Total Distance: 106km, Climbing: 2200m, Time: 4hr:19 min
The next instalment of the MTN ultra marathon series was set in the very historical town of Tulbagh in the cape winelands over the past weekend. We flew down a couple days prior to the race and spent some time on my wife’s family farm near Baines Kloof pass. The weather in the cape is nearing the end of the dry season but a couple mils of rain in the weeks before had greened up some of the lands in and around the race venue but for most of the views were dry brown and dusty.
Tulbagh was a race i’d never done before which meant i would have to ride “blind” so to say. It really helps to know the route and know where you can push and where you need to conserve energy, especially when you are facing over 100km of daunting terrain. The route started at Saronsberg wine estate and wound its way around the greater Tulbagh valley before looping back to the race venue. The overall climbing was only registered as 2200m which is considerably less than most of the other ultra marathons, but this was not to be underestimated as the climbing was short and sharp and then fast paced down the orchards, vineyards and fynbos roads. This coupled with the rocky and bolder strewn paths made for a very tough ride through the picturesque cape mountains.
My race started well and I got over the first climb of the day with the lead group feeling strong but on a descent down over a rocky river crossing my tire burped and lost almost all the air. I stopped and inflated the wheel with a sealant canister but the tire wouldn’t seal and the burped tire was more of an issue. After plugging a hole and getting going again I had lost 5min of time and would have to chase the entire day. I managed to chase back from 20th place to 10th place over the next 10km but then ended up in no-mans land between groups on a flat section of the track. The group would always be faster than me so I had to ride very hard to maintain the gap and keep in contention with a top 10 finish. As the route hit the 70km we started a series of serious climbs hitting 20% gradient in sections I caught Darren Lill and Louis Bresler, I knew the rest would be just up the road but the legs were feeling the hard chase efforts i’d put in early during the day. The last move put me into 8th place overall and put me just behind Erik Kleinhans of RECM.
Overall I had a hard day on the bike and felt that i had raced as best as I could consider the puncture and loosing time. Onwards to the next event.