2006 PPA/SuperWatt three-day stage race for sub-veterans and veterans
by Andrew Wheeldon
The PPA Sub Vets (30-39) and Vets (40+) tour was a three-day, four-stage tour in the Phesantakraal-Klein Joostenbergvlakte-Stellenbosch region totalling 318 km. I decided to race this tour to test my form against other 40-year-olds but also to raise awareness about the Bicycling Empowerment Network in the more competitive bunches. I was asked on the start line of the first stage by a rider not known to me why a (BEN) commuter would attempt as tough a race as this. I responded by saying that I would be checking out the potential for bike lanes along the route, just at a rapid rate.
Stage 1 (94km) was hot - possibly 40 degrees - and as a result the bunch was not flat-out but rather easing its way into the tour and trying to cope with the extreme conditions. There was a crash after 25 km when the right-hand shoulder of the road suddenly disappeared, and many riders hit the road hard - with some not continuing. I managed to avoid this by the skin of my teeth.
The pace gradually picked up and the first serious splits in the bunch occurred in the last 15 km - and I found myself chasing in the second bunch. We were strung out in a long line fighting the wind and gradient towards the finish. I looked ahead and behind and saw what amounted to about six small echelons - a la Tour de France - of cyclists huddling together for protection from the wind whilst trying to keep the speed as high as possible. I fought desperately all the way to the line and secured 11th position - and thus 11th overall in the Vets category.
Day Two saw two stages - a 97km road race and a 20km time trial. The road race was held on a similar course to the previous day, but with contrasting conditions. The heat had been replaced by a cool foggy cloudy day and a resulting extremely fast opening 30 km - at 45km/h. It then began to warm up and the wind picked up, resulting in a drop in the pace of the bunch. I decided to position myself further forward so as to avoid crashes and splits in the bunch - and this made me feel more like I was in the race rather than a passenger awaiting the finish line.
Once again the pace increased towards the end, and a group did move ahead on the final climbs - but the gap was never more than 30 seconds. I did not have as much to give in the final km and finished mid-field, with most of the riders getting the bunch time, remaining 11th overall. The afternoon time trial was held at the Klipheuwel silos - 10km out with an amazing tailwind, and 10 back with the reverse. I poured it on - make hay while the sun shines, that is what I say - and turned in 12 mins; the return journey was murder. I fought my way back in 19 min - for a time of 31 min and once again 11th position. I remained 11th overall.
The final stage was the crunch day - 107 km with two laps of Helshoogte. I decided to start cautiously on the first climb/ lap - and slowly began to catch riders who had started too fast up the dreaded ascent. A small group had managed to get away, but we caught them after a furious chase towards Paarl - at 83km/h on the descent and 55km/h along the flat. Then we regrouped and arrived at the climb for the second time, where, as to be expected, the same happened again - there was another split, with more or less the same front group stamping their authority on the field. I was once again in the second group, chasing for my life - but this time there was to be no catching the leaders. I held on for all I was worth, but the effort began to tell and I finished 7 minutes behind. However, as often is the case, one can improve one’s position even when all appears lost. I finished 8th on the stage and improved to 7th in the final overall standings.
The tour was well organised, and many of the cyclists reported this - and committed to returning in 2007. I have to say that I enjoyed the excitement of racing the tour, of going back for stage after stage and building on one’s results - this can be most rewarding. The opportunity to balance the advocacy/commuting with exposure to racing holds potential in that I am able to speak to both groups - and to perhaps get them to think in terms of the greater reasons for cycling.
And if you’re wondering who won:
Donovan van Gelder (30-39) and Guy Pike (40-49) took the top podium positions. Van Gelder finished in 8:22,06 with Welgemoed second in 8:22,45 and David Garrett third in 8:24,07. Robby Rodrigues finished fourth (8:24,08) and Guy Le-Ray Cook fifth (8:24,05). David Garrett attacked furiously on the last stage to win the King of the Mountains title with 34 points in total, with Daniel Schmeisser second (27) and Philip Schoeman third (22). Welgemoed dominated the green jersey competition, finishing on 33 points. Garrett was second (20) and Rodriques third (20).
And if you were more curious about why Andrew Wheeldon went wheelin’ with the mayor:
The idea was to lobby for and raise the consciousness to achieve four main objectives:
- Establishment of a non-motorised transport (NMT) or bicycle advisory council.
- Adoption of Cape Town bicycle masterplan.
- Increase support for BEN-type Independent Bicycle Dealer projects in the areas surrounding the city.
- Encourage the city hosting of events such as car free days or car free corridors in the CBD to help promote and encourage cycling.
For more about BEN, see www.benbikes.org.za
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