It was a long trip I did from the Northenmost point in Norway to the Southern part of Africa last week Sunday/Monday, the trip went well and took just over 30 hours. I had 3 days in Stellenbosch to catch up with things before it was time to pack the bags (and car) and drive the 6 hours to Plettenberg Bay where the 4 days PE to Plett stage race started on Saturday. It was the second year for this race and last year it started in PE and finished in Plett, this year they turned the route around but kept the name:-). I was teaming up with Robyn De Groot again, we won Sani2C together in May and we will also do the Cape Pioneer together in October and we had decided to do the PetoPlett as a good trainingcamp together in preparation for the Pioneer.
The PetoPlett’s pay-off line is ”The Tough One” and it certainly lived up to that!!
Day 1 Kurland to Kareedouw, 123km, 2234 meters climbing
I've almost forgotten how long the races are here in South Africa after a summer in Sweden, today was a long day !! We went out quite reserved and never really went in to the red. The first single track after 8km was pretty tricky, it was branches sticking out and trees that we had to duck under and we were happy that we are not so tall! Timo got a branch stuck into his leg and was taken by helicopter to the nearest hospital and had to have 106 stitches, it was a deep wound! Shortly after that single track we had to cross a river and suddenly we were not so happy that we were short, the water went up over the waistline! There were a lot of places where we had to walk up steps etc so the average speed was not so high. The middle part of the course went well and when we had done about 100km and been out for about 5 hours, my energy began to run out, and the last 23 kilometers were quite heavy! We finished as the first women's team and 5th team overall, which we were pretty happy about! The time was 5 hours and 49 minutes! It was a long time since I raced that long, perfect training for Pioneer!
Day 2 Kareedouw to Hankey, 92km 1888 meters climbing
Today's stage started with a bit of tar before we turned off on to a rocky uphill where the field was spread out, it was a lot of riders fighting for space and tricky to choose your line, we ended up a bit further back in the field but could pass team after team until we were in 6th place. The track was a bit boring today, we only had some technical sections in the beginning and then mostly gravel roads, it would have been great with a full suss bike today since the roads were very corrigated. I had a upset stomach in the morning and must have gotten a stomach bug because for the first time ever in my cycling career, I had to stop on route and pay a few visits to the bush, it was terrible to race like that and my energy level just went down. Eventually we rode at training pace and I was very happy to have such a patient team partner that dragged me to the finish. We finished the race in 4 hours and 49 minutes as the first women's team and 6th team overall. This day I was extra glad that we stayed in guesthouses instead of in tents !! I later heard that there were riders who had a stomach bug on this day, so guess it was something in yesterday's dinner ...
Day 3 Hankey to Woodbridge, 71km 1969 meters climbing
I felt better in the morning which was lucky as it was a quick start and it was good to get away with some of the strong guys. We started to notice that some of the men's teams really competed against us, of course they did not want to get beat by a female team. There were a lot of hills today and we were together with Andrew and Greg for a long time but lost them up a long climb and were now laying in 5th place which we kept through the whole race, even though we saw 2 other teams along the route. Towards the end the route got more fun again with some hand built single trails and close to the finish we went on the national cross country champs course which was used a few years ago. We came to the Woodbridge school after 3 hours and 52 minutes as the first ladies team and 5th team overall.
Day 4 Woodbridge to Port Elizabeth, 71km 1518 meters climbing
At race briefing on the last night, we were told the last day was going to be a breeze to the finsih at the boardwalk in PE, but there was nothing easy about this stage! Mentally we were probably prepared for a shorter and easier day and it may also have contributed to that it felt harder. It was a tough course with many steep climbs and a lot of water crossings which makes your bike heavy and noisy, there were also many places where we had to get off the bike, at the same time as we had great views as we approached the coast. If you have time to look around during these races you will see places you would not get to see otherwise! We pushed hard in the beginning since we had some men's teams that really wanted to beat us, we made sure we got away from them and could take it a bit more easy after that. It was very technical towards the end and we played it safe there not to take any risks. We managed a 4th place on the day and a 5th overall. We won all stages in the women's race and overall.
PE to Plett was harder than we expected, it was 4 very good training days for us as a team, since distances and the terrain is very similar to the Cape Pioneer! We look forward to that race!
Now it will be four days of rest before it is time for one of the classic MTB one-day races, Karoo2Coast, hope the legs will have enough time to recover!