The Western Cape road racing season kicked off on Sunday with the West Coast Express. This year saw the return to a similar route to the 2015 edition, with the inclusion of a little surprise near the end of the route. Unlike many of the past races, there was very little banter on the team Whatsapp group before the race, everyone obviously playing their cards close to their chest in terms of form from winter. The first proper race of the season would tell if the Watt bikes sessions outweighed the coffee rides!
The new PPA number system is interesting, instead of getting your “A” seeding in July and riding that baby till March, every race you get seeded according to your index. This is probably done to keep the groups smaller and reward those that ride timed events often. Luckily we all lined up in A, it was great to see some familiar faces and spotted some very bling tax refunds in the group. Soon we were hammering out of the start with a late arriving junior league rider trying valiantly to head off on his ace. Heading down the R27, the lack of a pumping tailwind felt rather strange as it has become expected at the West Coast Express.
Before the first bite of bar or sip from the bidon we were onto the Mamre climb, a nasty drag made a little easier by the tailwind up the climb. We plonked Waldo on the front and he stomped out a decent tempo that reeled in most attacks and dropped a fair amount of souls according to Strava flyby. Cresting the drag a few attacks went off the front, with a bit of effort from the boys on the front everything was together as we swept into Atlantis.
It was at this point, Calvin realised his rear skewer had undone itself and with the confidence gained watching the Veulta for three weeks, he unclipped and with the deftness of seasoned pro tapped his skewer closed. (A seasoned pro would probably have tightened his skewer in the first place though.) Out of Atlantis we swung onto the Old Mamre road, which has been resurfaced since I last hammered down there, which was a real treat, until the old surfaced returned for the last 500m.
Swinging off the Old Mamre road Brendon took off up the Philadelphia road and opened up a small gap that was quickly closed by the chasing group. The on ramp to the N7 was soon upon us and the small rise in gradient had everyone dancing on the pedals like Berto up the Angliru. We set the pace going up the new part of the route on the N7 drag until the final 400m when Josh Gray put in an effort which had a lot of people gritting their teeth to stay on.
Once over the N7 drag it was a quick push to the coast, the group stayed together with the pace remaining high not allowing anyone to roll off the front. After a good day full of efforts we opened the sprint up with Aaron pulling a Eddy B on Waldo as he opened the taps. Needless to say, with 500m to go we were seeing stars and ready to roll in with the group. Job done.
Kudos to the boys today on a great ride, they chased down a lot and spent plenty of time on the front eating the wind! Kudos to Josh, Theunis and Llyod for some big efforts on the front today as well, Hammer! The West Coast Express was an awesome event to kick off the season. Well done to The Outriders and PPA for putting on a great event, thanks to the Think Bike Marshals for keeping us safe on the road and the Marshals for stopping us getting lost in Atlantis!