202km. 12 riders. The first 6 riders’ times count. As fast as you can go.

That’s the rough outline of the Coronation Double Century. The 200 teams are started in reverse order (fastest last) and since I was starting third last with the Aurecon Men’s Racing Team, I thought I would get to sleep in.  4:30am, not an unusual alarm time for a South African race, me and my 11 sub-veteran teammates rolled out of bed.  We starting the day eating breakfast and eating would continue to be the main focus of the day.  In a long-distance team event, never mind the distance or the weather conditions, there should only three things on your mind: eat, eat and eat.  It should have been a pretty simple day out.

Image courtesy of Capcha Photography

With a team made up of “big boys,” the plan was to go steady on the climbs and then, on every other conceivable type of terrain, go flat-box it to make up for lost time.  We started hard but with the big climbs early in the race, things weren’t as smooth as they should have been and you could feel the team was becoming nervous.  To compensate, we did what we knew best and just kept the throttle open.

As we started to ascend Tradouw’s Pass, the first climb of the day, I used a bit of bicep power to help some of the “big boys” over the top in an attempt to limit our time losses.  After Op de Tradouw, the second and steeper climb, we hit heavy rain and a strong head wind.  With only 60km of road behind us, I hit my first rough patch of the day.

Despite eating and drinking quite a lot, I was struggling to hang on as we pushed the pace hard into the cold wind to ensure we weren’t losing too much time. We pushed through another 40km of solid head wind but all I could think about was the feedzone at 110km.  I had eaten constantly the whole race but when we finally stopped I was empty, empty, empty. I consumed 2 energy bars, a banana, some pancakes, 500ml of coke and a gel.  Add that onto the 2 bars, 1 banana and a gel I had eaten already and I should have been flying. About 20min after the feed zone I was still waiting for my energy to bounce back, but instead I got a bonk.

Image Courtesy of Capcha Photography

As we continued to plough into the head and crosswinds, the big power started to take its toll and soon I was done for the day. Since you only have to cross the line with 6 riders, I dropped off and watched the team power away as I slowed to a “comfortable” pace of around 15km/hr.  With the promise of the tailwind all the way home, I settled in for the remaining 50km. I crossed the line and I was still empty.

On track for a great finishing time, the guys had put in a great ride but had to stop to handle some mechanical problems.  Despite high hope to defend last year’s third place finish, we finished the day without the result we wanted. Sometimes, that’s just cycling…