Monday, 30 November 2009
“These okes are muck, and the jockeys nubile toasted herself trying to get away from us yesterday, so let’s finish these lurkers.” That was the plan, but without a trace of navigational skill between us, it was always going to be tough to follow the pack and find the six or so minutes we needed once we knew where we were. But that was the plan and we were sticking to it.
For the first time in my racing life, I spent most of the day enjoying the Swazi scenery with about 58 other riders. So lost were we, man. The slow pace wasn’t suiting our riding style. Narcotix, loving being in the lead pelican, summed it up. “Okes, I blow in two hours whether I’m riding or standing, I have one and a half left, could someone please make a decision.” There were very little decisions being made until a cat on a motorbike told us where to go, and the race was back on….sort of. More getting lost, more milling about and we kind of muddled our way to the snack area again. Sneak of sneaks!! The jockey was off like a shot while the rest of us were taking in a potato and some energy loob. “Pipe, the jockey’s doing a sneak!!” We tossed our snacks and ran after them still chewing and drooling replenishment items. After a few big ones, we had caught them. Life was good again, we had the jump on the matching okes from Cyclebad and could put the hurting down – until we got lost again. And sure enough, we were a happy little group again.
Chances of victory were looking slim. Pipe and I were muttering stuff like, “do you know where we are, cos when you do, we gotta dump the clutch.” Took us a while to work things out, we finally did, but not very far from home. Like a jack in the box, the Pipe and I were breaking like mine workers on a Friday afternoon. Big gear on front, standing and pumping like Rocco Sifreddi on summer holidays – we were gone. A little look back saw a chase without much anger. Things were looking up again, as long as you didn’t ask the legs how they were feeling. Crying out in pain no doubt, with the Pipe up ahead yelling “Cmon son.” Fitting, cos I felt like a small child getting beaten by the Swazi mountain. World of pain, a quick summit and a run in with Mickey’s Madness. Watching the Pipe faceplant in front of the cameraman raised my spirits somewhat, but what happened thereafter has to be age restricted to be fair. We basically drop kicked, threw and yanked our bikes over The Madness. A clattering mess, we arrived on the tar getting yelled at by a long skinny local in a one piece biking suite in what must have been some local dialect. We understood little of what he said, but took it to mean “hurry the *&(*$ up.” So we did, and spanked it over the line in first place. Now we watched the clock and counted down the time. Sure enough, the Boys Blue had made a hash of The Madness and victory was ours. So sweet it was, man. And just when we thought things couldn’t get more entertaining…..the cuzzies from the coast come caning it towards the finish – give each other a longing look and go for the high five, only to entangle their bikes and land beak first, sliding in a dustball over the finish. It was spectacular, but did cost Craig a collar bone. Cheap at the price. What a day, what a week, what a millennium!!!!
Night 3 – The most important stage by far
The festivities kicked off early. The bikers wanted to see if they could drink the Maguga pub dry – and I think they did. By the end we had resorted to Malibu and Pepsi cos the beers, the cane and the rum were overs. The blur of feeding, the odd speech, some more zulu dancing, not to mention the disturbing imagery of Boris topless in an orange G-string busting out moves to ZZ top, was nearly all it took to round off another memorable Swazi Frontier.
Some misguided attempt by some French lady to end the jol early was ill received. “Bluh, bluh, you are disturbing le guests!” was responded to by “We are the frikking guests, and we haven’t ridden one lap of Swaziland and over The Brutals to go to bed early. We left Europe to get away from you lot, leave us alone! And touch that DJ system at your peril” The party raged on uninterrupted.
Who could forget though, the piece de resistance so generously imparted on us by Narcotix. Always having the last say, he hit the middle of the “dancing ring,” bust out some well clevva break dance moves terminating in him spinning on his head and nailing the stiff little man landing to the maximum. He then got up, gave the okes a bow, and retired. Respect!!
Another top race, a top crowd, unreal organization, inspirational sponsorship, spanking scenery, off the scale mountain biking and a ballistic bender. Again, big it up to Fossil and Les for a special occasion. Only thing wrong with this dice is…we have to wait about 349 days til the next one.
Wednesday, 25 November 2009
“The day to not eat your smarties early.” Save some juice for the hill into Piggs Peal. Riiigth. Two years, Piggs Peak Hill 2, Teaky and the Pipe – 0. The start was civil enough until we got to the business end of the hillage. The hill eating wife was clearly on a mission to put some pressure on us. Soon enough it was just us and the hill people again. The pace was hurting me, as was the chain in my backpack. I started bleating, but the Pipe was hearing none of it, enjoying every second of my pain. It seems three out of the four of us was enjoying my pain. I swear every time I so much as glanced away, there was a mini attack. At this stage, the sport truly sucked. I had had enough, luckily we were only 30 minutes into Day 2, so there was plenty joy left in the tank.
Sick of my bleating, The Pipe reached into my camelback and retrieved the spare chain. I think the camera man at the top of the hill was a bit surprised when the Pipe threw the chain at him saying “hang on to this, boet.”
We crested together, and for once, the downhill was a treat. Shortly afterwards we hit the snack stop, with a tidy lead on the rest of the pack. We were off again, naturally following Paul’s directions. When he stopped to check his bearings, inevitably the Pipe would lean over him and say something like, “are you gonna work this one out or what, the okes are catching us” between bites of an energy bar. Not sure if that behaviour is not done, but it didn’t seem to phase us much. Soon enough with a poorly timed bit of navigational advice from myself, we got the four of us lost. And our lead was gone. Back in the pack with the Thompson Twins from Toyota and a bit of the Dunkeld Dudes thrown In for spice. This is where we made the fatal error. We backed Paul’s directions instead of chilling with the folk that had this directional thing waxed. A bit of a push for home was on the cards, though it turned out to be more of a push for something pretty far from home. Having navigated Wappo’s Step without incident, we followed Paul up some mountain of his own imagining. After sometime and some pretty useful additional hill training, we realized we were wrong and went back down the cliff face. Just in time to see half the field come past us. You know you are in trouble when the likes of Willy get a sniff in and come charging down the hill screaming “I got you fu*ers nooooow.” His charge was shortlived at the next hill, nevertheless, things were looking bleak for the Osamas. I think we rode past some dudes in baggy pants, then we knew we had hit rock bottom, and the Piggs Peak wreaked havoc on the two of us. At least we had the jump on the little people we thought. But it wasn’t long before they too came past us. I think it was somewhere around the time where the Pipe had gotten off his bike and rested his head on his seat. Looked like he was having a nap. Things were way bleak. We managed to top the hill and roll into Piggs Peak. If there was any juice left in the tank, there would have been much wailing and gnashing of teeth, but we were too poked. The look on the faces of Cyclelab Clones was enough to make me wanna toss my two energy bars and one tot of protein shake. Urrrghhh!
We lost a packet of time, not to mention the yellow jersey. Riding, even in the sublimest of surroundings, can suck properly.
Night Two – more sheer luxury, aircon, TV, swimming pool, couple of beers, some burgers – our troubles were over man.
Monday, 23 November 2009
Day 1: Brutal
Dawn of day one started like any other Swazi stage….a brisk start shortly followed by me getting lost within the first ten minutes. There was a strange comfort knowing that very little had changed. We fiddled around on some small hills as the pack spread and concertinaed again, depending on how badly the lead guys were following the route cards. Things seemed more chilled this year without Nic “I’ve trashed every bit of my bike in the first ten minutes” Floros. It also left us quite exposed as a pair. Believe it or not, our tactic this year was to lurk at the front with the leaders and sneak the win at the end of each day. Many asked us “what happens if you have a technical,” to which we replied….”I don’t know.” I may have said something to the effect of “Whats a technical?” It made for interesting riding there is no doubt.
It turns out my new bike, pimped out by the dealers at Dunkeld Cycles, was just the thing for the Baboon’s Back. Something that ate me alive on the hardtail last year, felt like a warm up on the spinning bike with my new dual suspension cab (bit gay I know). Speaking of gay, I did have to wait about 10 minutes at the top for my “hard core cos I ride a garden gate with 1876 technology” partner. Once there, we spanked the downhill, (thankfully without incident and without the red trailer) and the dice was on. It wasn’t long before the usual suspects were out in front. The Jockey and his greased lightning goose (both on soft tails this year) were beyond neat and tidy through the single and tricky stuff. Hanging on for the ride was The Osamas, the Toyota Twins (again resplendent in their matching outfits) and some cuzzins from the coast….Craig and John from …get this – Team 5339.co.uk. Love the way that team name just rolls off the tongue. More on these two a bit later (ha ha, I just said “more on” he he)
Turns out I managed to mangle the little gear thing at the back of my bike. Great news was I now had one gear to choose from out the back cluster. The Pipe started getting grumpy with me cos I wasn’t keeping up at all. He kept saying “clean that back thing” so after using everything from a used energy bar packet, leatherman and indigenous foliage – the gears were still smoked and I was doing some quality pushing. At the half way eating hut, I said to the Pipe “Put the potatoes down and fix my bike, doos.” He’s the more technically minded of the two. He then looks at me like my brain was missing. “Your whole back sprocket is shredded…doos.” So it was official, I had 3 gears left to get home.
From there, the mini pair in matching pj’s had the jump on us. There was not much we could do cept settle in to a bit of a rhythm up the brutal. It was going well, I had a gear I could use, and the Pipe was starting to fire. We were back in the mix and the jockeys were in sight. I think we even screamed at them something to the effect of “We’re coming for you, you are about to enter a world of pain.” Words I’m sure absolutely no one believed for a second, least of all me.
I couldn’t understand why I was going so slowly and with so much hand pain down “Heenan’s Steps” until I got to the bottom – and discovered I had locked out all the suspension. Technology – who needs it!!! On the way down we passed the mini mountain goats cos they had punctured. We now had the lead and put in some solid rowers walk up those steepish Brutals. Having picked up a useful jump, we were lost. Obviously there was no route card, so we chilled and waited for the Toyota Two, who grudgingly told us it was “left.” Back into the Rowers walk, I saw some flickering flags and we flew direct for the top of Brutal. Again, not much of a hill, as I keep telling Fossil. Even worse there is only one Brutal this year, and last year we were promised 3 Brutal. Things are deteriorating in the Swazi hills – its gotta be said. Long story short, once we had some bearings and some memory from the year before, we were unstoppable and got in with a useful lead. Day one sorted.
Night One – sheer luxury of the en suite mansion up the hill. A sweet change from the dormitory the year before. Went to sleep thinking “I hope this doesn’t make me soft.” But with my lengthy goose next to me, soft wasn’t part of the equation.
Wednesday, 18 November 2009
To put you in the picture, I rode this thing last year with my equally virginal mountain bike rowing partner, Warren. This team was all about enthusiasm and very little about talent. In terms of the confidence to competence ratio, so important in sport, the former way outstripped the latter. Yet, enthusiasm overcame all and we managed a hugely unexpected win.
But things change, and Warren saw it fit to immigrate to a small, largely uninhabited island off the north coast of Australia. This in a move to advance his mining and work (no other) career. I was left partnerless and faced the wrath of the jockey and his gravity proof nubile on my own. Needless to say, I panicked and considered my options for a new partner. It even crossed my mind to quit while I was ahead, cut my losses and enter into MTB retirement, pride intact, forever known as the “one hill wonder,’ yet forever unbeaten in the Swazi hills. Now there’s something to tell the grandchildren – if there ever are any.
What I did for a partner, was unashamedly poach the new Osama B from a last year’s team that placed third in the men’s section. Enter “The Pipe.” Yes, another rower, this one longer than your average garden hose and considerably more powerful (I’ll leave out the drinking problems and rap sheet of run ins with the law at this stage). A more accomplished mountain biker than Warren and myself, the Pipe needed some fine tuning and we were on. “We gotta win this dice bru!!” was the call and “We can’t lose to a bunch of sawn off garden gnomes, best we put in the training.” True to form, I hit the bar and the rowing machine by way of preparation, and the Pipe hit the bar and the cliff-like hills behind his dairy farm in Knysna. “This cycling lot train too much,” we agreed. “It’s not about volume, it’s about intensity.” Not known for conventional training methods, the rowers thought they were in the dice. We were exposed to any stage lasting more than about four hours – but you gotta back yourselves. If it’s not hurting, you aren’t trying.
Day One to follow shortly......
Friday, 6 November 2009
So, anyone keen for 6 hours of spin? Yes, yes, pick me, pick me!! Of course I am up for a 6 hour spin-a-thon, especially when it is for a good cause.
This past Saturday, 40 women of varying ages and fitness levels made their way to Brighton to cycle for cycle hours in aid of Breast Cancer. Each rider was required to pay £40 to enter and asked to raise a minimum of £60. In true form, we all had to wear pink outfits and accessories – I am not really a pink person but I succumbed to the pressure and wore a pink cycling shirt. Others wore wigs, leg and arm warmers, socks, earrings, head bands and whatever they could get their hands on.
Three different instructors were to teach two classes each – the first class was a warm up ride, just to get the blood flowing – nothing too onerous or hectic but enough to make you sweat. The second ride however was what I believe to be the most challenging of all the rides, we took on a leg of last year’s Tour de France route. This is the class that I pushed myself the hardest in – lots of switchbacks!! Maxed out the old heart rate. Love it! The third ride was taken by Mel Chambers, the event organiser and was a nice, long mountain climb. Again, a challenging ride and I pushed myself on this ride also. Following this third ride, I was absolutely famished….had a quick pit stop for some fruit and nuts – lots of other riders where digging into jelly babies, mars bars and various other goodies – not really my taste for a long ride. So far, bum OK!!
The fourth hour was full of surprises, we didn’t know what was coming on the road ahead. The fifth ride, well, you guessed it, it had to be done - lots of cheesy tunes but I should note that Kylie didn’t feature even once! The final ride, again taken by Mel, was a low end endurance ride, recovery ride but guess what – no one wanted to do much in the way of seated flats or seated climbing! Sore bum? Affirmative!
Between us, we raised just shy of £5,000 and I believe further funds are coming in after the event. My hat goes off to all those women that rode, particularly those that are not instructors or regular cyclists – of which there were many.
The only improvement that I could suggest is that they use the star trac spinning bikes.
A great event and one that I would happily do again – maybe with a bit more padding on the cycling shorts.
Thursday, 5 November 2009
There are two sessions on offer and you need to pay £5 to confirm your place. The money raised will go to Macmillan Cancer Research.
Session times are as follows:
Session 1: 6pm-7pm
Session 2: 7.15pm-8.15pm
Each talk will include a Q&A session at the end.
To book your place, please call Physio4Life on 020 8704 5998