Team Giant Report, Cumberland Classic KZN Tuesday, April 28, 2009
Since I’m hiding out in South Africa while everyone else is at Sea Otter I figured I should do some racing too, preferably in wide-open terrain to mimic the Otter experience I’m missing out on… Fortunately, there was a Kawazulu-Natal Series race at Cumberland Nature Reserve just outside Pietermaritzburg. The local guys I’d been riding with tipped me off to it, nice of them since Felice reckoned I’d win on the drive over at dawn on Sunday. I’m going to need to brief her on the Team Giant shit-talking and prediction policy…
As we rolled down a dusty dirt road that’s a sure indicator of quality local racing it became apparent that a whole bunch of folks were headed out to race. We filed down to a little valley, parking under the canopy of some pretty cool trees. I need to figure out what those things are called, you know, the ones with a canopy fanning out parallel with the ground and only a couple meters thick? They look like umbrellas and do an even better job of blocking the inevitable sun. The valley was already packed with bike riders. Five-year-old kids and retirees marked the ends of a spectrum of cyclists that included everyone imaginable. All were pumping up tires, drinking coffee, exchanging stories and generally having a good time as the sun rose and race time drew near. I didn’t really have a good grasp of how many riders there really were until we all toed line at 9am sharp. A major dirt road was packed with riders for about 500 meters. That’s a lotta people. The “Classic” distance wave took off first, a few hundred people out for one big 45k loop around a Cane Plantation, through pine forests and back to the nature reserve. A couple minutes after we casually rolled off the line the 25k and 10k groups, accounting for another couple hundred newbies and casual riders, made their way out to cut us off at the pass. Dang, people in KZN are into their MTB racing. I was chatting with a local guy on the roll-out and he said things have been blowing up in the last few years as people get into MTBing for a bit of fun and to stay off the busy roads. Good to see.
As I was feeling all warm and fuzzy inside on the state of SA mountain biking I heard the telltale sound of a tire going flat. That sucks for someone I thought. Oh wait, that sounds like my tire. I must have run over the perfect little rock at the perfect angle and perfect amount of weight on the otherwise graded and watered gravel road we were riding down. Shoot. I stopped at the first turnoff and shook the Stan’s miracle liquid around to seal the hole, then borrowed a floor pump from some guys who were late and just on the way to the start when they saw us coming. Problem solved. For a few minutes. Then more leaking and more shaking around and pinching. More leaking. Finally, the perfect combo of shaking, opening and closing the hole and a blade of grass sealed the leak for good and I could set out riding through the Cane with a couple hundred of my closest bike racing kin. Ah, playing catch-up is fun. I almost caught them all, just Craig Paul (my local trail tour guide) stayed ahead, hidden amongst the traffic of the 10 and 25k racers as we rolled through the plantation to the finish… There were SO MANY people on the track, it was great to see ten-year-olds riding their BMX bikes down a pretty fast sandy track, bouncing around and not at all worried about it. They looked like Carl must have in his first race at about the same age. Others were walking their significant other’s bikes for them and not speaking. The full gamut of cyclists, all making the final push to the fruit stand and shade of the finish.
I didn’t linger long at the finish though, another local fast guy, Andrew, and I had roosted a super fun singletrack winding through a creek bottom together during the race and figured we’d better go ride it again before the prize-giving proceedings took place. It was the call of the day, I’m continually amazed at how much lovingly constructed and maintained singletrack is in the hills around here. I’m starting to figure out how all the South Africans I know are such good bike handlers, they’ve got good stuff to practice on, the better you can drift the more fun you can have around here.
It seemed like everyone who raced lounged around in the shade as the stragglers filtered in and results were tallied. Eating pork products from the lunch truck, catching up with their mates and telling war stories from the day.. Local bike racing is a great thing. We eventually got our prize money and rode back up the singletrack and down the Tar Road to Maritzburg, finishing off a perfect morning of bike practice. Felice had the vision to start our Refrigerator emptying task by using the extra milk to made Crepes for lunch. What a great idea. We had all kinds of filling experiments from the usual peanut butter and jelly to baked beans, cheese, salt and pepper or yoghurt, mixed nuts, jam and chocolate. Oh man, that was a good lunch. I think she’s going to open a Crepe Stand in Bend. Not sure if 1140 NW Portland is zoned for business but I sure hope so…
Other than mint local racing, I’ve just been taking it easy and riding a ton down here, catching my fitness up with the rest of the World Cuppers and my cinema and literature appreciation with that of an average human. It’s been swell.
-Oh, there’s more Gold on the cyclingdirt.org website, check out Carl and Kelli’s Pre-Sea Otter commentary. They rode fast there, good work holdin’ down the fort, kids.
Giro Painted me some sweet new Captain America lids. This particular Zebra isn’t impressed…
Felice and I went waterfall hunting, we found one…
Martin was impressed with the Guy Weedwacking and racking the trail at Giba Gorge.
Oli had quite a nice recovery ride on Sunday before flying back to the UK, scenic waterfalls and Zebras.