A few weeks ago I got a phone call from my partner Robyn who told me that she got an answer to why she felt weak at the Epic and ever since, she has the Coxsackie virus and there is no medicine for it and no one really knows how long it will take to go away. It was uncertain for a long time if Robyn was going to be able to do Sani2C with me or not. We won that race together last year and of course wanted to try to defend our title. 4 days before the race start it was finally decided that Robyn was going to rest and not race. We got Vera Adrian as a last minute stand in partner for me, she is a 21 year old Namibian girl who lives in Stellenbosch and had showed good form at the last marathon race in Clarens a few weeks ago where she finished 4th, 2 minutes behind me.
I was looking forward to riding those routes of Sani2C again, it was going to be my 5th time since I have done Sani twice and Joburg2C twice before, Sani2C are the last 3 days of Joburg2C. It is an awesome event with lots of handmade single tracks! New for this year was that the route was on GPS, not marked!!
Our accommodation the night before the start
Before start of day 1
Day 1 from Underberg to Mac Kenzie (Ixopo), 81km, 1144 meters climbing
When we drove from our accommodation outside Underberg to the start at Glencairn farm we saw 0,5 degrees on the thermometer!! It was a chilly morning to say the least! When we started at 8am it was warming up so we even left our armwarmers. It was a hard start to the race and when the bunch split up we found ourselves together with RECMs Cherise and Ariane and Candice and Bianca. On a long single track Ariane and Cherise got away and we saw them for another bit but eventually they were gone. We got away from Candice and Bianca and we were working hard and well together, we thought we were comfortable in 2nd so we were a bit surprised when we saw the Sasol racing ladies of Yolandi and Cathrine catching us. We rode together with them for a while and I must say that my legs were taking strain and so were Veras so eventually we lost them up a steep climb. It was a hard day for both of us and we finished in 3rd place 6,5 minutes behind RECM and 2,5 minutes behind Sasol.
We had a very good set up at our camp, we stayed in a tent but not in the normal race village but by the campers, it was a bit more quiet there and not so many people snoring! The best was that we did also not have to carry the boxes every morning, we could just leave our bags in the car.
Our home for 2 nights
Day 2 from Mac Kenzie (Ixopo) to Jolivet, 99km, 1662 meters of climbing
We started at 6.30am, just as it got light! The beginning of this stage is incredible, we drop down the Umkomaas valley on handmade single tracks for 20km, it must be some of the best single tracks in the world! It is important to get a good start since the single tracks comes early in the race, we were on the trails as the second ladies team but Sasol caught up with us on the way down and we were together with them at the bottom of the valley and we were in a good bunch. I had good legs today but unfortunately Vera was tired and dropped out of the bunch. It became a long day for us and I tried my best to motivate and help her. As long as we were 3rd we were still happy. We crossed the finish line as 3rd only to later in the afternoon find out that Theresa and Samantha had started in B batch and done a 10 seconds faster time then us to push us down to 4th. It was really disappointing to hear since we absolutely would have pushed harder to make up 10 seconds somewhere if we knew they were that close… We were still 3rd on GC though.
Finish after day 2
Day 3 from Jolivet to Scottbourgh, 82km, 892 meters of climbing
The last day sees a reversed starting order where the slower riders starts first at 7am and A and B batch starts at 10am, this so that more people will be at the beach to see the winners finish. It is said to be an easier day since we start at 700 meters above sea level and finish at the beach, but it is not completely true that it is only downhill…. It is a very fast stage so one has to be on your toes at all time and it is hard! Vera is very quick in the start and got away in a good position, unfortunately she could feel her legs from the hard stage yesterday and we had to tap off a bit. I felt really good on the day so I could help her a lot today and it all worked very well! We were between 4th and 5th place most of the race and when we got on to the floating bridge 600 meters from the finish the 4th team was just in front of us and we were only 1,5 min behind 2nd place, so we were still happy since we defended our 3rd place overall!
Finishing on the beach
Tired after 3 dusty days:-)
The podium for GC
Vera has done a tremendous job to take on the challange to race for a top spot in a star studded ladies field! She is only 21 years old and has never really raced a stage race (difference between riding and racing), a huge thank you to her for racing together with me for Team Ascendis Health!! Also a big big thank you to our mechanic Magnus who took such good care of us during those days to put up or camp every day and look after our bikes so that we had no mechanicals during the race! Thank you Team Ascendis for making this possible for us!!