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Entries in mountainbiking (10)


Gearing up for the Wines2Whales Contego Mountainbike Race 2012

On Friday I will be setting off for my third Contego Wines2Whales  3 day stage race here in Cape Town.

This is one of the highlights of my year! I have been making lots of sacrifices to be fit and ready for the race (hiring bicycles while traveling, battling jet lag to keep fit while I have been in England, the US, Malaysia, Holland Uganda etc.), trying my best to eat well, and going out at 4.30 and 5am (long before my beautiful wife and kids wake up) on the weekends so that I can train and still be home when they are up and about.

But, it is worth it.  The scenery, single track, fun, and camaraderie on this race are such a blessing!  On Friday we will set off for day 1 of the race (I am a little bit like a diesel 'bakkie' (pickup truck for my American friends)).  I am not all that quick, but I can climb just about any hill and I can just keep going!  My partner Andre Swart and I are heading out in the second last batch of the morning (group I).  It is going to be great to ride with Andre!  I did my previous two Wines2Whales races with my good mate Greg Long.  Greg is living up in Johannesburg and so decided to give the race a miss this year.  I was first training with Steven Johnstone, but he had a nasty fall on a training ride we did in Stellenbosch and broke his wrist, so Andre very kindly stepped in!  Andre is about 10 years younger than me, much fitter and very strong!  So, I am blessed to be riding with him.  Day 1 is a tough day of riding.  We take off on Lourensford Wine farm (about 800 meters from my front door!) and ride across the beautiful farm, then across Vergelegen, and cross over into my regular training spot in Sir Lowry's Pass (Schapenberg Black Route), where we go over the old wagon trails and climb up to Grabouw on the other side of the pass.  It is a total of 2000 meters of climbing!  Once over we head to Oak Valley (also part of the ABSA Cape Epic route) and camp there for night 1.

On day 2 we head out from Oak Valley and do a great loop out towards Bot River and towards the coast.  Day 2 has some of the most amazing flowing single track in the world!  We ride Paul Cluver, Lebanon Forest and of course Oak Valley itself.  There are some seriously technical bits on this day’s riding (Puff Adder and Boom Slang!).  But, I always find day 2 quite fun.  Last year we had a good ride on day 2 (except for the fact that I broke my chain twice!)  Amazingly I also broke my chain on day 2 in 2010!  I hope that I will not do that again this year.  It is obviously poor great changing on my part that causes the problem.


On day 3 we do some amazingly fast riding down from Oak Valley to the town of Bot River, then past there we go through a valley and start climbing up towards the Hemel en Aarde side of Hermanus.  That last little sting in the tail is a killer! After three days of riding the legs get a little tired!  But the sight of the Atlantic Ocean the finish in Onrus is always a motivation!  To know that I will be seeing Megie, Courtney and Liam gives me that extra bit of energy to make it over the top and home.  In 2010 Greg and I made it onto SuperSport on day 3!  We were weaving through some single track when I looked up and the camera was in my face!  I also took a tumble on some sand, but fortunately they didn’t air that piece!


Well, I would like to ask for your prayers for ‘Team Transformation’ this weekend!  Please pray for our safety on the ride, also please pray for our health (I am nursing a knee niggle.  I broke my left leg badly in 2008 and have had a few knee and ankle hassles since.  Three weeks ago when I was in Holland I did two 80 km rides on a bike that was not set up quite correctly and my knee took a little bit of straing.  Please pray that it is perfectly well by Friday and that it remains strong, stable, and free of discomfort and pain).  Please also pray for our equipment.


You can follow my twitter feed @digitaldion for regular updates, or see my tumblr blog for pictures at


The Karoo to Coast 2011 Mountainbike race - an amazing ride!

Last Sunday we set out from Knynsa at just before 4am to drive to the small Karoo town of Uniondale for the Pennypinchers Karoo to Coast 100km mountainbike race.  My friend Greg and I have been looking forward to this race for the whole year!  Last year I couldn't ride since my daughter, Courtney, had just come out of hospital after her brain surgery.  Praise God that it was a year later and all is well!

Greg and I have not been doing as much training as we should.  I have had quite a bit of travel with work, and Greg is commuting between Somerset West and Johannesburg every week with work.  So, 'team telletubbies' was ready for the ride.

By some amazing accident I was seeded with the Elite Men's group (rider number 198!)  When I got into the shute I realised just what a mistake that was! I was the only guy with a body mass index over 4% and unshaved legs!  Ha ha! It soon became apparent that I was out of my league.

Still, I was donning my Power Group, Unashamedly Ethical kit and wanted a good day in the saddle.

It was a great ride - one of the best, most fun, rides that I have done in a very long time. I must confess that I was not well prepared at all.  In fact my legs reminded me of it when they decided to both start cramping at 75km into the race! At that stage I was poised for a fair ride - I had an hour to do the last 25 km's.  However, with cramps I ended up doing another 2 hours and 9 minutes for the last 25km! It has tough!  The heat was also a bit of a challenge.  But, as I say, it was a heck of a lot of fun.  Lots of climbing (1800 m in total), some of the most amazing scenery as you ride along farm roads and trails from Uniondale to Knysna.

Here's a picture of Greg and I at the finish line. It was a hot, dusty day in the saddle for both of us.  Greg has incredible technical skill.  He's the kind of guy that flies down those hills at over 60km an hour!  My fastest speed on the day was 64km an hour - frightening to think that one would go that fast on dirt!  But this ride is suited for fast riding.  Be warned, there are some dangerous corners, so pay close attention to the marshals and warning signs that are posted.

The race was exceptionally well organised.  There were plenty of water points, and even a food point along the road.  There was a lot of medical support and motorcyclists along the route to help anyone that got into trouble.

If you're interested in seeing the route you can download the *.kml file (for Google Earth) from here. I have a Garmin 705 cycling computer - it is great to keep track of all my rides and routes.

And then, just to prove that I wasn't going slow ALL the way here's one of the ActionPhoto pictures of me heading down a pass somewhere along the ride... At least I look fast (ish)!  ha ha.

I'm looking forward to a better ride next week!  This weekend I'll be riding the Spur Lourensford Classic 60km ride.  One of my favorite rides of the year, right in my back yard!

I have to keep my riding up for the Wines2Whales - Greg and I are riding that in the second week of November.  However, I leave for Malaysia and Hong Kong on Tuesday and will be away for 2 weeks without any riding (I'll take some kit along to ride in the gym or go for a few runs).


Do you believe in angels?

In this video I share a short story that leads me to ask the question:  Do you believe in angels?

Some may say that it is quite a strange thing for me to be asking this question.  However, since Psalm 91.11 and Luke 4.10 relate so clearly to the little story I recount in the video I thought I would ask you for your opinion.  So, do you believe in angels? And could you tell me why, or why not?  Also if you have any stories to tell of an encounter with angelic beings I'd love to hear about them.

When I posted this question on twitter I had three almost immediate responses from @hayesstw @gigglebug and @ursh13 to say that they all believe in angels.  Knowing the persons who left the comments, and their theological perspectives, I'm sure that their reasons for believing in angels would be quite different.  That's what most interests me - why do you believe in angels?


Greg and I made it onto SuperSport's TV coverage of the 2010 Contego Wines2Whales mountain bike race!

Imagine my surprise as I was watching the SuperSport coverage of the Contego Wines2Whales 2010 mountainbike race when I suddenly saw myself and my partner Greg on TV!

This grainy pictures show us (me in red and Greg in blue) coming out of a piece of single track towards the end of day 3 of the race.

What a great memory - and so cool fir team frosty!


Highlights from the Contego Wines2Whales Mountainbike race

The 3 days of mountainbiking that make up the Contego Wines2Whales was one of the highlights of my year!  It was pure bliss to spend more than 20 hours in the saddle over the 3 days, riding 230 or so kilometers.

Today a friend Philip (who also rode the race) sent me some links to the superb highlight videos from the first 2 days of riding!

Take a look at this and you'll see why it was so much fun!

Day 1 video highlights

Day 2 video highlights

As I mentioned in my previous pre (and post) race posting my cycling partner Greg and I had a super ride!  We managed 7.30 on the first stage (a very tough day in the mud and rain).  On day two we ripped up the single track with a respectable 6.24 and on the final day we braved the long road over the mountains from Grabouw to Hermanus with a time of 6.40.

If you rode the ride, or know someone who did, I'd love to hear your feedback and insights!  Drop me a comment below.


Contego Wines2Whales 2010 - team frosty is ready to go!

Well, it is just before 9pm on the 11th of November 2010.  My bag is packed, my bike is clean and lubed, and my kit is laid out and ready for the 2010 Contego Wines2Whales three day mountainbike stage race.

My friend Greg and I have been training for this ride for almost a year now.  It will be the first time that either of us does a multi-day mountainbike ride.  We have both ridden longer distances, and of course ridden on consecutive days.  However, this race is unique in that each team has to ride together (you must pass each checkpoint within 2 minutes of your riding partner).

It is called the Wines2Whales because it starts on the historic Lourensford wine farm (which is my 'back yard' - this is where I ride just about every weekend), and then goes via Grabouw to the Whale Watching city of Hermanus on the Cape Coast.

Day 1 is the toughest day, a 70 km climb (1453m) out of the Helderberg valley, over the Hottentots Holland mountains to Grabouw.  Here's a descriptoin of the first day.

Start - Lourensford, Somerset West
The first 10km is open gravel track, climbing from 100 - 325m, with ample opportunity to warm up and for the bunch to spread out
The next 6km include 190m of climbing with 4 downhill single tracks interspersed with gravel
16 - 20km (385m): Granny gear, scenic views, check your heart rate AND keep something for 'DIE KOP'
7 single tracks and short gravel sections (fast and straight) lead you over the Blue Gum dam wall and to the 1st waterpoint at Lourensford Winery (33km,100m), whereafter you cross the Lourensriver into Vergelegen
Single track and long, slow climbs via the Wedderwill Game Reserve with a 'no passing zone' to deal with on this section takes riders to the 2nd waterpoint at Wedderwill winery and then on to conquer 'DIE KOP' with a cut off point at 52km (545m)
Up the Elandskloof single track with a portage over Gantouw / T'kana Ouwe to the 60km (510m) mark
68km (325m): Slightly up, 2 single tracks
Last 2km fast into finish
Finish - Grabouw Country Club

Day 2 is the fun day with a majority of the riding on single track. It is 75km in length and has a total climb of 1265m. Here's a blurb about day 2.

Start - Grabouw Country CLub
The first 2km (320 - 370m) goes out towards 'DIE KOP', then turns back and goes round the start giving the bunch time to spread out
Up to 4km is along the Eikenhof Dam with a steep zig-zag down to 315m
4 - 9km: a long climb ascending from 315 to 415m onto the Molteno Trail
A gravel downhill, between the orchards, takes the riders to the 10km at 370m above sea level
The route climbs up the Oak Valley along 5 Oak Valley and 4 Thandi single tracks, to the 13km mark, at 480m and then on to the 1st waterpoint at Thandi Farm Stall (30km, 250m) 
The Paul Cluver single track climbs up to 400m and then the riders go down via the Lebanon Forest Station to the 2nd waterpoint - Korteshoven Shed at 40km (310m) 
The next 17km takes you up to Houwteq and then down to the 3rd waterpoint at Thandi (57km, 240m) via the Lebanon singles and the subway under the N2
Up Thandi and Paul Cluver single tracks to the Oak Valley and then down 5 Oak Valley singles to 71km, whereafter the route takes you slowly up Applegarth to the finish
Finish - Grabouw Country Club

And then there is the final, leg stretch day, day 3 which is an 85km ride with a 985m climb.

Start - Grabouw Country Club
The first 2km (320 - 370m) goes out towards 'DIE KOP', then turns back and goes round the start giving the bunch time to spread out
2 short climbs in the beginning and a fast downhill, whilst saying a fond farewell to 'DIE KOP', brings the riders to Houwhoek Inn, the 1st waterpoint at 25km as well as Wildekrans Winery, the 2nd waterpoint at 35km
The 3rd waterpoint is situated at the Art House (47km, 125m) and from there the fast sandy downhill called Sandgat at 54km, will take you to the 4th waterpoint at Sumaridge (64km, 270m)
Fall from Hemel-na-Aarde, via Jan's single track to 69km, 90m above sea level
And then on to Rotary View Drive (72km, 250m), with it's stunning view of Walker Bay and the Kleinriver lagoon, via Hamilton Russel (witpad)
72km - 83km: Fast downhill with 3 short climbs and some pain, single track along the Onrusriver, under a bridge, along a trail path to the beach, up to Atlantic Drive and then on to the finish
Finish - Onrus Caravan Park, Hermanus

Greg and I have been riding together for about 2 years now - we have done quite a few MountainBike races together (the Cape Argus MTB, the Burger Sanlam in Stellenbosch, the Lourensford Classic and a few more).

Unfortunately, as is often the case, our training has not been perfect.  We have had a few injuries, some equipment failure, illness, busyness and travel to contend with along the way.  But, we're not looking for a win!  We're looking forward to spending three days in the saddle enjoying some of the most beautiful scenery in the world, and some of the most magnificent offroad biking in the world!

Our friends, Ruan and Philip will also be riding as a team.  We're trusting for a safe, fun time over the 240 km's that lie ahead of us this weekend.

I'll be tweeting pictures and experiences from the ride, and will also update my facebook profile - so please keep an eye on those for news.

If you're riding I'd love to hear from you!  I know that the CEO of Vodacom, Pieter Uys, is riding this weekend. We've had some connection via twitter - by the way, did I mention how cool it is that the CEO of Vodacom manages his OWN twitter account? He responds to customers and interacts with clients.  This is truly a great example of the power of social media when it is used well.  I hope more will learn from him!  

There are a number of other big names along for the ride as well.

Drop me a line, DM me on twitter, or leave me a comment here and connect over the weekend, or share your experience after the race.

Remember to keep the sticky bits on the gravel, go fast, go safe and have lots of fun!


Otium Sanctum - Riding 'Die Burger' mountainbike race

On Saturday the 31st of July 2010 I had the joy of riding my second 'Die Burger' mountainbike challenge in Stellenbosch.  It is a truly superb race on the mountainbiking calendar - it is well organised, well supported and the riding terrain is second to none!  Plus, it is in my 'back garden' so it is very convenient.

This year I did the 60 KM ride with my Wines2Whales team mate Greg Long. Greg is a great friend and an superb cyclist.  He has super technical ability (mainly due to his experience as a national champion BMX rider in his youth).  He is also very strong physically and mentally - not to mention that we get along so well.  It is a joy to ride with Greg.  He and I are quite evenly matched most of the time.  I am quite strong on the climb but slow on the technical and he is superfast on the technical and steady on the climbs. 

On this race, however, he was on top form!  He did the 60KM course in a super 4h02.  I on the other hand only managed 4h50 - I'll say a bit more about my time below.  I ended up with a slit tyre, no repair kit and two flat tubes...

It was an overcast day with strong winds, but quite a lot of the course was sheltered.  What also made the riding quite good this year was the fact that it had not rained for the 10 days preceding the race.  Die Burger is known to be a muddy ride in winter!  This year wasn't too bad.  There was some mud to contend with, but on the whole the farm tracks, climbs through the vineyards, forest sections and single track were all pretty dry and well maintained.  Much of the tract was quite new and it was clear that the organisers had done great work to get things ready for the race!

I rode on my trusty Mongoose Canaan Comp which I have had for about 2 years now.  She is a trusty steed that handles the terrain much better than I do.  I lovingly refer to her as 'the beast' because she carves up the dirt with ease!  This range of full suspension bikes is truly exceptional value for money!  I was fortunate to purchase my bike as stock from a previous year that had not sold, so I got it at a great price.  But even new they are extremely affordable, well fitted, and durable.  Perhaps the only thing that I would change on my bike is better suspension - to be able to lock out the suspension on the climb would be a great bonus!  But, the bike is comfortable, stable, and fairly light.

Die Burger MTB challenge has 4 distance rides on the day - 15 KM for the kids and novices, a 30 KM ride for teenagers and more avid riders, a 42 KM ride for those who are hankering after a little distance, and then the 60 KM ride for those of us who really enjoy a bit of a leg stretch!  There is also a 75KM ride, but that is by invitation only and caters for the more professional and skilled riders.

The 60 KM ride has plenty of variety - water crossings, farm trails, mountain tracks, jeep tracks, great fast descents, some fairly technical sections with steep dropoffs and switchbacks, and lots of single track (rolling track and some climbs and fast descending track in the forest).

It was this track that I slit my rear tyre on a root.  I heard the air coming out and then my tube burst as it bubled through the slit.  So, I changed it fairly quickly and started riding.  But within about 50 meters the second tube also burst.  That was when I knew I was in trouble.  Both my tubes were flat, my tyre was slit and I didn't have any patches and glue.  I asked all the passing riders for help and they were all kind, but most people ride on tubeless tyres so I wasted 30 minutes before someone came along with spare patches and glue! I patched the tyre first by sticking a patch on the inside of the tyre to strengthen the hole.  Then I patched the tube and put it back in.  It held for the rest of the race, although I had to underinflate the tyre to stop the slit from getting larger.  I will certainly have to get another rear tyre when I have a few spare rand!  I won't be able to ride another race on this one.

Here's my 'bush workshop'.

So, my time could have been 4h20 were it not for the breakdown.

Still, I am happy with my ride.  It was good training for Wines2Whales later this year.

Most of all, I am grateful to have enjoyed nature, engaged with other riders, encouraged a few people along the way, and had a chance for some 'Holy Leisure' (otium sanctum).  My body, mind and soul feel renewed!

Above is a screenshot of the route for the ride (I use a Garmin Edge 705 heart rate monitor and GPS - I sync the data to a program called Ascent on my Apple Mac that allows me to get routes, my speed, calories expended, average speed and a host of other data).

Over the 60 KM we climbed a total of 1519 meters!  The worst climb for me was right at the begining (towards Hellshoogte - I think it is called Bosmanskop), and then the climb from Delvera farm through the Papagaaiberg before one descends into Stellebosch for the finish.  My goodness, that took a lot of lungs and legs to keep peddling!

The image above shows the elevation, my heart rate, and speed throughout the ride.  The slit tyre happened on the highest point of the blue graph (labels 6-8 if you can read them).

I'd love to hear about your rides if you have any to share - particularly if you're from elsewhere in the world!


All the gory details!

Yesterday my friends Greg (@gregbeliever) and Ruan (not on twitter!) and I (@digitaldion) did an EPIC mountainbike ride from Somerset West to Stellebosch (on the mountains), and back.

Ruan had to turn back a bit early (I think at about 30km's), but Greg and I did 60km's in total, mostly on the mountains above Somerset West and Stellenbosch.  It was great fun!  There were many parts where we had no roads or tracks to ride - we simply road through the bushes, and at times pushed our bikes, and even had to 'hike' them over our shoulders.  Yes, there were one or two spots where we had to jump a boundary fence!

We left at 13.30 and eventually got back home in Somerset West at 19.30 - 60km's in 6 hours!  Not exactly a world record for speed, but definitely a ride of a lifetime.

It was great to share the experience with Greg - he and I are both deeply committed Christians.  So, we had lots of time to talk, pray and give thanks, and just celebrate being healthy, alive, and riding in one of the most beautiful settings in the world.

It is a great varied ride; some tar, some good jeep track (with lots of climbing), some technical single track, some VERY technical single track (in Eden and Paradyskloof - hectic, steep, rocky downhill!), and some bush with no road in sight!  So cool!

Well, if you're interested in following the route in Google earth you can download the file here (right click and save it if you're on windows, control click it if you're on a mac).  Firefox seems think it is a text file and open it in the browser instead of saving it to open in Google Earth.  Not sure why.

There was some spectacular scenery along the way! My goodness!  At one point we ended up on this farm (I'm still not entirely sure where it is - somewhere behind Avontuur farm).  Isn't this view amazing?

If you're interested in the 'inner workings' of my heart this image below shows my heartrate throughout the ride - I snapped this one at my highest point (166bpm - not too bad for such a long ride!)

A friend asked 'Why would you do this!?' - well, first it is GREAT fun! But, we're also training for the wines2whales race later this year that will be between 80-100km a day for three days.

Have you got any 'fun' activities for which you'll endure strain and discomfort!?


Cape Argus Mountainbike Cycle ride at Boschendal - too hot to handle!

Yesterday and today were the Cape Argus Mountainbike cycle rides from Boschendal wine estate just outside of Stellebosch.  I'll be riding my 9th Argus (could be 8th) 'regular' 110 km Argus cycle tour this coming Sunday.

Today was a SCORCHER.  It was too hot to handle!  I took the picture below when I got to my car at around 12noon - it was 44 degrees centigrade.  

I had been entered for the 55km mountainbike race.  However, the race organisers decided to cut the race because of the extreme heat.  I believe that at least one person had a heart attack.  I must say that the race organisation, medical care, water points etc. were all fantastic.  The long and the short of it was that I only did about 36 kilometers of the intended 55 kilometers since we were directed to the finish.  I believe that the 35 kilometer race was cut short to around 25 kilometers for most riders.

Well, let's hope that Cape Town's weather cools a bit before next weekend!  I rode an Argus in 2003 that was stopped because of heat (I think it was 2003).  On that occasion I was already almost finished when they stopped the back markers.

Today's ride was a lot of fun.  There were some steep climbs in the begining.  I was feeling strong and so only had to walk when the foot traffic got too heavy to cycle past.  There was also some serious single track (I saw only one hectic fall), and then there were lots of sandy farm roads!  I got two punctures on the route (well actually only one puncture, but one of my replacement tubes was faulty) so that slowed me by about 15 minutes. My watch showed that I did the 36 kilometers in 3hours 3minutes of which 34 minutes was 'standing time' (i.e., at water points, fixing my punctures etc.)

I'll happily ride again next year, and I'll enter for the 55km race again.  It is so well run and takes place in some of the most magnificent scenery!  Mountainbiking bliss!

One of the more coulourful characters on the race was this guy dressed as Superman.  He was exhausted at the finish!  It looks like he was riding some kind of downhill mountain bike, which  couldn't have been easy on the steep climbs!  He came in about an hour after me.  He was riding like this for a wheelchair charity.  It is great to see people taking up good causes with their rides.

So, for this coming Sunday's Cape Town Pick n Pay Argus cycle tour I would suggest LOTS of sunscreen, lots of water and a well paced ride.  My suggestion to riders is often the following.  1) Choose to ride slower than your regular pace for the first 3rd of the race (there are some STEEP) hills to climb and the bunches can be quite daunting for a novice rider). 2) In the second half take an easy ride, don't be afraid to stop at the water points and stretch a bit.  Make sure you stay well hydrated and do your best to get into 'the bunch'.  Let stronger riders pull you along.  3) In the final third of the race if you've paced it well to start with you'll have some energy left to push a little harder to get that great time!  4)  When the ride is done make sure you drink a good sports drink to replenish your electrolytes, and also eat something to make sure you recover well and don't 'bonk' - recovery in important since it stops your immune system from being compromised, it helps your muscles (and but) to heal etc.

Did anyone else get a chance to ride?   Any stories to share?


A little piece of heaven on earth. The single track on the Helderberg mountain

This is one of my favourite places on earth - the start of the single track on the top of the Helderberg mountain. It is about 12km's from my home, of which the last 8 km is a 1000m climb to the top. The ride down is awesome! Lots of switchbacks, lots of technical stuff - I'm convinced that it is some of the nicest singletrack in South Africa.

I meet God here on my bike very often! My head clears, my thoughts become focussed and I find myself drawing nearer to God as I ride.

Sadly I heard that the access to this part of the mountain will soon be restricted. We normally enter about half way up Silverboomkloof road (on the right), then there's a little bit of single track, a short climb and then onto the contour paths on the way up. If there is anyone who has any contacts with someone on this farm PLEASE drop me a line! I would love to be able to keep the access open!

I recently read about a guy who started a 'braai church' (a 'cookout' Church, where people gather once a week to try out new recipes, cook different kinds of meat, but of course also to share their lives with one another, have some prayer and learn a few things about their faith).  I often think of this as the Church of Cycling, or my Cycling Church!  I have a lot of time to share with the guys and ladies that we ride with.  I often pray with people, offer a listening ear and some encouragement.

How do you connect with God?