I had a few "down" weeks after Berg and Bush, I felt tired and not so motivated and a week after the event I got sick. I think my body needed that little time off and when I was healthy again I felt so much better and the training went well again! I needed those weekends off racing to mentally be motivated again. Since it was just over a month between Berg and Bush and W2W I wanted to do something the weekend before and when a friend of Craigs invited us to join them in Swellendam for the “Swellendam 100” it sounded like the perfect thing to do! It was a great event and I could get the quality session in that I wanted without it being too long and making me fatigued, it was the perfect preparation for the following weekend!
W2W was a special race for Robyn and I and a bit emotional. We won it last year so we were the defending champions and it was also going to be our last stage race together for this time (I hope it was not our last race ever together) since I am leaving Team Ascendis at the end of this year. I will go back to CBC for which I raced for before Team Ascendis and who also have supported me the last 2 years while I race in Europe. It feels like the right thing to do even though it is sad to not be riding together with Robyn next year.
I must say that I got a bit nervous when I could not find Robyn at the start, they were a bit late so I only saw her 5 minutes before start. We have done so many stage races together so it was fine and we do not need to discuss anything, we can just go off and race! The only thing you never know is each other’s forms. Our biggest competition was going to come from Ariane Kleinhans who teamed up with Cherie Redecker for Team Spur and from Vera Adriaan and Candice Neethling who had beaten us at Berg and Bush. I had a good start and climbing up the 8 km first climb I had a rider on my wheel the whole time and I was sure it was Robyn until Craig passed me to tell me that Robyn was off, it was a guy I know who sat on my wheel… The 3 top ladies teams were all together at the top of the climb and on the descent, unfortunately Candice punctured on the way down and they had to stop and never caught up again. On a very fast section I got a stick caught in my crank and it pushed the chain off and I had to stop. Ariane and Cherie got away and I almost thought we were never going to see them again. We chased hard and eventually we could see them again and caught up to them. We were all together through the water point and on to the portage section. It was sad to see that the fire from a few days before had destroyed much of the A-Z trails and we had to do a detour. We rode together with Ariane and Cherie on the first single tracks and I felt that we could go a bit faster so on a piece of gravel road just before another section of single track I attacked and just hoped that Robyn would come with, and she did! We opened up a gap quickly and rode really hard for a bit to see the gap grow. We managed to win the stage by just over 3 minutes.
This day is known to be “play day” due to its many single tracks and not so much climbing. It is a very fast start and Ariane and Cherie were on a mission today! I did everything I could to sit on their wheels but after a while I noticed that Robyn was not with me so I waited. We started chasing and after some time we started to see the other two up ahead. We caught them and basically rode with them the whole day. They went faster than us on some of the single tracks but we always caught back up with them. They both looked strong and we did not feel that we had the power on this day to ride away from them. Team Spur won the stage but we only lost 3 seconds on the overall.
With yesterday in mind and a lead of only 3 minutes (which is nothing in mountainbiking) we had to make sure that we stayed with Ariane and Cherie at all times and could not let them go. I felt good again from the start and we were with them for a long time. They did get a 15 seconds gap at some point but not more. Around the half way mark going through the Wildekrans estate the pace picked up and we were working really hard to stay in the bunch and when I looked around I could see that Ariane and Cherie had dropped. From there we worked hard to stay away and managed to do so all the way to Onrus and the finish. I must say that I was very nervous the last few kilometres since nothing is in the bag until you have crossed the line and a puncture can ruin everything. It was an incredible feeling to cross that line first for the day and as the overall winners! What a great way to finish off 3 amazing years riding with Robyn, it really has been a lot of ups and downs and a lot of fun!!
Thank you to the team and the staff for all the help during the 3 days and well done to Malcolm and Karsten on a great race!
Next up is the Trailseeker in Wellington on Saturday.