Race SPECS: 60km, 1400m climbing, 2hr35min
Karkloof country Club
After a week from Joberg2c I wasn’t expecting fireworks from my legs as I made my way to Karkloof but the consistent riding and experience paid off as managed my best result yet at KZN’s oldest classic. The long term fatigue of a big stage race can often be felt only a couple of weeks down the line after the event, but in the short term you know you’ll feel heavy and lethargic and lack the speed needed for XCO style riding. This was definitely the case with my race over the past weekend, where I could feel I lacked the snap but I had the consistent steady power for the long climbs and bumpy grass sections of the race. The Karkloof is always a very fast technical race and has always been a good attractive event for many of the Top pros from around the country to test the legs and have some fun on the trails.
The 2015 edition of the Karkloof Classic marathon followed a predominantly similar route to last year with a couple of tweaks here and there to account for tree felling of some tree compartments but the usual suspects were still on the route to make things exciting. Rene’s rumble, the gauntlet, bat out a hell, Lebanon climb, Campbell’s climb and other sections that either spark a smile or clenching of the jaw, all played some part in the 2015 race.
The racing only really starts as the main group hits the bottom of Campbell’s climb, this year, relative to others a very similar race panned out and the first attack went off the front lead by Max Knox (BIOGEN). His pace was matched by a couple of the contenders in the lead group and this split the field apart heading up to the first section of single track that leads down to the gauntlet. Max and Alan Heathery (Kargo) were the first into the track and quickly got down to the bottom of Lebanon with no mistakes or issues. I found myself in the chase group a couple of seconds off which consisted of Adriaan Low (Contego), Stuart Marais and Julian Jessop (Concept-Cyclery). We had a small gap on the chasing Darren Lill who had been caught up in the single track before the biggest climb up Lebanon. Darren paced himself back onto the group by the top of the climb and regained contact as we hit the “Kruger Park” section of open grassland trail. From the top of “Bat out a hell” the group split again and I found myself just behind the youngster Julian Jessop. We hit the bottom of the trail and had a sizable gap on the chasers. The next climb aptly named the “pressure cooker” gradually climbs back up to the top of the Khyber pass. This was where Darren made another come back and joined Julian and I before pushing hard and thereby gained a small gap. The pace was kept high and we then passed Alan Hatherley who’d spent too much effort trying to keep up with the supremely strong effort of Max Knox. The race was now on towards the finish line and I knew I had to keep the pace up and use the steady power over the last section of tufty grass. I held Julian off and knowing the last couple of kilometres were flat I pushed hard to stay away from his wheel. The plan worked and I crossed the line in 3rd place just 20 seconds behind Darren Lill.