The South African National Road Champs, Tankwa Trek, TransCape MTB as well as the World Triathlon Series did little to thwart the spirits of the thousands of riders that lined up to ride the 99er Cycle Tour in Durbanville on Saturday. Owing to this fact the lack of firepower up front was clearly evident and naturally left us foaming at the mouth at the possibilities that lay ahead.  There were however a couple of teams that would make our goal of podium tough work – namely, the lads from UCT Cycling who were here in full force as well as a couple Giants and one or two Stellenbosch Pro Cycling chaps lurking in the shadows.

Ready to rock and roll!

Looking around it was clear the lack of the regular teams and faces allowed the organisers to promote a lot of first time elites to the Dollar group, so nerves and emotions were palpable at the start. The pace was pretty swift leaving the racecourse but the group stayed together as it meandered through the residential maze of Durbanville before hooking left onto Wellington Road. It was pretty sedate here – perhaps around 33km/h and our heart rates were chilling comfortably in upper zone 1. Even Klyde was in zone 2, and considering he’s usually in Z5 at rest it’s an achievement in it’s own right. Klyde – yeah, the Cannonball continues his fine run of form making his first appearance in the elite bunch. He was joined by Waldo, Aaron, Brendon, Jon and Will (our strongest rider and podium hope).

Plenty of time for a pic in the bunch!

The tactics were pretty relaxed at this point as it was clearly evident nobody wanted to do any work on the front. One or two breakaways (out of pure frustration) went off the front but none of them lasted mainly because nobody followed. Brendon did some turns on the front, accidentally breaking away in the process which sparked some resurgence as the pace increased near the bridge by the Fruitsellers. 
Tapping out some tempo!
The terrain was pretty tame all the way to around the 36km mark at Windmeul where a sharp left-hander signaled the start of Vryguns rollers – the first real test for the bunch. As expected some of the weaker riders were ejected out the rear as the speed started to wind up. A solo breakaway by one of the UCT riders managed to hold for this entire segment, this may have been due to his personal photo shoot in the slip of the camera car, still a balsy move! He was soon consumed by the jaws of the peleton before the route darted left onto the R302 to the Silos.

Cruising along. Pic: 99er Facebook page

Again the pace slowed to an excruciatingly slow 30km/h. The bunch looked lethargic, some profanity was spewed, and words were exchanged as frustration began to move through the ranks. Several dummy attacks were launched in an attempt to see who was keen to go but again the ‘let’s-all-sit-up-and-enjoy-an-easy-ride-to-the-finish’ mentality seemed to be the order of the day. Out of frustration some of the Savages moved to the front echelons of the bunch to keep things moving, as did UCT, and the pace eventually began to kick up a bit. 
Bottle on the move! Pic: 99er Facebook page
Waybe Finch from UCT gave an acceleration up the left flank and moved to the front before darting right and launching the first real attack of the day. Aaron ‘Bottle’ went with him along with another rider and gap grew quite substantially as the three barreled left onto the R302 towards the Silos. Wayde was unloading some decent wattage on the front as the three took turns to keep the peleton at bay. But the mild North Wester was working in the favour of the chasing bunch where some guttering got rid of more dead wood. The bunch eventually consumed Aaron and the ‘other’ guy but Wayde stayed away for a while longer before getting brought back on the Philadelphia rollers.
Ah, the Philadelphia rollers. Anyone who’s done the race before will know these energy-sapping bastards. It’s easy to get ahead of yourself here and surge to the front in an ego-rage to prove your worth but that’s not very clever as the Old Malmesbury Road ‘Kamikaze time-trial’ usually sorts out this primitive behaviour. The race on Sunday only started on Old Malmesbury Road. Brendon decided that the pace should increase and went into the cave again, this is where the Dollar pace we’ve come to know eventually hit full stride. It was brutal. Guys were being discharged out the back at a rate of knots, including Brendon who may have got carried away. 
Pace increasing! Pic – 99er Facebook page

There was moaning, groaning, a little bit of climaxing and lots and lots of grimaces as the bumpy surface and narrow approach wreaked havoc with the bunch. It’s here where many mechanicals and punctures happen but when the you’re hurtling along at 45km/h and the possibility of being dropped is a reality, you just go with it, grit your teeth and pray your tyres don’t explode not to mention getting sand-papered by that abrasive surface.
There was an explosion or two – many engines and one or two bikes. A man that can only be likened to a hamster in a wheel on crack (Yes, that’s how fast he spins. Some say he has no left shifter) had a nasty experience as his derailleur ate the rear spokes of his wheel. All we know is he spent most of the day on Old Malmesbury Road waiting for the sweeper. According to Strava this 12km segment was smashed in 18min at an average speed of 40km/h. It also claimed around 40 Dollars – some who popped, others who dropped. 

The biggest challenge of the day however, still loomed large – Vissershok. A nasty six per cent bump comprising two parts – Klein and Groot Vissershok. The trick here is to stay with the bunch and get towed to the Contermanskloof 4-way stop where the real pain starts. All the Savages were intact at this point. Klyde was chilling at 200bpm, Brendon looked like he was going into labour on the front again after being dropped minutes earlier, Waldo’s molars were taking strain from the grinding, Jon was evaporating in the heat, Aaron was shouting ‘hold your line’ for some reason and Will was idling at around 90bpm – check his Strava file if you don’t believe us.

As usual it was at least 40-degrees Celsius on Vissershok. The road looked wet. Was it the sweat from breakaway Dollars struggling to overcome gravity? All we know is at this point it’s every man for himself. Getting to the summit with the front guys is usually the difference between registering a top 10 or top 50 and as a result the group splintered into clusters of riders. The three-man breakaway that formed at the base of Vissershok near the N7 was reeled-in just as they crested the summit followed by the second split which included Will and Waldo. Aaron was in the third split while Brendon and Cannonball were racing each other in a battle for brotherly dominance.

At the summit of Vissershok there’s brief respite before a fast, flat-out downhill signals the approach to the right-hander and hilltop finish – the Odendaal bastard. It’s not a particularly steep climb but its placement in the race makes it a toughly for any level of rider. Will was unfortunately not able to bridge the gap to breakaway but he did manage to secure 9th place. Waldo came home in 30th, Aaron 47th while Brendon pipped Klyde to the line in 80th. Jon made it home in 2h50 securing sub3s all-round for the boys. Our form is looking pretty sharp heading into the Cape Town Cycle Tour where we’re going to hammer! Overall the 99er Cycle Tour continues to be a favourite for Pure Savage with its superb organisation, fully stocked and comprehensive water points (From what we’re told. We never stop) and awesome finish venue.

The Team pulling the “Bottle” Pose!

Did we enjoy the day’s hammerfest? Of course – what started out as a snail’s race turned into a great day of hard racing. Shout out goes to the lads from UCT Cycling Team – great job Martin, Wayde, Gregg, Matt et al. It was great fun mixing it up with you boys. Until next year. #Hammer