Telkom 947 Cycle Challenge Chas Everitt CHOC Race Report
Category Chas for Choc
Sunday the 19th November 2:30am .... and the wake up alarm goes off!
All the hard training, all of the sacrifices, all of the promises made to complete and finish this challenge to all for CHOC kids is now apon me.
Fortionately I live only 8km from the start/ finish venue but I arrive there before time at 4:30am for our 5am meetup point for all of the CHOC double lap entrants. (ofwhich there will be 56 of us lining up on the start line for the day) A record number i’m told!
As the sun starts to rise through the hospitality park at our meet up point at the CHOC tent my comrades for the day start arriving. Hi 5s, words of encouragement, and a pensive energy is a buzz in the air! We suit up in our full body lycra time trial suits (in cow print) I’m told that these will protect us from the heat of the day - we look incredible as a group all dressed up the same ready to do battle with 190km.
More photos of a before group shot - and then the call of "to the start line!"
Onto our bikes we go and as 56 strong we weave through the steel barricades and through the cyclists all gearing up for their start groups. Loud beating music breaking the morning silence as the MC for the day cheerily announces each starting group to the start line.
1 minute to start cyclists he shouts out .. after announcing can you believe these guys will be doing it twice today!
10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 .... and we are off!
This years race start is on an uphill so we are out of the saddle from the start! A headwind greets us also .. the pace is high and im on the front of our bunch assisting with the pace setting along with 3 other riders. We expend 30% more energy riding on the front by absorbing the wind and this is a job that the real strong men can endure. We take this challenge up gladly, and drive the bunch setting the pace.
Out of the headwind and right onto the long undulating roads along Diepsloot. The pace is high - the energy is good. Everyone is locked in and we are a large rolling mass cutting through the air.
Right onto th R55. Just what we needed, a tailwind. This feeds us like wood to a fire - lifting the average pace as the wind pushes our backs. I am still on the front of the bunch - resigned to the fact that this is where I will be all day - and where I love to be - at the front it is hard - but at the front the views are the best!
Rushing down Crowthrone towards the Kyalami Race track a quick shout out to my parents alongside the road as we fly past! Im feeling good I shout!
Tucked into an aero position to cut through the wind we carene down towards the Kyalami Race track entrance. As we slip onto the track it feels like riding on butter the road surface is so smooth! What a priviledge cycling on the track I think to myself!
Then all of a sudden. Ease up guys!
Our team captain has broken his chain further down the road behind us - and is busy frantically trying to repair it. We cant leave him behind!
The tempo drops by half immediately as we await him to get back on to the bunch - some of the cyclists are already starting to hurt and see this as a welcomed relief as we tap off the pace setting.
Out of the Kyalami race track and onto Woodmead drive we go at a more gingerly pace waiting for our team captain to rejoin.
Over and onto the highway and he is still not back.
Concerns start to muster as our average speed is now behind where we should be at to finish within 3 hours for the 1st lap in order to start the 2nd one in time before race cut off.
Then, just before we reach Grayston offramp along the highway.
He is back on! Gordy and Brooksy (a SA Triathlete champ) LIFT the pace!!
Myself and Brooksy do what we were born to do - and drive the pace hard!
Its quiet in the bunch now - this is usually the case when the pressure is on and maximum energy is being exerted!
As we ride hard along the highway towards Smit offramp - calls of easy shout out! Some of the cyclists are in trouble and cannot ride with the pace being set. This is a tricky situation as we have to keep the average speed up - but do not want to break the group as a result so we ease and then push!
We are back inline within the time cut off time! our captain shouts out! Good job boys on the front! Our efforts in lifting the average pace along the highway have paid back as we peel off the highway and onto Nelson Mandela bridge!
The next sections through town and Rosebank are fast and technical. Massive downhills - sucking up air into our lungs and shooting down like a roller coaster. Occasionally cyclists hitting manhole covers on the decents popping their water bottles out of their bike cages and onto the road at speed! These bottles prove very dangerous if you make contact with them with your front wheel ofwhich my team mate, and then myself come dangerously close to hitting two bottles on the way down Jan Smuts at speed!
Up the long hard drag hill of Randburg! The gears click and churn - the groans holler out! Calls of lets go boys shout out!
Over and through Randburg at speed we ride!
A shout out We've lost some! The race has taken its toll - its inevitable! Not everyone can be saved now as the pace, fatigue, and cramp sets in for some - there is no way to fix that when you've bonked (hit the wall) A 2nd bunch of our group has broken off from the back and formed behind us.
Out onto Witkoppen towards Northgate - this will test the legs - and take some more riders!
I peel off the front far right on the road and take a look back at who's left. We still have a sizeble bunch - positive stuff! I peel right back in onto the front and continue to contribute to the pace setting. Im still feeling good - the guys around me are also strong - the guys at the back are holding on! WE can do this!
Road side stands, music pumping lift the energy and spirit!
Off Witkoppen and towards Cedar - the last big climb awaits - a monster around 10k out from the finishline - some guys get itchy and want to attack it! Hold we say! Lets get everyone over this climb easy - we are almost there!
As we crest this climb the strong are fine - but others are are in trouble desperately holding on. The downhills through Steyn City will offer a recovery for them!
Zipping through Steyn City negotiating speed bumps and traffic circles on cobble sections another shout out! 10 minutes to go until we reach 3hrs!!
We can taste the finish line but there is panic again! Is there enough time to to finish to make a sub 3hr 1st lap finish time with our distance left with these 2 last climbs to go!
9 minutes left! Another shout out!
We cycle onto the 2nd of the last to climbs - im strong and can sprint of easily if I want to .. but hold and slow the pace .. so that most can make it over the climb!
Over we go - some more cyclists off the back.
A mad decent down through the main gates of Steyn City and up onto the last final climb to the finish!
5 minutes left!
We ride panic in the air - we can make it but its going to be tight!
200m left to the finish line!
And then over we go!
(the illusive sub 3hr finish time that earns respect amongst cyclists is achieved!)
As soon as we cross the finishline the clock starts ticking again!
25 minutes and we need to be ready to leave and start the race again!
I rush to our CHOC tent - grab a pasta salad out of my bag that I packed for carbs - and 4 energy drinks and glug them down.
I left my spoon at home! My pasta will have to be eaten with fingers! Get it done!
CHOC cyclists come streaming in during this time! There are boards of pizza under our CHOC gazeebo, words of encouragement with everyone assisting, guys rehydrating - it looks like a battlefield!
Some are exhausted .. heads between their knees. Some are stong .. and some are undecided on how their bodies feel.
The sun is pelting down now at around 27 degrees - its hot and uncomfortable.
A cyclist shouts out We've got to go! We will be the last group starting for the day now before they close the race.
I load my bottles on the bike - clip in and we ride off to the start line again .. riders gearing up behind us.
Onto the start line - not as many jokes this time round. Music blaring!
2 minutes to go until start is announced. Close call!
... then 30 seconds to go. (CHOC cyclists are still lining up)
10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1!
And we are off! AGAIN!
(It is pre agreed that we all meet up at the top of the start uphill to congregate as a CHOC bunch.)
This lap already is different as we start with beginner novice cyclists who recieved very late start seedings. The road is packed as we set off up the hill splintered as a CHOC group - the headwind now refreshing as it cools us down in the heat, navigating and weaving around cyclists. Some cyclists are walking within this 1st km - I think to myself this is going to be a long day for them if your walking now!
Onto Dieplsloot rd we pull into the garage meeting point. CHOC cyclists start arriving. There is an air of casualty in the air - I think its masked by exhaustion for some as they pensively prepare to ride this 2nd lap.
A few of us are looking and feeling great - ready to conquer and ride off again - but need to wait and offer restraint as we must assist the bunch as a whole the stronger cyclists.
Finally we set off after a 10minute interval which feels like forever at the garage.
I assume position at the front of the bunch again with some of the riders as we ride down a lonely Diepsloot road at more casual pace as the marshalls start removing hay bales from the sides of the road. It feels very surreal as we ride as the back end of the race shuts down.
Then panic! A marshal shouts out along Diepsloot rd 12min until cut off time to 1st check point!
If we do not make the 1st cut off time along route within this time then we will be stopped from proceeding with the race and disqualified as roads are opened back up! (the cavalier pondering at the garage has how possibly cost us our race!)
The demenor changes immediately within the bunch and we lift the pace hard again along Diepsloot road.
Right up onto the R55 again and the police and marshals stand on the tar road with cut off ribbon in hand half way across the road ready to close off the race!
We cross this check point within 5mins. to go before the closing off of the race at this point!
Pushing down the R55 now in a state of frenzy concerns of now if we will make cut off points to follow are raised. We soon realize that we are stronger than the back markers so it should not be problematic as we start to suck them up in big swarms along the road.
Looking back as we cycle from the front of the bunch I notice that our CHOC group now has disintegrated into smaller groups behind us - everyone is riding within their ability now - some are hurting - this was inevitable. We will not arrive home all together.
It is decided that us stronger riders forge up the road and assist the ailing CHOC ice cream bikes that are on the route from the 1st lap with the main CHOC club bunch that started the race at 8am.
These CHOC ice cream bikes are 3 wheelers and weigh over 70kgs, cycled by one person for a single lap of the race. They are very cumbersome and incredibly hard to ride up hills because of their weight. Each ice cream bikes sponsor is over R40 000.00 to cross over the finishline - so it is imperative that they make it. There would be 9 of these bikes on route during the day.
A quick peel off at Kyalami Corner along the R55 for a last high 5 for my parents and Aunt and quick chat of encouragement! A few CHOC riders pass me during this time. Then im off again - still feeling good!
I race around Kyalami racetrack trying to pick up CHOC riders upfront who will join me to go and help upfront in the race.
We regather as a group of 6 still strong CHOC cyclists riding hard up towards Woodmead drive looking for work. The sun is out now in full steam .. its HOT .. there are masses of novice cyclists cycling up the road. We start talking about how great a water point would be.
And then ..just as we approach the onramp to the highway!
A WELCOMING sight!
The Chas Everitt tent!
Seeing Berry and Tegs and Nats was a fantastic feeling! We all pulled over .. cold water bottles and brownies shared! Laughs and Hi 5s! More CHOC cyclists pulled in behind us as another group and it was a great moment. After a chat and encouragement I decided I needed to set off up the road find and rejoin the 6 strong riders that had now left this point.
It was now just me on the highway as a CHOC lone cyclist in persuit with thousands of cyclists riding up the highway towards town. Because the highway is so broad it was easy to ride to the right of these masses of cyclists on 2 clear highway lanes of road and hit it hard up this section. Along the way I started to pick up 2 CHOC cyclists. We were now 3.
Just before empire turnoff we spotted what I was after .. the CHOC guys up the road that i wanted to rejoin at a water table.
Now we were ready for business. As a pack of 7 we rode solidly looking for work. off the highway. Down Jan Smuts cutting through the wind and cyclists around us. And then into Rosebank just before the Standard Bank hill.
This is where the next defining moment for me of this special race would be and begin.
One of the CHOC Ice cream bikes was in trouble at this point in the race. There were only 2 CHOC club cyclists from the 1st lap assisting to push it up the hills from the start - ofwhich they valiantly did - but were now hurting from the understandable efforts that they made.
Nigel, a CHOC cyclist who was one of our 7 strong (and an ex Team mate of mine from years back) said Lets do this!
Nigel and another rider Pierre proceeded to tie 2 bike tubes together and wrap them around their chests and attach these tubes to the front handle bars of the ice cream bike. Myself and Martin would grab onto the ice cream box handles on each side of the ice cream bike and ride alongside - pushing from the sides with one hand on our bikes and the other on the handle of the ice cream bike box. The cyclist Richard would then continue to peddle the ice cream bike. Accompanyed by 3 other CHOC cyclists to clear the road up ahead and take turns on pushing on the uphills to follow we set off - music pumping from the sound system from the ice cream bike - CHOC flag flying and people saying GO COWS!! along the route!
As a competitive cyclist all my life this was something I have never experienced, as much as leading a bunch is - or riding hard for glory ... 8 people getting an ice cream bike home for charity as a collective effort was an incredible emotion and experience to be part of!
We hung on to this ice cream bike for the rest of the race like it was part of us!
On the decents down to Randburg bouncing over man holes at speed with cyclists attached to it up front with bicycle tubes - rattling - shouts of keep left as we speed down the road my thoughts were .. this is RADICAL! And WE are *&#@ if we crash - or this ice cream bike punctures and carenes out of control!
Riding one handed switching to easier gears .. one hand on the bike and the other on the ice cream bike we we pushed up each hill as a team! The uphills would swell with tired cyclists on the climbs and they sometimes could not get out of the way.
And then an accident!
At the base of Randburg hill climb 2 cyclists collided and crashed directly infront of us - us almost riding them over. We all locked up in a mess of wheels.
Accidents are usually due to fatigue .. cyclists will swerve and jag and this was likely the result.
Everyone was ok thankfully as it was an uphill crash!
We cranked it up again! Organised ourselves and were off!
Through Randburg we sped careful to not crash the cannonball and us along with it - with shouts KEEP LEFT CYCLISTS - coming through!!
Then a great idea from our Ice cream bike rider Richard .. tequila stop coming up!
We pulled over just before Peter Place to a tequila stand that has been there for years! A few shots of tequila and we were off again! Rejuvinated - and the legs feeling not so worked as it set in!
Crowds through Fourways cheering us on .. music pumping off the bike .. our bodies in the work zone! Going for it! Alive!
Onto Witkoppen road hill! This would be a real tester with what we had to push up this uphill! Midday sun over 30 degrees in our faces glaring down on us .. a steep gradient .. sweat pouring off us .. and a promise that there was an ice cold beer at the top of this climb for us as an incentive to keep going!
My arms were now paining more that my legs having to use a muscle I had not planned on using for this event to push - bracing with one hand on the bike as we accended .. sweating .. and not stopping until we crested!
Greeted by Nigels family under a gazeebo near the top of Witkoppen we drunk ice cold Dragon Ginger Beer! I cannot explain this feeling - the taste in the sweltering sun was undescribable!
And off again!
Almost there guys!!
Through Steyn city navigating the circles and speed bumps again down the hills with cyclists around us - ice cream bike on its limits!
Slow down! Slow down! Accident!
A cyclist face down unconscious on the tar being attended to by paramedics - an unfortionate sight to see - and a reminder as to how dangerous the sport can be. I hope that he is ok.
Onto the final finish climb! Everyone's chests out proud! Good Job! Good Job!
And over the finish line we went! Shouts from the crowds GO CHOC!
What a way to complete 190km!
2nd Lap time (not sure)
(I could have easily finished the 2nd lap solo in a very fast time - without any difficulty at all with my form and conditioning as an athlete)
However, I could not think of any better way to finish a race then as we did with that ice cream bike and would not want it any other way!
A great day and memory!
Author: Meg Wilson