The Elusive Top 10 Finish

1. I have been a bit lazy lately after two awesome stage races (Swazi Frontier & Wines2Whales). Riding on plot roads begs significant discipline & motivation neither of which I have in abundance at present.

2. I saw a poster for a 60km (4x15km laps) race in the newly established Buffelsdrift MTB Park North of Pretoria near Roodeplaat Dam. Haven’t managed to get there yet so it presented an opportunity. I expected it to be a smallish event.

3. The entry fee was low and the event was to benefit the Rotary, so a good cause and all that.

Three good enough reasons. Race on. Fortunately I am not competitive at all 🙂 so the strategy was simple, pretend you are only there to make up the numbers and do a social ride, then wait until the real racers have escaped, after the usual 500m from the start … then start racing the other social rider in front of you, that is, the other one also left behind.

The field was rather compact shall I say, the starter was able to address us without the usual electronic aids and he counted out loud from 4 downwards to signal the start. For the first time in a long while … a very long while … I was able to keep up with the top guys after 500m, all of them packing the usual hard tail bikes, well tanned & oiled legs and youth. I took my rightful position at the rear, initially for fun’s sake but shortly thereafter I realized with a small field and no-one to follow and few tracks to see, I’d better keep up so I didn’t get lost. I couldn’t but at least did long enough to be able to see someone in the distance.

There was off course some very enjoyable riding. Buffelsdrift is a great venue and I’ll be back there for sure. Back to the race. For most of the the race I rode on my own, other than passing the odd non-racing social riders … in the usual race way … sneak up on them, breathe deeply and sprint pass as if it’s your normal pace. It worked mostly … until I caught up with three riders, one of them on a fat bike. They looked rather impressive, the looked strong & fast. They weren’t racing, social weekend riders, just on the same course. At first I thought I’d follow their wheels, but I’m “racing” and I’m NOT competitive remember … so I performed the passing method. It went pretty well actually, except I kept hearing funny noises behind me, I suspected it was the fat bike, obviously in the hands of a rather competent rider, off course I pretended to not notice. I see on Strava during this episode I rode a segment in the 9th best time of 392 previous riders, I was clearly trying to shake off the fat bike, which I eventually did … 3km later, when he pulled off to wait for his other 2 friends. I pretended I was the stronger one but I had clearly been upstaged.

So at some point we got to the finish, I was told I finished in 7th place, an elusive Top 10 placing at last! For a moment I had flashes of Rio 2016 and a wild card invite to the Tour de France, that was until reality set in and I remembered we were only 10 at the start and I noticed one rider had pulled out after I had completed my 3rd lap.

In the end it was a very enjoyable experience all round, it’s why I ride my mountain bike, so I can escape reality in any form or shape and allow my mind total freedom to enjoy like a child, pretend to be whoever I want to be at that moment in time, to indulge into micro battles and to enjoy what nature has put on offer for this day, all of these contributing to making a few more precious memories.

Trying out the new Wolwespruit MTB Park

Wolwespruit MTB Park opened on Saturday 4 July, located at the extension of Jochemus Street, Erasmuskloof next to Kloof Hospital (made me wonder when I rode up to the gate). The park is the newest edition on the ever growing community of MTB and trial running parks in Gauteng. The park is MTB and trial running friendly, I in fact saw more runners than cyclists. The full MTB route is about 13km, I like many others rode there, did a loop and rode back home as it is conveniently located in the heart of Pretoria East.

My first impressions. First let me congratulate the team who put Wolwespruit together, a lot of very hard work and long hours have gone into making this dream a reality for them, least of which must have been getting permission to utilize the land. The whole area is fenced in with a barbed fence so other than breaching the perimeter, there should be no unwanted traffic. The route is still brand new so it’s a bit bumpy even with my suspension settings as soft as possible, I am sure the tracks will smoothen up as they get bedded in. The first half of the route in the lower section is tight and twisty and I had my hands full on the 29er. It’s very much a stop and go affair and personally I think there is opportunity to reward with a bit more flowing track which I am sure will come with time. There are three steepish climbs in the park, all get the legs and lungs going but are rideable, really good exercise and a fair challenge. The downhills are a bit rough and took some concentration to navigate down. As with most other sections, as the trial settles in and the tracks open up and smoothen, these are going to be a real treat! Whilst I didn’t find the trials overly technical, they are in my opinion not beginner friendly and this is an opportunity the team should not lose sight of, there’s a big market of experienced riders who want to bring their families along to do easier riding while they tackle the advanced challenges.

I enjoyed the trials and I think it’s a park with great potential. I’ll definitely be a supporter. Congratulations to everyone who made their dream a reality and thank you for some new trials in Pretoria East.

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Wolwespruit Trial (Small)