about the Trans Continental as I sit at my PC watching all those dots edging their way across the map towards Turkey in this year’s edition. As much as I say to myself I’m going to be there next year, it seems just as far fetched as those words to Rodney.
“Indoor training is boring”
Yep. It certainly can be. But then anything has the potential to become boring – even the most positive outlook can struggle to find interest in mundane tasks done repeatedly. So why willingly submit yourself to possibly the least interesting form of cycling? This is a question I am often asked by guys I ride with who see Strava updates from me regularly cataloguing some recent bout of indoor torture. In a probably long winded and roundabout way, I’m going to attempt to answer that question in better fashion than I usually manage whilst gasping for breath trying to keep up with the person who asked it. more “Dream Factory”