Despite the windy weather reports, we were all very much in high spirits and set off immediately after Team Giant climbing Helshoogte at a steady but rhythmic pace – it was a lot more chilled than usual but it was all part of "the plan". The descent down the other side into Pniel was fast but focussed, as there was no real point of going hell for the leather and doing anything stupid. But then disaster struck. Brendon got a puncture, as we turned left on the R45 at Groot-Drakenstein. Down to 10 Savages.
The Coro Stars came thundering ahead of us shortly after Brendon’s demise and this got the guys a bit riled up to chase back. Especially Will. He didn’t like the manoeuvre and started dropping some long periods of hammer on the front until we eventually moved ahead of them. The wind started to noticeably pick up at this point and we got to experience some of its wrath, as we turned left on the R101 to Klapmuts. Nobody said a word. We all knew deep down what was waiting for us on the other side of Bothmanskloof Pass at Riebeeck Kasteel, but we soldiered on at a decent pace, in an attempt to iron out any gremlins in our pace line.
Another blow to the Savage train came when the Bus called it in at around the 40 km mark – the big man was taking shots after battling a virus all week. A big blow indeed and with 130km still left to negotiate we were down to nine Savages. We soldiered on and were thundering along at 40 km/h average speed until – another mechanical. This time it was Will.I.am who had been in charge of hammer-dropping had suffered a puncture! Only eight Savages left. Waldo took over the leadership role and marshaled the troops by restoring a semblance of order. We held our pace until the left-hand turn at Hermon. Then the photographer came past on the motorcycle… Aaron got a bit carried away here as he’s been running low on Instagram content but slowed down after a barrage of slander.
Emotions ran rampant up the climb but we all summited together and began the descent, which would lead us into Malmesbury. At this point the wind was more a crosswind than anything else and, although it wasn’t as hectic as we imagined, it would become a 32 km/h block headwind once we hit the R302. Coro Stars came through at pace and we’d never see them again, except 3 or 4 fallen soldiers. It wasn’t long before we lost the Centaur, battered from exposure to the wind. Down to seven Savages.
Stephen was taking some serious strain and began to resemble Chris Froome as he focused more on his stem than anything else – he hung on for dear life along with one of Coro’s fallen warriors. The wind was not letting up, when you are hammering and all you can muster is 24 km/h at best, you start questioning life decisions. Klyde the cannonball rode like a champ – earning his place in the DC team by digging deeper than we’ve ever seen him dig before, clocking up an average heart rate of 171bpm for 5 hours. The remaining 20 km back into Stellenbosch were probably the toughest of the race – the headwind became a crosswind, which in turn became a second wind as we tried to extracted as much out of every pedal stroke as possible.
Theunis and Waldo were formidable out there and Willie who for once in his life, actually finished two bottles of fluid. Fatigued, depleted and bereft of any sense of levity, we rode as hard as we could to the finish. Cool Shades and Waldo shepherded the boys over the last few rollers. With 2km to go, we saw our final bit of bad luck, we lost the man with no socks to a spectacular hydrogen-bomb-style puncture. Down to six Savages. We crossed the line in a time of 5h 02m, 3rd place in the inaugural team category. We managed to stick to the Savage plan, which was to cross the line with 6 riders, although it was not exactly how we envisaged it unfolding. The boys learned a lot out there in the wind today – lessons we’ll surely utilise come Double Century time. One thing’s for sure: the boys know how to hammer.
Kudos to Brendon, Will and Bernie who still had the fortitude to finish – particularly Bren who rode pretty much 120km by himself. Next week the team tackles the Durbie Dash for a quick 90km of pain. Hopefully, the South Easter takes the day off.