2012 has already come to be known as a year I will remember. The day I have been training and racing for my whole life arrived as I secured a contract with a continental team, Marco Polo, in Europe. So, with my ticket booked for the Netherlands, South African championships was to be my last race before my departure.
The event was the final step in my preparation for the European season with Marco Polo and I was determined to perform well, especially in the under 23 category. I had carefully planned my training and was hoping for the first hint of form to arrive perfectly upon my arrival in Nelspruit. I had done the training, spent the hours on both the road bike and time trial bike, and I was eager and ready for the races.
However, without even knowing it I had already ruined my chances of this over the previous 2 days. Sometimes, no matter how many times you have done a race you somehow overlook the small things and, as always, these things count.
THE TIME TRIAL
I started the 40km TT and immediately knew I was running on empty…a long day of traveling the day before, a very average warm up, and I was without my normal mental preparation all meant that I was just plain slow. Did you know, in the world of equestrian the term “green” is used to describe a horse or rider that is either untrained or has just started training. Maybe it was because I grew up with two sisters who rode equestrian…maybe it was the horse box start house…in any case, I was feeling a little “green.”
I suffered through the 56min which felt like 2 hours and finished the TT and was fairly beaten by a flying Louis Meintjies, JC Nel, and Myles van Muschenbroek, as well as a few other under 23s. On the positive side, sometimes these thrashings are exactly what you need to remind yourself to go back and do everything properly.
THE ROAD RACE
I relearned my lesson quickly and I arrived on Sunday morning for the 160km road race well and truly prepared.
The road race was always going to be a tough one. We had ridden the route and were prepared for the hammer to be dropped on the climbs, especially, we expected in the first 40km of the course. Oh how wrong we were!
The first two laps were ridden behind Jay Thompson, Robbie Hunter’s sole ally, who paced back the break of day. After 110km done, the break was in sight and as we approached the 5km climb at the beginning of the lap…the hammer dropped.
The bunch splintered into pieces. I rapidly flicked my gear levers to stay at the front but I found myself dropping gears instead of gaining them. I was shelled off the back but I didn’t want to give up, gears were not going to be the reason I was going to drop. With a cadence of 120, life got tough. Luckily, I was able to work with some of the other victims of the acceleration and, madly spinning, we got back. After this effort, my gears seemed to loosen up and I was able to rejoin the bunch at a more comfortable cadence.
With the final climb of the day upon us, Robbie Hunter made his move which turned into the winning break. With no U23’s present in the break my race was still on. We descended down to the start line like wild horses and I prepared myself for the bunch sprint for the under 23 title. For those who have ever seen my sprinting prowess, you will not be surprised to find out that I did not finish on the podium.
I walked away from champs with no results but happy to have ridden with some very talented and accomplished riders…and beaten some of them too! The 160kms was also a great way to finish my preparation for Europe. Not only is there an extra 160km of pure racing in my legs, but I refreshed my drive and relearned some valuable lessons. Holland hier kom ik!!