Racing amongst the citrus blossoms

Kate Slegrova had never done a race in Citrusdal before. But she thought it would be well worth the experience, and as a bonus she’d be able to take in more of South Africa’s generous scenery. So, she decided to make the trip with a few friends and share the Tip Trans Cederberg MTB Xperience with Full Sus.

Kate's Tip Trans Cederberg race pack.
Kate’s Tip Trans Cederberg race pack.

 

We organized accommodation for the Friday night at Citrusdal Lodge which was lovely. We then found a cosy restaurant called Citrus that served delicious food. I had a chicken burger (not the roll), baby potatoes and broccoli. After that we were tired and ready for bed. I slept like a baby packing in at least 8 hours.CitrusdalAnimated-Gif

The next morning we had a quick breakfast. Having prepared it the night before –rolled oats soaked in water and scoop of Manna Green shake. We packed our stuff, hopped onto our bikes and headed to the starting point. Registrations opened at 7am and with the start set for 8am, we did a quick warm-up ride up a hill, and took few photos before heading for the start. It was a chilly morning and a cold mist covered what is a beautiful landscape. We arrived at the start just on time, and were first behind the tip-trans truck which took us through town onto gravel, where we were left to race.

A big bunch formed, causing me to concentrate as much as one would in a road race. We had a good pace. I tried to stay aware of the others’ movements. All the while passing lots of orange trees, as Citrusdal is known for its citrus farming, hence its name.

The bunch separated, as 3 or 4 guys broke away in their own race for podium.  And we passed the first 2 water points without stopping. The main and longest climb was at 30km. That’s where the group started splitting up even more. I tried to maintain a reasonably fast pace as climbing is my strong point, ensuring I didn’t lose the group for the flat part which would follow.

It didn’t help that much though as Cherie Vale passed me comfortably. We had chatted earlier about her brilliant performance in the XCO World Champs held the week before in Pietermaritzburg. As well as being immensely talented, she is amiable and really down to earth.

On the way up the main climb we were rewarded with a beautiful view of the orchards below. I pushed hard but still wasn’t managing to keep up with the stronger guys. While leaving some riders behind us, myself and one of the guys started chatting and arrived at the top together where the King of the mountain prize awaited. Together, we headed downhill into the lush valley. The gravel was a dark orange, the sky very blue and the trails were flanked by olive green mountain sides – the contrasting colours were breath-taking.

It was just the two of us for about 30kms, until a group of guys caught up with us, which we were very happy about. This enabled us to work together as we then took regular turns at the front. It wasn’t too windy but it still helped to sit behind the wheel and not have to do all the pace making.

I had to work hard to stay with the group, and also had to push myself on my turn at the front. It was by no means a walk in the park. We passed Clanwilliam dam on the way back to Citrusdal, which is wonderfully scenic and, surprisingly, bigger than expected.

We all thought it would be an easy finish on tar, through town, but we were in for a surprise. We turned off onto the single track through an orange orchard only to find that we still had a few uphills to do. That’s where my energy levels hit bottom and my legs were turning slower and slower.

The ladies podium featuring Kate, Cherie Vale and Lara Woolley.
The ladies podium featuring Kate, Cherie Vale and Lara Woolley.

I had to take a GU energy gel 3 kms from the finish. (Never stop eating or drinking when you think you’re almost there.) The GU gel kicked in and I made it to the finish 2nd in the ladies division. I was incredibly happy with my result and also to have finished in 4 hours 33 minutes. There were showers at the finish, pool or dam to refresh and small organic market as an added bonus.

Overall it was a very well organized race and we were all glad to have done it. It’s always satisfying to ride new routes and support the organisers who work so hard in forging them.

The author, Cycle Training's Kate Slegrova.
The author, Cycle Training’s Kate Slegrova.

Kate Slegrova runs Cycle Training a cycling and multisport coaching and sports instruction business. When she’s not at the sharp end of the racing pack herself she’s teaching technical bike riding skills or coaching riders to complete races like the Cape Pioneer or Iron Man South Africa. You can find out more at www.cycletraining.co.za.

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