The first race of the season is always a bit of a crazy one, although this was my second one it was my first stage race. I lined up with Candice Lill on Thursday afternoon to kick off the weekend's racing fun with the Prologue. I must admit doing a race in the afternoon in South Africa will remain strange to me, but we made it happen and took the leader's jersey to head into day 2.
We opted to stay in the race village as accommodation options are a bit limited and driving up and down was more of a mission than staying in the tents. I actually really like the whole camping vibe you get at the Tankwa Trek. Dryland also sorted us out with our own little block so we were able to set up a gazebo and make our own little village inside the race village.
Day 2 arrived and for the first time since this event started, they switched things up and took us the reverse of what we normally do. The Witzenberg Valley is absolutely amazing and I have to admit I quite enjoyed doing the route in reverse. It was really nice to get the big climb out of the way in the beginning but that said the flip side was that we had a very rocky and rough second part of the route that is normally slightly downhill. This meant we had a very long and rough drag to get us back out of the Witzenberg valley and back to base camp. Candice and I raced really well together and although we had a gap from early on in the race we kept the pace hard and raced as hard as we could in preparation for the Absa Cape Epic in a short 5 weeks’ time.
Onto Day 3, the mighty Marino Monster glistened in the Karoo sun. Again we had a good start getting a gap but that was a bit short-lived when Candice had a mechanical at about 15km into the stage. We managed to fix the problem but lost around 10min, from there the race was on and the first order of business was to get ourselves to the tech zone, about 16km away, where our amazing support crew was waiting for us with everything we needed and some yummy snacks J. From there we kept our foot on the gas to make up the lost time and summit the Merino first to take Queen of the Mountain. On top of the Merino, we quickly filled up our bottles and enjoyed the hard-earned descent back to Kaleo to take our 3rd victory.
Day 4 came and my body could feel the beating from the last three days in the unforgiving Ceres mountains. We swallowed our delicious breakfasts and got ready for the final day. Again we were in for something new, with a brand new course we have never done before. The open roads and the fun single track were welcomed with open arms and glimmers of glee, the sand however was a bit of a surprise, but we sailed through and made our way to the Kaleo Guest Farm for the final time to be welcomed in with Champagne showers.
Massive thank you to all the people involved in getting this amazing event back on track. It was dearly missed last season and so grateful we all get to ride and race our bikes again.
Next up will be some XCO racing before heading out to the big one end of March.
As always stay safe and enjoy the trails.