Tuesday, November 21, 2006

94.7km of Rain

Sunday morning awoke with a low, ominous blanket of cloud. Uncharacteristically, this had actually been predicted by the weather bureau so we were all a little surprised that it really was cloudy and wet. Awoke at 04:15, breakfast and dress in cycling gear and bolt out of the house to fetch Ross at 05:15. The 94.7 cycle race has full road closure which for the cyclists is a huge bonus, for the rest of Johannesburg it is an annual exercise in forced relaxation. Essentially what road closure means is that the roads, almost 100km of them in a big circle, are closed to traffic at least from the start of the race to the end. This includes traffic attempting to cross said roads and pretty much puts paid to any plans to get into the circle if you are outside and outside if you are inside. Needless to say, Ross is outside and we are inside so I had to sneak across an intersection dodging the traffic cones, bales of hay and steel pedestrian barriers to fetch ross and then sneak back across the same intersection to get to the starting line which we managed in ample time. Got our bikes off, kit and food on and went to the pens waiting for the start. To put it into perspective, there are about 28 000 cyclists in this race which is an awful lot of bicycles and people so the organisation has to be absolutely top notch otherwise there would be total pandemonium
The gun goes and we're off, I'm in group F and I really hope it doesn't stand for Fall in the wet. As usual everyone, myself included, start too fast. It is just about impossible not to but after about 10km the brain kicks in and remembers that it still has about 85km to go and at this rate, the last 10km is going to be real hell. Up the first serious hill which is a fair hill but since you have just started it feels like just about nothing. It rained for the following forty kilometers which made negotiating all the really nice descents in this part of the course a little bit nerve wracking. Went past where Kim and Laurel said they would be, no Kim and Laurel. Went past where Kirsten and Carl would be, no Kirsten and Carl. Not that I blame them, standing in the pouring rain watching bedraggled cyclists coming whizzing past doesn't rate all that highly in my book at least.
The watering stations are looking forlorn, all the helpers standing under the tents and all the cups of liquid refreshment standing untouched on the tables. With all this rain about it is hard not to be taking in enough liquids.
Had a horrible moment where I thought I could hear the 'psssss' of a puncture but it didn't seem to go down so it must have been the water on the road. Though of making 'psss', 'psss', 'psss' noises and watching the reactions of the cyclists around me but I preferred the thought of finishing the race in one piece.
Felt quite strong at the half way make at 01:32 but I had really been hoping for less than 01:30. Just after the halfway mark there was a religious banshee screaming from the sidelines about how inconsiderate we all are by blocking the roads (which is true) and that she has to get to church and that we really shouldn't be riding on a Sunday, we should also all be in church. Much humour erupts from the peleton, I quietly think that church hasn't exactly helped her, perhaps she should give up on it.
Turn onto the N14 and into the wind. Very strange wind this year it comes and goes when it feels like it and no matter which direction one is cycling you get occasional headwinds, tailwinds or no wind at all. Anyway, headwind it is and the bunch sucks itself together and I take a small turn in the front so that I can at least say that I didn't draft the entire way. Off the highway and pushing quite nicely now, much better than last year. This year I can actually respond to the bunch and manage the surges whereas last year I was totally incapable of doing this by this time.
Climb the penultimate hill strongly and surge down to where the finish line was last year which I would have clocked in at just on 3 hours. They've moved the finish line 3km's down the road and up another hill but I'm feeling strong so not a problem. Went over a timing matt about 500m before the finish and a lot of people stopped pedalling but I wasn't feeling so bad so I just kept on going to where I could see the finishing banner. Passed an ambulance attending to someone prostrate in the bushes beside the road, must have been a casualty of the bunch sprint and crossed the finish line feeling like I could do another 20 or 30km's easily. Time: 03:07:53. Ross finishes after me which is a good sign since he started later than me. His time: 03:07:53. The same to the second. Hard to believe but true.
Met up with Caron and Jason in the BB&D tent, Jason did a 02:51:00 which is pretty awesome since the pro's did about 02:20:00 and lady pro's did 02:48:00
Overall it was a fantastic race, very well organised and thoroughly enjoyable.
Dropped Ross off and went home to shower, nap and read Q&A the rest of the day.

P.S. Tim did a 04:21:00 which I'm not going to comment on and no, he didn't crash.

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