Every year September rolls around, the same old issues rear their head. When to drive up? Where to stay? How do I get my car to Knysna? And for many, can I finish this damn thing? I am of course talking about the Karoo to Coast, which by now has seen thousands make their way from the small little town of Uniondale in the Karoo to the tourist Mecca of Knysna along the coast.
The influx of about 4000 riders, their bikes, and their supporters sees the population of the town roughly double for one night, and understandably the whole town comes to a complete standstill as there is really only one thing to do when 4000 riders and their friends arrive in your town: Feed them.
The next morning riders emerged dreary eyed from their beds, having been crammed into barns, school halls, the extremely rare BnB’s, or even hospitable residents’ family homes for the night, mostly ready to tackle the 95km down to Uniondale.
For myself it was a chance to test my performance after having spent 8 weeks off the bike due to contracting glandular fever, and would be important to gauge if I was race ready. It didn’t take long to find out. As usual, we hit the first serious part of the race up the wagon trail as we left the town, and as usual, the pace was lightning!
Being unfit and slightly heavier than normal paid off. Jokes. Giving it everything up the first climb certainly didn’t pay off, and neither did being a little travel weary. Not quite feeling like I was hoping, I decided that it was time for “plan B”.
Luckily, my girlfriend Amy Burton had also started in A batch due to some solid recent results, and talking sweetly to the timing guys at registration. I didn’t have to wait long till she caught up and we set out tackling the final 80km with the goal of hanging onto a top 10 in the ladies category.
Riding outside the top 100 in the race was certainly a different experience to what I have been used to in the past. For one; There seems to be what feels like a stream of riders whizzing by without cease, and two; the general atmosphere was pretty festive. Never the less, “AlBurton Contador”, as I have nick-named her and I, set about destroying the not-so-light riders up the climbs, while doing all we could to stop them from creeping up back on the flats and descents as we chipped away at the remaining distance.
The thing I probably enjoyed most about not racing though was stopping at the water points, something we never really do in the lead bunch at a race like Karoo to Coast. Salted baby potatoes, Jelly Babies, Bananas and boerewors. I was in heaven! I probably consumed more calories than I burnt that day, although my pockets were a slight mess to clean out later that day!
With the last 15km containing a lot of downhill and flat sections, something us no-so-heavies are not good on, we had to fight to keep the top 10 ladies position we had set out to achieve. With some team work and a pure display of power on her part, we managed to do it, sneaking home at a fraction over 4.5hours of saddle time. Hash tags and high fives!
Up ahead Matt Beers(Cannondale Red-E) claimed the biggest victory of his career narrowly beating Adriaan Louw(Contego) and Alan Gordon, which pretty much came down to a sprint finish. Nice one Matt!
So it turns out one can have just as much fun while not completely racing, who knew? Seriously though, well done to Lions for hosting yet another successful edition. As per usual, I will definitely be back next year fighting for that elusive top step, it’s a slippery one that one!
Until next time,