This was Kate Slegrova’s second Attakwas, so she knew what was coming and wasn’t too nervous. After finishing last year’s tough Cape Pioneer Trek in the mud and rain she thought it couldn’t be too bad, especially with the weather on the riders’ side.
A mild 25 degrees was predicted for the big day with overcast conditions and the odd shower… as close to perfect as you can hope for when marathon racing in the Little Karoo summer.
We had dinner in a local restaurant, Bello Cibo, where all the cyclists seem to have eaten. Karl Platt and rest of the Bulls team were sitting at table next to us, and they even had a bottle of red wine with their meal (Ed. There’s a training tip for you).
With 121km ahead of us, it required an early wake up call to get to the 06:30 start. After a long discussion on the best way to get to the start, my team mate and speed machine, Lara Woolley, rode up to the start at the Chandelier Game Farm from town. We got to the A batch start shoot almost last, but at least we were relaxed and ready to go.
The pace from the start was full gas and I struggled to get into a good pace. People were speeding past me like there was a tight single track ahead. But after a while I established a rhythm at my own pace. Near the 25km mark, a water point appeared and, sticking to my race plan, I carried on past knowing that I planned to only stop quickly at the second water point to grab a banana.
If you haven’t ridden the Attakwas Extreme Challenge, you should know that the first 30km goes by quite fast. The route mainly consists of gravel roads with a few rolling hills. From 30km to 80kms however, is real mountain biking! The steep rocky climbs (that even forced race winner Urs Huber to get off his bike and push!) and rocky descents with lots of river crossings, gave my body a proper workout. Despite wishing I already had the full suspension bike that’s on my Epic shopping list, I managed to get through it without a fall. It’s a tough section of riding, but it is very special, as it’s not usually accessible to the general public and has spectacular views of the beautiful mountains and lush green valleys.
At about 80km in, I reached water point four, where I stopped to snack on the amazing date balls made by the Dryland ladies (Ed. When Kate starts talking about food at the water points you know it’s tough.) After which the route followed smoothish gravel roads back to the finish. Last year I was baking on that final section, but this year it was fortunately overcast. It wasn’t all easy however as, just like 2013, there was a head wind to the finish. Despite it I felt quite good and enjoyed the views around.
The last 20km were a bit of a drag as my legs started to get tired and I just wanted to be at the finish. Happily I got bit of a pull from a strong young rider for few kays, but had to work hard to keep up with him. Entering the last 10km we were watching the clock trying to get in under 7 hours, but again I didn’t make it. I came home in the same time as last year (7 hours 00 minutes 56 seconds), but I think the down hills were bit rockier this year.
I was still happy to finish safely. And considering that I did mostly base training for the Epic in December, it was a good result (12th lady, 7th in age group) with lots of pro ladies riding. My team mates Lara came 9th and Caren Henschel 15th, which made for great result for the Itec Cycle Training team.
I’ve been helping Liezel van der Westhuizen with her skills and she finished in under 10 hours, and qualified for the Cape Epic, so I was very happy about that too. It’s a great achievement for her and I’m sure it’ll give her confidence for the Epic.
The water tables were stocked amazingly! I wish I had more time to snack on all the variety of home-made date balls, choc crunchies and ostrich steak. The route was very well marked, had amazing views and was really challenging. There were showers and food stalls at the finish, making for another superbly organised race by Dryland. It’s a must for a rider really looking to challenge themselves.