Chasing the Rainbow in Muddy Maritzburg

Sus the Rainbow ChallengeRainbowChallengeJerseyJPeg

Date: 28 June 2014

Distance: 70km

Event Website: www.rainbowchallenge.co.za

By: Kate Slegrova @KateSlegrova 

I had not planned to ride the Rainbow Challenge but my coach (yes even coaches have coaches) talked me into it. I had taken two months off after Epic to enjoy easier fun riding, so my form was nowhere near top form… and my love for chocolate had made me bit heavier too. I got a bit of last minute training in with the RECM Knysna 200 and the Pennypinchers Greyton MTB race though and decided to just ride as well as I could.

We arrived nice and early on Wednesday to get settled in Pietermaritzburg. And by Thursday morning we couldn’t wait to hit the trails. I quickly realized it wasn’t going to be an easy race. The route featured lots of steep climbs with loads of singletrack and tight switchbacks. After nearly two hours of practice on the race route we headed off to local Coffeeberry for breakfast.

We had planned to ride again on Friday, but when we woke up to rain those plans were quickly called off. Off we went to have proper breakfast at our hotel rather and waited for the weather to clear. But by lunchtime it was still raining so we decided to hit the Virgin Active rather and did an hour on the spin bikes, with few sprints to get the legs switched on for race the next day. The gym was new with a great view over the Cascades. It was probably a safer bet than getting muddy on the trails.

The next morning it wasn’t raining luckily, however it was clear that the course would be muddy. My start was only at 9:30am so I had proper breakfast and tried to keep calm, which wasn’t easy with everyone walking around and saying how hard that course was… I thought come on how hard could it be? Surely it’s just one day on fresh legs, and having done a muddy Cape Pioneer Trek and a muddy Epic I thought was prepared for the worst.

There were about 40 of us on the start line, with about 10 ladies in each age group. I was 30 – 34 group, which is a strong field. I saw Delene var der Leek who I knew from the Pioneer, and I knew she’d be one of the strongest ladies in the field.

Off we went and had to start climbing almost immediately. The strong ladies went ahead and that was last time I saw Dalene, who was obviously in good form. I was glad we did bit of the route in practice as I was familiar with the first hour of the race. It took almost an hour to do about 10km. It featured steep climbs and muddy, slippery, singletrack in beautiful green forest. I didn’t go all out as I’d been warned to keep energy for last 20km. That saying I was still pushing relatively hard. After two hours we were out of the forest and did little bit of gravel road in bush, where I expected elephants and rhino march pass me at any second. The field had split a lot by then and I managed to pass few ladies from my age group. Soon I was riding alone with only a brief section with a lady from an older age group. The route climbed again and when we reached the top of the hill we were treated to amazing views. I was glad by then that I’d came to KZN as it was a great change of scenery from the Western Cape.

Ladies 30 - 34 age group champ Nadene Cahill in action. Photo by Darren Goddard | Gameplan Media
Ladies 30 – 34 age group champ Nadene Cahill in action. Photo by Darren Goddard | Gameplan Media

Coming back towards Cascades we were welcomed by more really awesome singletrack. In fact even the jeep track sections leading into the Cascades were amazing. By then we’d done almost 50km and I think everyone would have been happy if the route turned straight to the finish. Nonetheless we had still another 24km to go! A steep climb followed with tight switch backs that took some coordination by then. Then bit of gravel road where I could see the last water point and another girl ahead of me so I didn’t stop even though I didn’t have any water left, which was silly.

Suddenly I shouted with pain as my legs went into cramp. By then I’d had all my 6 of my gels and an energy bar already and had no water or energy drink left either! So all I could do was throw a sachet of Rehydrate straight into my mouth! It gave me last bit of energy and also helped with the cramps.

Last bit of singletrack was bit of a pain as it was steep and slippery, with muddy rocks to negotiate with my energy levels about done. I rode some trying to keep momentum but I have to admit that I ran few downhills as one doesn’t have much control in the mud like that.

Overall ladies winner and 35 - 39 age group winner Frances Barnard. Photo by Darren Goddard | Gameplan Media
Overall ladies winner and 35 – 39 age group winner Frances Barnard. Photo by Darren Goddard | Gameplan Media

Last 5 kays were luckily rideable and I managed to push on to the finish. People were right when they said it was tough route! The typical marathon route with mostly gravel road with some single track doesn’t tire you out as much. The Rainbow Challenge route was hard, technical singletrack with bit of gravel road! I’m not complaining  though, I loved it and so did fellow Czechs Jaroslav Kulhavy and Tereza Hurikova the next day, when they finished 1st and 3rd in the Elite World Championships races with their brilliant technical skills.

The race was very well marked very. The route was awesome. But the water points were only okay. (It’s not Dryland’s great choice, but then maybe I’m a bit spoilt.) Overall it was a great race and a great experience to ride at the XCM World Championships. I finished 5th in my age group which was an okay result considering I haven’t been training as much.

 Rainbow Challenge Champions:

Men 30 – 34: Jan Withaar

Men 35 – 39: Brand Du Plessis

Men 40 – 44: Werner Moolman

Men 45 – 49: Arno Daehnke

Men 50 – 54: Andrew Mclean

Men 55 – 59: Greg Anderson

Women 30 – 34: Nedene Cahill

Women 35 – 39: Frances Barnard

Women 40 – 44: Yolande De Villiers

Women 45 – 49: Brenda Potts

For all the Rainbow Challenge results click here.

Brand Du Plessis 2014 Rainbow Challenge Champion. Photo by Darren Goddard | Gameplan Media
Brand Du Plessis 2014 Rainbow Challenge Champion. Photo by Darren Goddard | Gameplan Media

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