Red Chickens, Red Haze and Heroes in Red

Training CampWell the tank was pretty ok this morning with fantastic cool and misty conditions again. The ride up to Spitskop was awesome (about 35km) before the long descent into Sabie. It was infinitely better descending on the newly re-surfaced tar than the alternative. Think of this section as a freebie as it is pretty effortless. Its a bit of a rude awakening as we turned into Sabie but once through, it was the beginning of Long Tom Pass. The valley looks completely different after last year's fires and to your right you can see much of the devastation. The last four kms of the climb are tough as there are no breaks in the ascent but when you see the red chickens, you know you are about to turn off the pass.
It was here that the back-up vehicle met us and to Johan and my surprise, the others were not there - they ducked into Sabie for coffee. Psychologically, it was great to be at the top first.
Training CampBut the regrouping led to all sorts of testosterone and before long I was out the back with 50km of riding ahead on my own. Despite this, that section is fantastically fast with big ring descents. If you are in a bunch here, hang on for the ride of your life. Then the heroes in red popped over the hill. Deon and Abrie - gentlemen that they are, rode back for me. And so I entered the red zone so there is not much I can relate for the next 40km cos all I saw through the red haze in my eyes were Deon's red shoes and Abrie's red tires. But I can assure you that with the right group, this will be a really, really fast section. Did I say fast!
Training CampBrondal (the last 23 km to White R) has three humps, this I remember because my breathing reached epic proportions. The last is the hard (mentally and physically) Heidel Eggs which is a straight line up and up and up. My heroes had pulled us back to within sight of the main bunch - so far from dying on this hill (actually I did), we rode it with renewed purpose. The moral of this story is...save something for this section cos you could probably pass teams here! Despite a fairly conservative start and a slow ascent of Long Tom, we were back with a sub-5 hour riding time which made the effort worth it on this last section.
Training CampPointers for the race?
You will need at least a modicum of fitness to enjoy this event.
Hook up with other teams
Have a massage every day
Make sure your race nutrition is right else each day empties the tank a little more
If you are not racing, stop at the water points
Make friends with the other riders, you never know when you will need them
Tell yourself many, many times - I am having fun and funnily enough, you will!
Look around you and enjoy the view

Many, many thanks to Johan Bester for organising the camp and for being my constant companion. Bells Cycling provided a fantastic back-up service and bakkie, Francois Lourens kept the front bunch in check and of course, thanks to all the riders who made the effort to be there. (You all looked great in your MTN sporty hats)

See you all in a months time.