Apart from Darren Lil and Waylon Woolcock the start line in elites looked rather bereft of any pro riders this past weekend at the 99er road race. That’s because another biggie on the race calendar was taking place 800km away in Port Elizabeth – the 106km Herald Cycle Tour. While this meant the big guns such as Lights by Linea, Giant Durbanville and Aurecon were short on fire power it did very little to quell the pace as a 140-strong elite bunch took off from the start like rabid zombies. The 99er is one tough race with the famed – read brutal – Vissershok and Odendaal climbs punctuating the last 10 kilometres of the race, the latter climb of which makes for an interesting hill top finish. Each year sees this event grow in size as many would-be cyclists use it as a litmus test for the Cape Town (Argus) Cycle Tour.
Seeing as it’s not a particularly important race for the team we came into it with no real expectations and decided to adopt our usual hammer approach. That said there was always around five of us in the front echelons of the bunch at all times, Bernard putting in some solid efforts and making the old hands second guess their fitness and strategies. The 99er route is similar to that of the Durbie Dash and Tour de PPA races plotting a similar path through the surrounding farmlands. After just 10km the average speed was in excess of 50kph, the Peleton consuming everything in its path as it meandered through the densely packed suburbs of Durbanville. Once on the R312 and past Fruit sellers rise the pace abated slightly which gave the field a chance of a slight reprieve and a few swigs from the bidons. Savage had a decent turnout this year boasting 7 starters in the elite dollar group. Calvin overslept – something about his alarm not going off and the foetal position… Elbert was joined by Klyde ‘the Cannonball ‘ Stevens in B but pulled out halfway into the race owing to his patella exploding.
While the first 74km were largely flat the high average speed of 44kph meant the leading bunch had already lost around 30 riders before reaching the dreaded Van Schoorsdridt road – a stretch that makes the surface of the moon look billiard-smooth in comparison. Our new rookie Aaron popped at around 85km mark and was forced to watch the Peleton slowly inch away. He wasn’t alone however as many of the more seasoned riders and teams were suffering a similar loss in battery life from the subsequent surging and elastic band-like effect of the Peleton. It appeared as though the frantic pace coupled with the intense heat brought most of the pack to its knees as the gradient began to kick up before the descent past Zone 7.
|Photo credit: Theo Bruwer|
With Vissershok looming in the distance most of the Savages felt envious of Calvin and his foetal position. Except Bernard. Bernard is like a Centaur: half man, half horse he craves prolonged stints in the pain cave, gnawing at his bar tape whenever he gets a chance. Let’s hope he’s not peaking too early as we’re going to need his Eddy Merckx-like cannibal approach for TOGH later this month.
But back to the infamous Vissershok. It’s a strange animal isn’t it? Regardless of the season it’s always hot as hell going up the 7% average gradient. In fact it felt like at least a million degrees out there Brendon, Nardus and . Thousands of litres of sweat was spilled out there, our saline-crusted top tubes bare testament to this fact. Vissershok splintered the dollar group quite spectacularly but Donovan and Bernard managed to crest the summit ahead of Kevin, Delano (Waylon Woolcock was man alone up front making a break on Van Schoors and managed to hold his 1min 30s gap over Darren Lil to the finish).
|Photo credit: Cycle Teknix|
The cruel thing about Vissershok is that it only officially starts once it intersects the Contermanskloof road. At this point – no matter your speed –it’s impossible to look like you’re enjoying your bike. A brief perusal of the attached pictures shows how each and every one of us perfected our pain cave grimaces. Kevin looked like he was constipated, Delano – well you can’t really tell if he’s smiling or crying while Aaron was either admiring the tar below or contemplating if he should have ridden his 29er mountain bike instead. Once at the top a long, fast descent past Meerendal Wine Estate gives riders false hope of a sprint finish before turning right and maliciously pointing skywards for the feared 2km Odendaal road sprint.
Needless to say we all made it to the finish line with times under 3 hours with special mention going to Bernard and Donavan who both secured top 20 positions. It’s going to be an interesting next few weeks as the team prepares for Tour De PPA, Argus Cycle Tour, Tour of Good Hope and the ABSA Cape Epic. With Brendon and Kevin hitting a purple patch of form, and Bernard riding with beast mode turned on all the time – even on training rides – the team is bound to put in some good showings over the next couple of month.
|Photo credit: 99er|
Aaron and Donovan switch disciplines come March as they tackle the ABSA Cape Epic. We just hope Calvin gets out of bed for the next training ride. Harden up and follow us @teampuresavage on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook for updates on our progress.
Thanks to all the amazing photographers en route that managed to capture some of the suffering during the race!
Here is the link to the strava file for the 99er race: STRAVA