Race SPECS: 45km, 700m climbing, 1hr38min
After a great week of training on the bike and some hard efforts for the final prep for JHB2C I decided to race the local Roag Series rather then heading up to Clarens for the ultra Marathon. My rational was that the speed and intensity of the Sugar rush race was exactly what I needed before the 9 day race later this week, rather then a serious fatigue stress from the 120km ultra. I knew the intensity of the short race was going to be tough but I had also decided with Tyronne that we would race the Balito race as a team and make sure we worked together and that one of us needed to win. That would be decided on the day as to who was feeling the strongest and who could take the chances needed to stand on the top step. Owing to the terrain and rolling nature of the route we needed to be very careful as to not stress the legs with unnecessary attacks or efforts off the front as we knew the decisive move would probably come down to a sprint finish up to the line.
The Sugar Rush Classic start wasn’t that fast and we had a good couple of kilometres to get the speed up before the first real climb. This came at about 13km in as we rounded the Dudley Pringle dam and then hit a short kicker climb about 6 minutes long. This was the first real split in the big group that had formed and about 5 riders made it over and down the single track. I got into the single track first and lead the group down until my front wheel washed out and I slid down a short section of very sandy trail. I wasn’t hurt and managed to jump straight back on the bike only to have lost 2 places in the line of riders. The route rolled continuously for another 9km and because only some guys were willing to work at the front of the group we were joined by another 2 riders who had chased back onto the leading pack. The biggest and longest of the climbs came at about 23km and climbed over 200m vertically in over 1.7km. I set a strong pace from the base of the climb and split the group to the 5 riders who had go over the 1st climb. The pace quickened and we hit the top with a good kick and a tough effort from the two XC riders Brendon Davids and Julian Jessup, with Tyronne quickly following the wheels. We descended quickly off the top of the climb only to hit another shorter climb and the pace quickened again. Was starting to feel the affects of my slip in the single track on my one side but I knew I should be able to hang on to the finish as it was particularly flat and rolling.
Our group was now down to 4 and Brendan was looking strong when he went to the front and pulled for his turn. I had the confidence that Tyronne knowing the route, he would be able to hit the last long section of single track and pick up the pace. I would then let him ride ahead and force the other two to chase him down then I would sling shot round to attack again. This plan worked well, fortunately for us Brendon Davids dropped off the group with a mechanical leaving only Julian Jessup in the mix. I must say Julian raced very well to stick with us after our attack after attack but when it came down to the sprint Tyronne had a very good kick and claimed the overall win just ahead of Julian with me on the back of the group.
This bodes very well for Joberg 2 C as we head into the final week before the big depart on Friday.