Ultra Marathon 125km 3300m ascent
2013 has kicked off with a bang. With the first weekend of racing under the belt it’s good to have settled the nerves and pushed the body into the racing mode forcefully at a national event, amongst all the top professional racers in South Africa, in one of the most mountainous regions of Mpumalanga.
The small old mining town of Barberton is situated at 800m of altitude and is surrounded by a caldron of mountains rising up to 1800meters in every direction. This only means one thing when it comes to mountain biking, CLIMBING! The race route followed a similar route to the previous additions of this event in that the major climbing was at the beginning of the 75km and 45km routes. The ultra is a combination of the two and has a total accent of over 3300meters over 125km. The field was stacked with all the big names and a top ten podium was always going to be a tough ask, especially with the cumulative experience of the top contenders.
From the end of the neutral zone the pace was quick with many of the guys trying to get into a favourable position before the 14km hill which started at 5km into the race. As the group hit the base of the climb the pace settled and the tactical riding began. The first attack came from Darren Lill who went off the front before anyone had time to react. I went with the lead group who consisted of the 3 ReCM riders, Rouke Cruiser, Charles Keey, current SA champ Max Knox, Matthys Buekes, James Reid and myself. We were then joined by Neil Macdonald and Phillip Buys and Rene Goustra at the top of the climb after King of the mountain.
My goal was to get over the climb in the lead group then see how I could maintain in the group as we descended the other side and went through the first tech zone. At which stage no more than 2 minutes separated the top 8 riders. I came through the 80km point in 8th place and started the 12km climb to the top of the mountain again for the 2nd time that day. After the descent down the other side i could feel the fatigue creeping into my legs and I dropped a couple of positions after my seat post saddle clamp came loose and my saddle slipped. Fortunately after borrowing a multi tool from Darren who had a major flat tire and mechanical I was set to go again but only after dropping the positions.
I crossed the finish line and felt that I had definitely ridden the full 125km but had gained well earned experience of racing at the top level in South Africa.