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Wake Up Call

Sjoe, so we're back after riding the three stages of the MTN Panorama Tour.. damn those hills don't get any smaller and I am fitter this year! It was pretty hot too which sapped a lot of energy. But here is the latest on the routes and some hints and feedback from all that were there.

Firstly, make sure that your gearing is suitable for the terrain. There is nothing like it in Gauteng other than perhaps Suikerbosrand and you will need to make sure you have thought about this and made the adaptations. Don't forget your chain breaker - it is a self supported race and you don't want to be standing on the side of the road and no where to go. Them hills can like to break chains (saw it this weekend!).

Stage One - hoo boy! It is still the hardest stage. There is simply no recovery between hills and they keep coming. Do NOT overcook this stage cause you will pay later. You'll be feeling fresh because you will have tapered and rested before the race (of course you have?) and you will be tempted to start hard. By the time you reach the Kiepersol section, there will be some real testers of your easiest gear but it is when you hit the Hazyview/Sabie road that you will need your sense of humour and leg strength. That section drags on and on. There is a nasty kick as you leave Sabie but when you reach the second waterpoint shortly after, the worst is over. The climb to Spitskop looks bad but it is easy to find a rhythm here (unless you have overdone it already). The descent over the other side is awesome and there are long rolling climbs and descents to home. The GPS distance is 115km and the ascent is 2213m. As riders of average ability, our riding time was 5.12 taking it very conservatively to start.

WARNING - the potholes on the Kiepersol section are very, very bad. We are trying to get the roads dept to fix them but there is no guarantee. Superlight rims could get hammered here with a moment of lost concentration. Some of the holes extend right across the road so you will have to be alert the whole way.

Stage Two has a slightly different start to previous years which means if your legs are warmed up they get hit really hard by a short hump 1km after the start - ouch! The descent into Brondal is littered with holes in the road. Not quite potholes but if you can have your hands bumped off the handlebars if you hit one. So pick careful lines here. The road into Nelspruit was being resurfaced and should be finished before the race except for the bridge just before you reach town.

This is reduced to one lane and the metro police will be on hand to manage the throughflow but you will need to be very careful here and worst case may be stopped for a moment. We are negotiating options here too. As you tuirn onto the main road into Nelspruit, there are a couple of nasty potholes but the rest of the route is pretty good. The left turn towards the airport still hits one hard especially if you have been shunting to that point (as one can on that extremely fast section). The waterpoint will be at about 64km slightly further than last year. The last 5 kays are still mean and energy sapping. We rode it in about 3:11 riding time. The GPS distance was 80km and the ascent was 1192m.

Stage Three is still a great ride. Much more forgiving and far more rewarding with thrilling big ring descents. The start is the same as Stage two with the killer bump just after the start and then it is several kms of easy riding until Jacaranda Hill - it seems to catch everyone. You know you are beginning the Spitskop Pass when you cross over the river called Blinkwater. Settle into a comfortable rhythm and the crest and the waterpoint will soon arrive. The batten down the hatches for a mega ride down to Sabie - try to be in a bunch for this - it is so worth it. Even 4 people makes this section cook. By the time we reached Sabie, we were laughing just from the fun of it.

A bit of a rude awakening as you turn left but the endorphins are still cooking. The peleton will be stopping for pancakes here but the rest of the field start heading out to Long Tom Pass. The pass starts gradually and builds in intensity. We paced ourselves from the bottom and rolled up the climb steadily. Once you have turned left onto the Nelspruit road, try to be in a group because there are long descents which fling you up the hills on the other side. I clocked 70km/hour on some of the descents and they aren't that steep. A bunch along here will pull you way faster than on your own.

Then it was a left turn to Brondal and the final couple of humps for home. This is where you will find the famous Pappas waterpoint with pizza and zambucca. Just what is needed to get you up the Heidel Eggs climb - that nasty one which is dead straight so you can see the whole of the hill. Watch out for chunks out the road here as well. Then you have mastered the race and there is only the time trial left. My GPS distance was only 114k with 2022m of ascent but I will have to check that out. A ripped tire also played havoc with riding time but it was about 5 hours for the group.

The time trail route is new and will be about 24km. We will put the new profile up as soon as possible but it will still have the same killer finish! Nothing flat in White River.

Thanks to all the riders who came to the training camp and developed a great cameraderie. Special thanks to Bells Cycling and Jules who drove the cack up vehicle with tires and tubes - both of which were used in abundance. Alta was a complete star with the water points as the heat mean't some very thirsty riders and thanks to Johan for organising the whole event.

Its less than a month to go....you know what to do.