2 years ago Craig and I took part in a new race called Tankwa Trek outside of Ceres in the Koe Bookeveld, we were 80 riders in total and it was a fantastic race with some of the best single tracks I have ever raced on! Last year I was back at this race which had grown to 290 riders. This year I could not believe my eyes when I came to the venue and saw how big it has become with over 600 riders, it is great to see such a great event grow!
It was the first race that Robyn and I would ride in the same kit as a team! Last year we had different sponsors and rode in different kit, and so far this year there has been one-day races where we ride in our national champs jerseys, so not the same, this was our first team event for Team Ascendis Health! We had incredibaly good support from Barry and Magnus who took care of everything for us, Robyn and I are not used to having such great support around us! The 2 of them had built a very nice chill zone for us where we could relax in the afternoons and only go to our guest house after dinner to sleep, it worked out perfectly!
This race starts and finish at the same place every day which makes it a lot easier logistically!
Coffee machine in our chill zone - sorted!
It was crowded at the start at 06.30 since everyone was fresh and wanted to get a good spot for the first single track early on. After about 10km we found ourselfs in the same bunch as Cherise and Ariane from Team RECM, we knew from the start that they would be our biggest competition for the weekend. After about 25km we got a small gap on them on a rocky climb, but I crashed soon after and Cherise and Ariane were back with us. When we got to the day's longest climb we got away again and when we looked back we could not see them, but then when we were down on the other side they were soon back with us again! By then we thought it would be a sprint for the line in the end. On the last climb of the day we once again got a gap and after the last water point we put the hammer down and managed to stay away for the last 15km and won the stage by 3 minutes, it was a good feeling to get that first stage win in the bag!
Crowded in the start for Craig...
The long climb of day 1
Happy to take the first stage win!
The second day was Queen stage with the Merino Monster as the highlight of the day! 88km and 2050 meters of climbing. It started as repeat of yesterday and we were together with Cherise and Ariane for a long time, sometimes we were a little bit ahead and sometimes they were a little bit ahead but always within sight of each other. On a hill before the real climb I thought we would get away but they stayed on our wheel all the way up. It was a bit nervous starting the Merino all together! I did not have my best day on a bike and I could hear how Cherise was on my wheel even though I was pushing hard. Eventually on the very steep part I heard how she dropped off and we managed to slowly open a gap. Robyn was a super strong and helped me a lot up the climb and on the top I think we had about a one minute gap. We had to keep the preasure on since we know they were good on the descent on the other side so we went down there as fast as we possibly could! We managed to stay clear and won the stage by a minute!
Early morning start
Rode a lot with RECM
Tough up the Merino
At the top of Morino Monster
Good day with great team work!
With a lead of 4 minutes it was still an open race the last day, everyone knows that 4 minutes is nothing in a mountainbike race, a small mechanical problem and the lead can be gone. For some reason they start us at 6.30am for a neutral zone of 26km at a controlled speed which took us 1,5h! The real start was at 8.30am and it was increadibly fast, I could hardly spin my legs that fast with my 1x11 with a 32 chain ring on the front! The first single track comes quickly and everyone was fighting for position. We came in perfect on the wheel of Ariane and Cherise and sat there until the end of the single track, as we exited we went straight on to the first climb, i felt much better today and we pushed hard to open a gap quickly. Since this was the day with most single tracks we knew we had to put the hammer down the whole time since they are good at the single tracks and never to be counted out! The pace was high all the way to the finish and we managed another stage win by 2,5 minutes and it was an incredably nice feeling to cross the finish line as the overall winners of our first team event for Team Ascendis Health! It means even more when one can give this back to such an amazing sponsor that we have backing us this year!
The preasure is on!
Fantastic single tracks!
A huge thank you goes out to Barry and Magnus for all the help at the event and to everyone who works hard behind the scenes to make this possible for us!! And to all our sponsors including Ascendis Health and all their brands, to Scott for the great bikes, to Nike for our glasses, to Cape Brewing Company for the entry and Squirt for the lube!