A Tale of Chasing and Chesire Cats
The Stellenbosch Cycle Tour is traditionally the last race on the calendar (in the Western Cape of course) and has always been a personal favourite for Pure Savage. As such we’ve always had a pretty solid presence in the peleton and this year wasn’t any different with 5 of us lining up in Elite $, 3 in % while Klyde brought up the rear in 1A. With the summer sun breaching the horizon from as early as 5:15am the start gun went off at 6:01am signaling an early leg-tester up the 5km Helshoogte climb. 
View from the very back of the # bunch. 
The pace was pretty stiff compared to previous editions and soon the bunch splintered. As usual Brendon and Calvin were late. We’ve got a sneaking suspicion Calvin was keener on embracing the comfort of his bed (and fetal position) but sanity prevailed – sort of… This tardiness meant they had no choice but to start at the back which put them at a disadvantage because by the time they reached the foot of Hels the majority of the bunch were already 300m up the climb.

Start of Hells. Pic Jon Clark
It was hard work just hanging onto the tail of the peleton but after cresting the summit Aaron and Kevin managed to rejoin the safety of the group with Will mixing it up at the front with the climbers. The usual descent through Pniel was fast and furious and once the peleton turned right and sailed past L’Omarins, Brendon and Calvin realised their fate was sealed and a futile chase back resulted in dead wheels and unwilling contributors. They had no choice but to wait for the % train to collect them.  However, unlike the fast-paced action taking place in and among the Dollars things were more sedate for the Percenters – see, the racing ladies were fighting it out in the same bunch and nobody seemed keen to work on the front. In fact things got so relaxed 1A eventually caught them. This meant Klyde was somewhere in the bunch. In the past this would be a bad omen as if you saw Klyde you weren’t riding fast enough but this is a very different Cannonball to one we’ve come to love. 
A much more thinned out # group. Pic Jon Clark
Klyde is riding like a beast at the moment and took it upon himself to Cannonball off the front on the group at regular intervals, laying down some high-revving wattage in his typical quasimodo-like riding style replete with Chesire cat grin. Why the grin again? Well, all Klyde had to do was to finish in the bunch to beat the entire % complement – including the likes of Carl, Brendon, Jon, Calvin and Waldo, quality scalps the lot of them.
Back in the Dollar group things were hotting up as Team Giant and Alfa Body Works launched attacks – even UCT put in a few efforts off the front. That said every attack was reeled in owing to the unrelenting pace of the chasing peleton. The minimal presence by Savage this year meant Kevin and Aaron could only watch from the bunch while Wiley Will had other ideas…The constant surging and high speed was proving rather uncomfortable for the plethora of wheel suckers and soon the main bunch was whittled down from 160 starters to around 100. Then came the crashes or human skittles, as we like to call it. Even Will got taken down in one of these stupid falls, breaking his shoe and scraping his cheek, arm and hip in the process. While the others involved were left to struggle in the that space between groups we like to call the purgatory, Will time-trialed his way back to the bunch. Soon the pace slowed to a rather docile 30kph – a harbinger of an imminent attack. There were many but none got away.
3 Regroups. Pic Jon Clark
The race only really started once the R301 reached the R44, at which point the bunch became edgy and nervous with panic breaking the order of the moment. One of the riders (dressed in red) even took it upon himself to relieve his bladder while sitting in the peleton – this isn’t Europe young man and we’re not World Tour Pros so stop next time instead of endangering the other riders in the bunch. Twat. Last year (in fact every year) the R44 and its famous crosswinds wreak havoc with the riders. The section coming into Stellies is an interesting stretch as the rolling topography really kills the legs – it should in fact be renamed lactic lane. Many felt cramps and the soaring temperatures did little to thwart that terrible sensation of tight and twitching muscles pin-balling under the skin like rabid squirrels. All you can do is push through the pain and discomfort or risk getting dropped. Again, the sound of freshly mashed carbon and flesh punctuated the final kilometres to the Helshoogte finish line kicker. I lost count of how many riders went down but in times like these – especially in the racing bunch – you’re just thankful it’s not you mangled on the floor.
Final hammer to Stellies. Pic; Jon Clark
As the headwind picked up in knots the bunch began to string-out in single final, weaving and slithering like a snake on scorched desert sand. It really is a spectacle. There were dead wheels aplenty here and the last of the stragglers and suckers were shot out the rectum of the Dollar group like skunk juice. With 5km to go the formations started among the competing teams and pacelines were running up the flanks for the best possible lead-out train for the left-hander up to the finish. With only Will and Aaron in the bunch at this point (Kevin was spat out back) it was a case of every man for himself and soon, Will disappeared up the road with the hope of securing a top ten placing. But it wasn’t to be. The bunch was just too big. Even Team Giant struggled to give their sprinter and eventual winner, Bernard Esterhuizen, a proper lead-out. In the end the first 70 riders across the line registered times of 2h21m (with variations in seconds of course).
All Savages that crossed the line under 2:31:27 🙂
The rest of the team came in 10 minutes later. Klyde was the fourth fastest Savage after Kevin who finished 2min behind Will. I. Am and Bottle. Overall it was a pretty decent day out for Savage. The decent showing across the board will undoubtedly help the seeding indexes and, who knows, we may have 10 Savages starting in A at the next race. 
Re-hydrating and race reports
For a second race in a row Klyde managed to secure the Savage of the moment award. If he’s fine run of form continues, he may be able to secure that elusive sub-3 Argus but, with Christmas lunch just a few weeks away, that goal might be wishful thinking. Until next year – be safe, ride hard and hammer!