Racing the Tankwa Trek
The deep soreness in my glutes and quads is something I only get from racing. Over the past two weeks, I’ve had six high-level race days spread over three events – the most ever for me this time of year. Of the three races, last weekend’s Tankwa Trek three-day stage race was the toughest by far. It’s legit! (Lots of media on the event’s Twitter feed.)
Each day, my Topeak-Ergon teammates and I woke early for the 6:30 a.m. stage starts. We stayed in campers in the race village, and there was a lot of preparation fumbling around in the dark. In the early morning hours before Stage 2, a thunderstorm rolled through the desert and provided an unusual wake-up call. It was a stark sight filled with weary sleep-starved faces around the breakfast tables that morning.
Throughout the race, the sight of bandaged bodies, broken bikes, a few broken bones, and one fatality from stroke were reminders of just how intense these races can be. All this carnage came from only three days of epic-style racing; the Cape Epic looms with eight full days!
As a team, our race at the Tankwa Trek was good; it was not what we wanted, but it was what we needed. The race served as a yardstick of our form and fitness. It was a chance to practice our roles on the team and fight through the challenges that the desert and world class competition could throw at us.
Our team was faced with some unlucky mechanicals – the kind that can happen to anyone at anytime: a few flat tires, and a broken derailleur caused by a renegade stick. Our competitors the Bulls were on point riding strong and steady. Christophe Sauser had a setback when his teammate Sam got sick. The South African Telecom Team rode really well. Lucas Fluckiger and Nicola Rorback succumbed to a stomach bug.
In perspective, we really should be satisfied; as a team our cohesion has never been better. We laughed, had fun enjoying awesome trails, and even drank some wine at a post-race braai (traditional South African barbecue) at my teammates Erik’s house.
The past thee weeks of preparations and training in the rough, hot desert has toughened our minds and bodies. The challenges we will face in March will be nothing new and for that reason I think that we can pull together a strong Cape Epic. We are doing all the preparation it takes to endure as a team. At Cape Epic, more than at any other race, the best team wins!
In the next four weeks, Team Topeak-Ergon will have time to make the final adjustments for the biggest mountain bike stage race in the world. See you at the Absa Cape Epic!