Christo de Kock
Competing is all about winning. Beating your toughest opponent is very rewarding especially if he/she is yourself. This is what the Trans Baviaans is all about: BEATING YOURSELF!!!
The TB offers you the opportunity to prove that you can exceed your own physical and mental abilities. The reward is extreme personal satisfaction that cannot be explained unless you have done it.
230 km in 24 hours at approx 10km/hour sounds easy until you try it. Even if you have trained extremely hard, followed the right diet, have the latest high tech carbon fibre all gadget imported bike, you will not succeed without the right attitude. I.e. completing the TB is in your head/mind and not in your legs!!!!!
Things you should do before the race:
First of all choose your backup team before you even enter the race (not more than 2 members in the team). When you suffer you need the best support that you can get. I mean get the best. Your success is directly dependant on the support that you get during the race. Hey, and remember to recognise their contribution when you get your medal at the end! You should always thank your support team before, during and after the race.
Then choose your partner and train with him
o Should not be aggressive/moody/negative unpredictable or different when tired (this will cost you dearly)
o Both should be at the same physical level or he/she should be slightly better than yourself (This will allow you to do better times)
o He must have “vasbyt” (this is the most important attribute). It goes without saying that you should have “vasbyt” too!!!
o Must be willing to work together. There will be times in the race that one of you will be more tired than the other one. This is when you must help each other.
o He should have the right mindset, i.e. not win at all cost but enjoy, compete and finish with a smile on your faces.
You have to train right for this event
Start in January (the race is in August). You need power and endurance. Power will allow you to climb the mountains on your bike and enable you to cycle the whole race without cramping. Endurance will get you to the end. You have to cross train. Build power in your legs (quads, hamstrings and calves) through power exercises. Do this at least 3 times per week. The trick here is to do the power exercises with your heart rate low – go slow. Always do stomach exercises; this is essential for all sport disciplines. For endurance you have to go to the road. Do regular long distances (approx 100km) at medium pace. Do this at least twice per month if you can. You should also do a few mountain bike races to experience group riding. During the week you must do high impact training, sessions of approximately 1 hour at high heart rate. Example, do 1 hour of Hans Strydom, up and down or join a spinning gym (Try Bulla they are not too bad). Finally, establish a training routine and also have fun while you prepare.
First question how much money do you have? You don’t need the latest and best bike on the market, but at least buy one with good quality gears (better than average), good brakes (V-blocks or discs will do) and a comfortable saddle (a sore ass can spoil everything). Use tubeless tyres with slime, nothing else!!! You will never have a flat tyre again. Weight is a factor. Remember that it will take at lot of energy to move dead weight up and down the route. This will definitely have an impact on your performance over a 200+ km race. An aluminium frame is adequate (steel is to heavy). There is no sense in having a 6 kg carbon fibre frame and the load your bike with 6 kg spares and equipment. You need only the necessary spares with you on your bike for quick repairs. The rest for major repairs should travel with your support team. I think you need the following with you (remember to train with your spares)
o Tyre levers and tube repair kit if you puncture the replacement tyre.
o Small pump (I cant afford the expensive gas canisters)
o Put a master link in your chain and carry a spare link. You will need a chain breaker to change a link (make sure the link fits your specific chain make). The chain should not break under normal circumstances but if it does, you will be prepared.
o Spare break blocks if you have a V-block break set (it is much easier to change brake pads on a V-brake system than the discs on a disc brake system)
o Allen keys to fasten screws on your bike (you can buy a compact Allen key set with all the necessary sizes)
o Small bottle of dry lubricant for wet and dry conditions to ensure smooth gear movement and transition.
o Small bottle of slime just in case you need to add after a major puncture.
o Spare batteries for your lights (later more about this)
o Nutrition during race (more later)
Things you should send with your support team:
o Spare chain
o More tools, pliers, hammer "don't give Rodney a hammer " (small one, full set of spanners and sockets, screwdrivers.
o Spare tyres and more spare tubes
o Bike stand
o Extra food/nutrition (more later)
It is extremely important to ensure that your bike is well maintained before the race.
The slime in your tyres should be topped up regularly. Note that the tension in the gear cables relaxes over time and cause the chain to slip on the back gear set (this is extremely irritating). To fix this you can adjust the tension of the gear cable with the setscrew at the top of the derailleur. Turn it inwards or outwards with the back wheel in the air while you move the pedals with your hand at a medium pace. Shift the gears up and down until you have smooth transition. If this fails take your bike for a service.
Very important!! My experience and I have done a number of night rides. You don’t need a light stronger than the sun. Such a thing is heavy, hard on batteries and expensive. You need a Petzl diode headlamp (I only buy Petzl the rest is junk!) The battery life is long and you don’t need spare batteries. You need a rear red light. They are cheap, use a diode type, the batteries last a long time. Then the most important is the spot light. This is required to show you where to go and if there are obstacles in the road to be avoided. If Bill Gates sponsors you ask him to buy the best. This can cost you (him) approximately R5000.00 or more (surf the web for more info or visit Cycle Lab or equivalent). There are many types of lights available and you will hear many opinions. If you are like me (not sponsored by Bill) consider the following and buy what you can afford:
o It must be easy to attach and remove it from your bike handle bar.
o It must be positively secured to your bike. Don’t use clip on lights. Those are for sissies riding on smooth surfaces and will not work for the TB, the terrain does not allow for this. Remember if you loose your lights your race is over!!!
o The batteries must last for at least 4 hours. Your support team will carry spare batteries. Use rechargeable Metal Hidrate batteries rather than NiCads. They last longer and are more reliable.
o Compare diode type lamps with bulb type lamps. Diode type use less batteries but are more expensive (they give a white light). Bulb types are less expensive but use more battery power (they give a more yellow light).
o Set the lights to shine approx 20m in front of your bike in the road.
o Test your lights BEFORE the race at NIGHT on rough terrain.
o Your lights must be waterproof.
o Total light assembly must be as light as you can afford.
Make sure that your drinking system is properly secured to either your body or your bike.
The road is very bumpy and if not secured properly you can loose a bottle or two. A camel back drinking system is very expensive (approx R1000.00) but works very well (check it out before the race, for some people the weight on you back can be disruptive and hurt your lower back). Carry at least 2 litres of fluid with you. 1 litre should be an energy drink (e.g. USN Cyto Power or Engergen etc.) and 1 litre pure water (you get tired of sweet stuff after a while. Fill up the fluids at the checkpoints. Running out of water is disastrous and bad for your health.
Things you should do during the race:
Make maximum use of favourable conditions. If the wind blows from behind go faster. Ride in a slip if you can. Keep going during the day. Don’t rest for too long (preferable only at the check points) don’t stop between checkpoints.
·Ride competitively not stupidly. Rather go slower down hill without falling. You lose a lot of time fixing your bike.
· Carry your bike through the deeper rivers. There are rocks below the water that can damage your bike.
· Keep pedalling uphill if you can. Just keep going.
· You have to plan your race. Familiarise yourself with the route and set goals e.g. I have to be at a certain point before a certain time.
· Plan what you are going to send with the support and back up teams.
· The right nutrition during the race cannot be emphasised enough. The TB takes a lot out of your body and you have to replace this during the race in order to finish.
· Firstly you have to drink enough fluids. Don’t wait until you feel you have to drink, drink regularly (at least 200ml each half hour). Your energy drink will replenish your body salt and electrolytes. This will provide quick energy when you feel tired. Drink clean water to replace lost body fluids caused by sweating and to get the sweet taste out of your mouth. You can also drink diluted Coke (half Coke half water) Experiment before the race to find the most effective drink for your body. Plain Energade or PowerAde is not “strong” enough.
· You have to eat during the race. Don’t over eat but surviving on fluids only will not get you through. An energy gel will provide instant energy at the beginning of the race but will have no effect after approximately 6 hours in the saddle. Your body requires solid food as well. I eat the following: bananas, bread with a very thick layer of peanut butter (this works very well), hot bean soup at the check points (stay down wind for side effects), nuts, biltong, jelly beans and a Bar One, Again plan what to take with you on the bike and replenish at the check points and from your support team. Remember that when you are tired you don’t feel like eating BUT you have to force yourself!!
· Enjoy, appreciate and experience the scenery. The TB goes through a spectacular nature reserve. Don’t compete so much that you miss out on this. You have to enjoy the race!!!
· Carry a pack of Norflexco (or similar) tablets just in case. If you really cramp badly this will get you through (drink lots of water with the tables if you take them)
· Ensure that your bike is in good running condition throughout the race (do preventative maintenance). Check the break pads at check points, regularly lubricate your bike chain, check your brake and gear cables, and remove excessive mud from the breaks and gears.
Things you should not do during the race:
· Don’t start too fast (leave this to the young guys, you will pass them again later in the race, guaranteed)
· Don’t ever give up. If you do this you will not finish the race, i.e. you loose against yourself!
· Don’t pass a fellow competitor in need. Later on it can be you, remember you are not trying to beat everyone on the race, just yourself.
· Don’t give up
· Don’t go too fast, pace yourself.
· Don’t give up if you get lost. You will forever regret this.
· Don’t forget to thank your support team
· Don’t throw your bike down when you get off (put it down with the derailleur facing upwards). You will need your bike in good condition to finish the race. Also note that there are many thorns along the track, especially at the checkpoints.
· Don’t cycle uphill in the wrong gear (you can break the chain). Make sure you understand the term “cadence”, i.e. select an easier gear for up hills, your forward speed will go down but you will require less power to pedal.
· Don’t loose your concentration towards the end of the race. If you do you will crash or fall or under extreme conditions collide with a stray wild animal or two.
· Never get irritated with your partner/s. Sort this out before the race or get the right partner.
· Don’t ever give up.
Finally 10 km from the end.
When you pass the last checkpoint and hit the tar road you will know that there is no stopping you now. You have almost made it (if it is your first time you will now be nervous, emotional and very very tired) You will be glad that it is dark to hide your wet face caused by 13 hours plus of sweat and recently added tears of achievement. Suddenly you will have more energy and you will start pedalling faster. You will see the lights of Jeffreys Bay and know that the end is near. You will look down to your trip meter indicating 225 km. It was set on distance for the whole race – your average speed on the TB is not important because you are definitely not an average individual to complete this race.
At the last turn into the caravan park you will be looking for the welcoming sight of your support team (that is if they have also made it safely to the end without getting lost). By now you and your partner are partners for life. You have made it. You have completed the TB and conquered yourself.
Winning against yourself is completing the Trans Baviaans within 24 hours, loosing against yourself is not to enter.
Now that you know what it is all about , please join us at the gym on Friday 18 April, round about 18:00 for a braai. Bring your meat and drinks, we will provide the rest. Just be there!
Many thanks to Christo for a brilliant article of this magnificent ride! Not to be missed .... ever!