In November 2017 at the Coronation Double Century, Kevin and Waldo had a fat chat around the dinner table and the idea spawned that we should give Trans Baviaans (TB) a proper go. Kevin just missed a sub 10 on his previous attempt in 2017 with Dean. Waldo had never attempted to race the event, as he always rides with family and prefers to rather smash as many kebabs, chip rolls and jaffles as humanly possible. However, the Pure Savage target was to do a sub 10 and so they decided that they needed two more team mates to make up a 4 man team, so a few names was thrown around.
Carl was an obvious choice as he is after all a Savage already, after doing the 2016 DC with the team. The trick was not to give him too much time to think about his decision, so we waited until the last minute to ask him and then applied maximum pressure requiring a decision within 5 mins as entries sell out super-fast for this event. A whatsapp or two later and he was in.
We looked for another rider and thought back to the 2017 36One where Kevin and Waldo road with Malcolm. He showed that he is tough as nails and just as good on the ultra-distance races as he is on the XCO course. It didn’t take much convincing to get him on board.
And so we secured an entry for the Trans Baviaans Repeat. Waldo had completed 4 TB’s before. This year, he would ride the 1st weekend with his family to scout out the route and conditions, but unfortunately the only feedback we got was about the food on the tables. He knew the menu off by heart and kept telling us about how he ate 10 jaffels at check point 7 as if it was a Strava KOM. Luckily, he subconsciously knew the route off by heart too, so we had no navigational issues whatsoever, except for Malcolm nearly going off the edge of the mountain on the Bergplaas descent. Malcolm was convinced that this was Waldo’s fault for not telling him the corner was so sharp and therefore indeed a navigational issue… the jury is still out on that one.
On route to Willowmore we stopped at Prince Albert for lunch. Malcolm recognised a lady there and greeted her. She then mumbled something about “you are that electrician cyclist, right?”. After a bit of an awkward silence, Kevin put two and two together… “Did she say you were riding on an e-bike?” We cannot confirm or deny any mechanical doping, but Waldo and Carl had a good peak at Malcolm’s bike when he wasn’t looking.
The TB starts at 10am, so there is plenty time to get prepped for the race. Race day morning was very cold with frost on the lawns and below zero temperatures before we left our accommodation at 8am. After very lengthy debates about basically anything apparel-related (short or long gloves? arm warmers or base layer? gilet or jacket?) the guys got to the start shoot in their preferred race gear. The compulsory photo shoot ensued for social media and final team tactics were discussed. It was a short discussion, unlike the apparel debate… hammer… eat… drink… hammer!
The start of the race was at a decent pace, the road surface was good and the group rolled at a steady tempo. In the first 30km there is a fair bit of climbing which gets the heart rate up. There was one team who broke away, but the peloton never really felt threatened and leaving them out there for a while was the plan. After the climbing was done, we descended into the Baviaanskloof and checkpoint 1 was the next goal. The Savages all took a turn at the front until we realised the group liked the fact that we were doing the bulk of the work. We were reeling in the break away and when we got close to them Yolandi actually told Waldo to cool it a bit and keep them hanging a bit more. That team eventually faded however and decided to join the group again just before CP1.
CP1 wasn’t going to be a stop for the main contenders and Pure Savage was also not going to stop as the chase back to the group would be wasted energy. We made quick work of the climb that followed after CP1 and more steady terrain followed with some small rolling hills. The first 100km was done with very quickly and we maintained an average speed of almost 31kph!
15 mins before CP2 all hell broke loose. The terrain got rough/rocky and Waldo and Carl battled on their hardtails. There was a sudden increase in pace and Malcolm and Kevin tried to contain it. Carl and Waldo however were shaken to the core and bleeding from their eyeballs as they tried to navigate their way to CP which felt like an eternity. We stopped at CP2. Waldo headed straight to the potato table… Carl had to take a leak as the corrugations had obviously upset his bladder… Kevin filled his bottles with some powdery stuff he took out his back pocket and mentioned that he needed more Cadence… Malcom was looking for a charger, but he assured us that he was not in fact on an e-bike, it was actually a charger for his phone as Brendon was nagging about not receiving enough photos for the gram.
The views between CP2 and CP3 are probably the best you’ll find, as you crest the Baviaans back you are greeted with a green landscape and you look down into the valley as the mountains form two walls hugging a river. This is what we’ve been told, as none of us could actually see anything other than our stems. Carl was taking a bit of strain on this climb and Waldo kept him company, talking him through what is coming and the only thing that would help is telling him there is a downhill just around the corner. Carl loves a downhill almost as much as Brendon loves Christmas cake and Calvin loves the Telly Tubbies.
The boys knew that between 105km (CP2) and 142km (CP4) things were going to get rough. It was the section with most of the climbing and would be the slowest section of the race. Baviaans Back, 2x Fangs and MAC (mother of all climbs) were all in this section and the plan was to take it easy so that we could be strong for the last 4 hours. At CP3 Waldo again went straight for the food, bringing the crew a whole plate full of roosterkoek with jam. He really did his homework the previous week. Carl tried to eat it, but wasn’t going for the sweet stuff anymore and opted for potatoes. Water bottles were filled and the boys got going again.
As we left CP3 we realized we were the 10th team overall. Top 10 was never our aim, but now that it was there in front of us, it was sort of something in the back of our minds. Shortly after CP3 we headed through the long river crossing with Waldo showing us the way so that we didn’t end up in the man hole like some unfortunate souls the weekend before, all of us riding in out with a problem. The climbing from her on was slow and we lost a few positions, but the boys stuck to the plan as it was important not to completely blow up and rather finish strong. Kevin knew he needed to keep the cramps at bay and Carl was trying to recover from the rough area at CP2 and Baviaans back, so Malcolm went off the front to snap some photos, take some videos, take a leak, brush his teeth, pick some flowers, etc. So irritating… Waldo could have kept Malcolm company if he wanted to, but rather decided to sit behind Carl and Kevin all the way up MAC to make sure they weren’t slacking. A side note, Waldo still owes us a beer for having to put a foot down MAC as he went slightly off the cement path… Carl and Kevin have decided to let him off the hook this time, but only because he used the hand of Waldo on both of them to get them to the top a little bit faster than they would have done on their own engines.
CP4 at Bergplaas was the longest stop, having to put on lights and warmer kit. We then bombed down the Bergplaas descent almost forgetting about the pain of the last 2 hours, but in the back of our minds we knew there was a lot of work still to be done. The road between CP4 and CP5 is fast and rolling. Malcolm set a fierce tempo at the front for the entire section, with Kevin going through some dark moments and Carl and Waldo sheparding him to stick on Malcolm’s wheel, picking up another two-man team along the way and towing them along at a rate of knots. Soon enough, we hit the little tar section before CP4 and the roadie in Waldo kicked into full swing as he came to the front and did a big turn to the checkpoint, giving Malcolm some respite.
CP 5 was a goodie, with chip rolls being devour by all besides Kevin who was struggling to breath, let alone eat, at this stage and just managed a few bites of a dry roll before hopping on the bike again and saying, “are we ready to roll”? Kevin was doing his 3rd TB and was confident that his legs would return on the never ender as they have down in previous editions, and sure enough, they did. This climb is a very gradual one, so your speed is fairly high, but it feels like it goes on forever and Carl was starting to take a few shots towards the end of it. It was on this climb that the sun finally set and we needed to turn on our light. At this point, Kevin thought it would be a good idea to start singing the Elton John classic, “don’t let the sun go down on me…” completely out of tune. A quick veer to the left at the Y bend in the road and Waldo sprinted off into the distant to collect the CP6 sticker. CP6 is not a manned water point. It is merely a stop on the side of the road (in the middle of nowhere) with a roll of stickers to help yourself to. As we rolled passed Waldo he popped the sticker on his tag and we bolted down the long descent to CP7, arguably the most popular stop on the TB with its world famous jaffles and the lights of the Jeffrey’s Bay wind mills in the distance. You can almost smell the finish line about 23km down the road.
Two more challenges lay ahead, mini-MAC and the railway single track. As you leave CP7, you climb up a short section of single track to get back to the district road, just to remind you that your legs are actually completely in their chops! It’s a fast descent from there to the base of mini-MAC and again, Malcolm showed us the way. The team we collected between CP4 and CP5 were still on our wheels and they made their attack on mini-MAC. Malcolm casually climbed alongside them and eventually looked back to see his teammates crawling up the steep rocky climb. It was now Waldo’s turn to nurse a nagging cramping quad, but as soon as we hit the flat district road again the cramp subsided and we were hammering on the front again, hellbent on catching the team that sucked our wheel for some long. At this stage we knew that our sub 10 was solidly in the bag and we could have some fun thrashing the last 10km, 6km being on the railway single track where R1000 was up for grabs for the fastest rider over this segment. Sure enough, we caught the team in front of us and entered the single track just ahead of them. We put our two XCO riders (Malcolm and Carl) on the front for this section, but the single track is more pedaling, flat and straight, than anything technical to ride. Malcolm set a fierce pace and we soon dropped the team behind us and started thinking about that Strava segment. Amazingly, we actually took the prize for the fastest time over this segment in a time of 16:23, some handy cash for the boys towards the petrol money for the trip. We turned off the single track and sprinted to the finish line when Malcolm thought it was Christmas a did a bunny hop across the line. No Easter eggs at the finish, but a well-earned Spur Burger and Darling Brew beer. Job done, goal achieved, we came over the line in a time of 9 hours 41mins and 10th men’s team overall. Interestingly enough, the other 9 men’s teams ahead of us were all 2-man teams.
Waldo’s parents and brother were waiting for us at the finish line and assisted with some photos and coffee. A big thanks to them for the support and hospitality, having us over at their place in PE for the night. Until next year…