I really needed to take a break from everything cycling related after the last race last year, that also meant no updates here on the website. It was a long year and I was very tired. When I analysed the year I realized that I had not been really sick or injured for the whole year which meant no forced rest, previous years I have always had some kind of a break. So no wonder I was so tired both physically and mentally. 2017 was a good year in many ways! I also did an interesting exercise counting how many nights I had been away from home and how many different beds I had slept in, 105 nights and 52 different beds! I ended up doing 52 race days during 2017.
The training started at the beginning of December and day 3 I felt that something happened in my back on the way home from a ride, it was incredibly painful. I must have pulled a muscle and I was in pain for 4 weeks and it hindered me a bit in the first build up. It was sore to walk but better to sit on the bike which I was happy about. After a few appointments with the Chiro and an MRI it eventually eased up and I was pain free again. I really feel for the people with constant back pain, it is very energy draining! About a week after the back was all good again, I had a fall on the MTB. One of those silly ones! I had just had a skills clinic and we were done and just rolled down to where we had started when my front wheel just disappeared under me in a corner, I was just not concentrating on what I was doing. I hit the ground hard and got a big sore on my elbow and my hip was suddenly double the size! I cleaned the elbow but after a few days it started to go all read, warm and swollen so I went to the doctor and he gave me antibiotics. It was sore, and I could not do any off-road riding at all. At the same time, I got an incredible toothache and went to the dentist who said I had to pull out a tooth, but best not to do it close to a race.
The first race of the year is Attakwas and we were leaving on Friday morning, I had to decide if it was worth going with a sore arm or if I should stay at home. Craig and I went for an early ride and I could still feel the arm but could at least hold the handlebar, so I decided to go to Attawas. At the same time, I got a message from Caron who was coming with us to drive the car from start to finish and also give us bottles at the water points. She had gotten a tummy bug during the night and could not join us! I started texting everyone I could think of to find someone to drive the car and someone to help with the bottles, I managed to find both!! As we were busy packing the car Stallion called to say that something was wrong with our alarm and we had to wait for the technician to come out to fix one of the beams, we were starting to wonder if someone was trying to stop us from going!?
Attakwas is said to be the toughest one-day race on the SA calendar, and it probably is with its 122km and 2900m climbing through very tough and demanding terrain. It is called “Hell of the south”!
It all felt better in the morning of the race, I could only feel the arm a bit in the warm up but as soon as we started the pain was almost gone, it is amazing how adrenaline works! Since it is a UCI race we have a ladies only start, it was also the first race in the Marathon World series. It was a strong field with many top riders and this was evident when we were still 6 riders together at the first feed station after 45km! From there it got tougher as we entered the Attakwas kloof with its steep climbs and rugged terrain. Ariane was setting a very high pace on the downhills and no one could follow her, we chased her back on the flats and up hills. Eventually I could not hold Arianes pace on an uphill and Sabine also passed me. The two of them disappeared and I could hear that I did not heave anyone else behind be, from here everyone was on their own. I passed a lot of riders fixing punctures and eventually I passed Sabine when she was busy fixing a puncture. I was riding in second from there to the finish, never looking around. It had started raining, something which I don’t think I have ever experienced at the Attakwas before, it was very welcomed after the heat we have had in Stellenbosch the last few weeks, but it also made the course even tougher. I took it very careful on the downhills not to risk another fall and I think I lost a lot of time there. After the “Spur water point” half way in to the race there are only gravel roads left to the finish and it is a very lonely road where you spend a lot of time thinking and it is difficult to motivate yourself to push hard when you see no one. I was happy with how I felt and that I could push hard the last bit and still had something left in the tank when I came to the finish.
After all that had happened during the days leading up to the race and with my arm and being on antibiotics I was incredibly happy to finish in 2nd, I really had not expected that before the start! I was 12 minutes behind Ariane who did a fantastic race, she has had 2-3 tough years, so I am happy for her to be back racing at the top again! Craig won the vets category and we were both happy and relieved that all went well so we celebrated with a big milkshake on the way home.
It is nice that the racing year has started and I am already looking forward to more races, the next one is already this coming Saturday!
This morning I went to the dentist to pull that tooth out, so I am sitting with a sore mouth right now. I hope this is it for this year and that 2018 will be as good as 2017 was!
1. Ariane Lüthi 5:45:11
2. Jennie Stenerhag 5:57:11
3. Sabine Spitz (Germany) 6:01:31
4. Yolande de Villiers 6:01:32
5. Candice Lill 6:06:05
6. Robyn de Groot 6:12:52