Trance Baviaans mtb race – 230km non stop in 24 hours by monkey6


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									“Trance” Baviaans mountain bike race: 230km non-stop within 24 hours. Report by Murray Thomas. The spelling is wrong. The correct title is Trans (which loosely means to cross, or travel) Baviaans, but in doing this race, you, sooner or later, will have a trance experience. (Defined as “condition of unawareness of things in which visions, hallucinations etc are experienced and any acts performed are unconscious” – Penguin English Dictionary.) This annual winter team mountain bike starts in Willowmore, Eastern Cape, goes through the World Heritage Site of Baviaans Kloof, and finishes in Jeffreys Bay – on the coast near Port Elizabeth – all within 24 hours. Outside of the distance challenge, no personal seconding is allowed at the first 4 checkpoints, the route is not marked, some 8 hours will be night riding, it’s cold, there are a gazillion river crossings, it’s easy to get lost, and when you get into the Baviaans Kloof proper, there’s a sign warning you of dangerous wild animals. And, oh, there are a few climbs. My motivation for wanting to do this race was simple; it represented a compelling reason to train through winter. Every morning when it was cold and wet in Cape Town and I didn’t want to go cycling, I thought of the madness of 230kms on a mountain bike, and the fear was enough to get me up and training. Route profile. Imagine Cape Town with some geographic changes and no tar roads. You would start at Life Cycle car park in Parklands and take a 130km ride to Saldanha; on the way there toss in three Suikerbossies. Once at Saldanha, do a Tokai Forest mast and back. Then a long lap of Koeberg Nature Reserve. After this there is a 20km uphill where you’re not quite sure if granny gear is the right one to stay in all the time. From there it’s another 2 long laps of Koeberg with a Suikerbossie thrown in for good measure. (Remember since Tokai Forest you’ve been riding in the dark, and the temperature is 3 degrees.) You’re cold, tired and grumpy, and now there are 2 must-make unmarked turns, unless you want to cycle 40 kilometers extra. At this late stage of the race, it is very important to pay attention to THE MAP, which by now is wet, soggy, and is stuck to the empty Gu packets in your cycling jersey pocket. Team entries only. For safety reasons, you have to ride in a team of 2, 3, or 4 cyclists. After the Argus this year I “sold” Baviaans to two mates; one a 2hr 50 min Argus road biker who’d just bought a mountain bike, the other a strong mountain biker with years of experience. (I bought my first mountain bike 8 months ago and thought it prudent to invite a friend who already had all

the technical/mechanical skills.) team member.

I put word out for a suitable fourth

There were queries, promises and some training sessions. One month before the race, the back-pedaling started. “Too expensive.” “The downhill passes are steep and dangerous”. “Why miss the beautiful views by riding at night?” “Got tickets for All Blacks at Newlands that weekend”, etc. With an end of July entry deadline looming, I had no team for Baviaans. I asked Outriders to post a “wanted” advert on the newsletter. I got a positive reply from fellow Outrider John and then a few days later another positive from Peter Mann, a friend who knew someone who’d seen the Outriders newsletter. the Trans weekly Wilkinson, friend of a

Then the day before entry deadline, a fourth team rider, who, in return for team naming rights, would supply free cycling gear. All systems go! Due to the last minute nature of getting 4 people together, we never once did a team training ride. And as it transpired, the fourth team member who was to supply our kit, (and who stayed late in Cape Town the day before the race to pick up the cycling gear) bailed via cell phone when we were half way to Willowmore in the bakkie. Luckily the three of us had bought additional cycling gear. Training. After the Argus I was ok cycling fit. Through May and June I tried to do as many Saturday morning Outrider leg looseners as possible, and hooked up with a social group on a Sunday to ride 3 hr casual mountain bike rides in Tokai Forest/Jonkershoek. In the first week of July I road cycled to Knysna, which proved to be the single most important reason why I didn’t cramp up on the Trans Baviians. In hindsight, I can’t think of any better way to build a solid base. A month before the race I wanted to do a long ride – it didn’t happen. I hooked up with Willie Engelbrecht’s kamakazie Thursday night 75km mountain bike training ride, and with the Southern Suburbs equally crazy Wednesday night Tokai Forest night ride; but only once each. I found coming home at midnight in the week after wild night riding was counter productive the next day at work. For three weeks prior to the race I went to spinning classes twice a week, and did lots of upper body gym work. During those three weeks, I was doing less than 4 hours a week real cycling and another 3 hours gym work. I tried a couple of Sunday Outriders mountain biking rides (the ones leading up to K2C). They were/are good, but I’m of the opinion that mountain biking is all about grinding up steep inclines in granny gear. Although the Sunday Outrider mtb rides combine social with training, I found the choice of terrain never got me grunting in granny gear.

Once a week I went for training rides in the neighbourhood, concentrating on pedaling with one leg at a time. This was to find out which was my weaker leg, to strengthen it, and to practice applying power through the entire pedal stroke. Bikes and equipment. To minimize mechanical failure, my bike went in for a full service before the race (as did the others). Mine and Peter’s tyres were tubeless (with Stans) winter knobblies. John had a standard tube and tyre combination. Amongst us we had 6 bombs, 3 spare tubes, puncture repair kit, chain lube, two hand pumps, chain link tool, spare brake pads, and a full set of Allen keys. Peter and I rode full suspension bikes; John rode a hardtail. Once you’ve strapped lights on, and are loaded up with a full camelback, juice bottle, mandatory first aid kit, windbreaker and spares, it’s quite a load. Obviously one can save weight by going hardtail, but I think comfort from full suspension is worth the additional weight penalty.

Route on the day. At the start, the weather was bleak, overcast and cold. and off for the past two days – lots of puddles around.

It had rained on

The first 30km or so is on a wide hard-pack gravel road with uphill rolling hills. The headwind lent itself to paleton-type riding. The pace was too fast for me – like average speed 22kph. I really suffered in this first stage. When you’re riding in your team, you can control the pace; but in a paleton of 30, I had to hang on … panting and uncomfortable. You may have ridden with John Wilkinson. He’s pretty bulletproof on a road bike and had no problem riding paleton. Our other team mate, Peter, was even more bulletproof. Once we dropped down the first pass into the Baviaans Kloof proper, the paleton split up. It was only after 2 hours that we were able to ride together in our own group of three. Thankfully the pace settled down. There are 7 compulsory checkpoints en route, roughly spaced 30km apart. It’s tricky to work out how long it’s going to take to the next stop, because it’s all about what the terrain is going to be like, and how you’re feeling. I went through a few bad patches. I got dizzy, and felt pap. Ditto for John. Nothing seemed to faze Peter; he was strong throughout the race. It was never discussed what would happen if one of us couldn’t keep up. We did split up for the Mother of All Climbs, and regrouped at the checkpoint on top of the mountain. For the rest of the ride we were never more than 30 meters apart. The road is not good for single file drafting,

and at night it is too dangerous to sit behind a team mate’s wheel. Nobody pushed anybody up any hill, and although we were a team, you have to ride it as an individual; you can’t rely on drafting or hiding in a bunch to get you to the end. Although we’d never ridden before as a team, we had a fantastic ride in that we stuck together, no one had sense-of-humour failure, no mechanical problems, and excellent driver backup ( at checkpoints 5 and 6). The not so fantastic part is one’s individual and mental battle to keep on going. I know that many times I was in a complete trance. When I think back, there are many blank moments in my memory, especially so between checkpoints 4 and 5. I “lost” 20 minutes. I can’t remember how, or why, or what; but I must have been there riding. After the race I quizzed Peter and John. They confirmed I was actually alert and rding, but I can’t remember any part of that section – it’s a blank screen for me. Accidents. We passed 3 accidents. Significantly they were all within 1 kilometer of a checkpoint, and only after checkpoint 5. I put those accidents down to fatigue, and cold legs after stopping. After checkpoint 6 the same thing almost happened to me, but I managed to put a leg out just in time and recover without falling. John had an accident free ride; Peter had a small tumble on a steep climb because the guy in front of him suddenly stopped. There came a time near the end when I was so tired I gave up being cautious going downhill. All I was thinking was, “let the end come, and it’ll come faster if I go faster downhill.” Peter’s hart rate monitor clocked us at 60kph on one downhill at 1am in the morning, and danger was the last thing on my mind. Clothing. The minimum temperature was 2 degrees. During the day I chose 3 layers for upper body warmth and opened and closed zips to regulate temperature. After midnight I changed the layer at my skin to a sub-zero rock climbing type sweater. I didn’t wear a lycra cycling top at all. I reckon lycra is useless in very cold conditions because the fabric doesn’t have moisture wicking properties. Put differently, lycra doesn’t take moisture off your skin, all it does is absorb it. That combined with a nonbreathable windbreaker means all the sweat/moisture you generate can’t escape, and you become wet and cold, especially on the downhills. There are many fine local outdoor clothing brands on the market. I use them and they work. But, when faced with a long and cold time outdoors I find them unsuitable, and I wear gear made in countries like Norway or Canada. These guys know cold, understand the concept of layers, and their stuff is made from fancy (expensive) fabric that wicks moisture away from your skin. Over the Norwegian skin layers I wore a Canadian Gortex-type windbreaker that lets moisture out, and doesn’t let the rain and cold in.

Eating and drinking. Downhill I want both hands on the bar. So I forced myself to eat and drink mainly on the uphills. I struggled to chew whilst climbing, but rather that than crash and burn downhill with one hand on the bar, and the other groping for a power bar. Time. We took 16hrs 18min to finish, which gave us an average speed of about 14kph. Our actual ride time was 13hrs 40min, which meant almost 3 hours spent at checkpoints. With a dedicated second at each checkpoint, one could easily shave an hour off the stopping time. But logistically, seconds are not practically possible at every checkpoint. This means you have to do everything yourself; find your bag, mix your juice, clean your chain, top up your camelback, etc. The finish. As first timers to the race, and as first timers riding together, we gelled well. The camaraderie was fantastic, and we were delighted with our time! Just to finish the world’s longest one day stage mountain bike race, together, with a team average age of 49 years old, and within some 8 hours the 24 hour time limit is a monumental achievement. But the finish is a private victory. The world is asleep at 2.30am in the morning, except for seconds and officials. They are also tired. If there is one hand clap at the finish line, then it’s alot. Less is more. I would rather have one hand clap from my friend Ian who looked after us as a driver/second and shake the cold hands of John and Peter, than have a thousand anonymous claps from the public at large. The finish of the Trans Baviians in Jeffreys Bay, and the concept of the event is entirely fitting with the larger picture in life; those who hang in for the long haul are those who matter. Baviaans next year? For sure! Well… maybe. End

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