Well this is novel. Sitting in my hotel room in the pitch black, typing on my laptop in the boiling hot with no air con (it was 38 degrees today!). We have a power cut between 8.00pm and 10.30pm this evening due to “power redistribution”. Sounds political to me!!
Due to the power cut, we went out for an early dinner so it could be cooked in time – which it was, thankfully.
Today started with breakfast at 7.00am to try and get ahead of the heat but breakfast took ages to be cooked and we ended up leaving later than yesterday at about 8.45pm. There was a cool breeze from the ocean and a sea mist which was lifting as it warmed up, but we started with cycling jackets and our gilets on. It warmed up after about an hour so we went back to normal attire.
We started back on the long straight road, one side was not useable due to resurfacing. It soon turned East, away from the sea and towards the hills. Hills were the theme of today and it was the hardest day of the tour. None of us were exactly relishing the idea – we don’t like hills!!
The first one started after about 20 minutes, like the Black Mamba a few days before but a bit longer at about 0.8 miles and I think a bit steeper! I thought it was a bit of a “lung buster” but got on with it and about 5 minutes of maximum effort later it was done.
We were trying to get ahead of the heat because we had a really big climb and didn’t want to do that at peak temperature. Unfortunately, Mark’s bike broke and he had to change to the spare (it was his gear changing mechanism at the back that had sheered apart). He does a lot of miles leading the tours so high wear is expected but he was still upset as the bike was only a year old.
Then descending down a lovely rolling road, Keith had a big tyre blow out. That required a new tyre and inner tube and took more time. The three of us stopped at the end of the road to wait. We had a chat with the road repair workers, and made use of some of their shade under a road sign. They said today was not as hot as a few days ago, as back then it was too hot for them too work! There was a flag waving lady controlling the traffic at the junction – wearing overalls and a hoodie! Crazy!
Then we had another big climb, steeper than the earlier on and about 1.1 miles long. It was tough and by then it was 30 degrees.
The downhill is always a great reward, and I love seeing how far I can get without peddling and how fast I can go. Without trying, but also without holding back much either, I got to over 45mph! But all the time I felt in control and slowed down when I didn’t.
I think I’m rambling and I said this would be shorter so I will abbreviate.
The day got hotter and hotter, but we drank lots and there is more than enough water and snacks on the van.
We shelter inside when we can at the stops. I’m using my bandana most of the time and also squirting water over my head and shoulders to stay cool which really helps me.
After the first 2 hills the terrain was nice rolling roads, but some smaller steep bits. The scenery was wonderful. All kinds of farming, distant hills of various sizes and shapes, differing colour grasses, bushes and earth. Impossible to capture in a photo but absolutely stunning, like out of a film set. Sometimes it felt somewhat like the “Wild West” may have been.
Thank g-d. The electricity just came back on at 10.22pm. Phew!!
We stopped for lunch at about 1.00pm and really needed to get out of the baking sun. We stopped at a lovely, cool restaurant with no one else there. We had a special chicken lasagne which was pre-ordered and the usual coffee and ice-cream milkshake. The lady at the restaurant said she dint know how to make them but they were excellent. No one took her up on the chocolate desert she had prepared and I felt a bit sad for her.
Straight after lunch was the big big big climb. We couldn’t put it off any more. The temperature difference between the restaurant which was naturally cooled and the outside was dramatic. And it was in the hottest part of the day – so much for planning to avoid it – so predictable! So, on went more sun cream, I poured more water over my head and back, put a caffeine hydration tablet in my water bottle for extra oomph, an ate an energy tablet – anything for an extra boost.
Climbs and the heat had been discussed much over lunch, what was the worst we had done in the past, had we cycled in anything so hot, remember this… what about that…etc etc. But the good thing is we are lucky to have many years of experience to call on and occasions we can think back to. Sure, nothing is the same but I get comfort from having done similar before.
The climbs were so hot and relentless. We did a 2 mile climb then it levelled off so we had a short rest and then that was followed by another 2.4 mile climb. The first part of the climb had some bends so we couldn’t see the top but the second was just long and straight. We all got into our own rhythm and pace and just ground it out. They took about 15 and 18 minutes which doesn’t sound much but when there are no more gears left to help, legs are burning, lungs are gasping, you can’t see the end, and its 36 degrees beating on your back, it is a long time!
I was up first and very happy with how I did it. The hours of riding at home, forcing myself to go out for a ride when I’m tired and would prefer to be relaxing were all about training and preparing for moments like this. I’m proud to say I’m very happy with myself and how I managed the hard climbs. Not bad for an old’n!
We all did it and each just as happy it was over! The descents now followed and were great, if a bit scary at times, The final descent into Clanwilliam was our opportunity to get a sped record. Mark had been telling us about this 5 mile/8 km descent for some time. It was huge! I though the earlier ones were fast but this was crazy. The roads were in very good condition and I decided to follow Mark as close as I could to follow his line which would help. I also used a new low position, sitting almost off the back of the saddle which allows my body to be more horizontal and aerodynamic. I felt that also gave lots if control too. I let the bike run most of the way but sat up straight to slow down on a long bend, as it felt a bit too hairy but then let it run on as much as possible. Mark didn’t get that far ahead which meant I was going fast. I use my Garmin watch to record the ride and so do not have a speedometer on my handlebars. Therefore, I do not know how fast I go until I stop and look at my watch. I couldn’t believe it was 50.4 mph! Crazy I know and I was thinking: this is silly, be careful, does Lorraine know where the life policies are? But then again I won’t get another chance and it felt OK so go for it.
We all compared notes at the bottom and agreed it was brilliant, but crazy. I think David just went a fraction faster than me – it really wasn’t a race – but we aren’t sure if his speed record was a new one that he set over here over here, and he doesn’t understand it fully to be sure what he did.
We rode into town at about 5.00pm and it was busy. Friday is payday for some and there were loads of people on the streets and in the shops. It was a small high street and mostly were there were black farm workers and labourers, because that’s who live around here.
We quickly grabbed our cases from the van, gulped down a recovery drink, put swimming shorts on and went in the (cold) pool for a similar routine to last night. The cold pool helped the legs, and a beer helped too (more recovery carbs!) then Mark led one of his 15-minute stretch sessions on the poolside, much to the confusion of other on looking guests!
Then we learned about the power cut between 8.00pm and 10.30pm so rushed to shower, change and be out by 6.15pm.
We walked through town to a restaurant and kind of felt safe past some crowds of people hanging around outside the shops. Mark said it was OK and also would be safe to walk back in the dark during the power cut. It was absolutely fine.
I had another lovely steak, but the butternut soup was more like a spicy lentil broth!
The lights went out at just after 8.00pm but the restaurant had a generator which gave electricity. What good idea, perhaps they should tell the hotel!
Then back to the hotel and you know the rest. This didn’t end up being short – I don’t know how to capture the day in a short way. So much happens on these tours even on a non-eventful day.
Tomorrow will be a shorter day. We have all passed on the offer of an early 1 and 3/4 hour, 13 mile, 3000 feet hard climb up of one of the hardest mountain passes in SA. I can’t think why we said no! I worked out that would be the equivalent of doing twice the final ride last year of “Cadillac Mountain”. We know our limits and that’s beyond us.
It’s now 23.33pm and I’ve not got my early night as it’s a 6.30am wake up for breakfast at 7.00am.
Follow all of my travels here on the blog. Thank you to everyone who has donated in support – I’m blown away with the amount raised so far.