I went to visit my parents in my home country Czech Republic and to my luck there was a major race happening in my home town. There is a small mountain range called Jestrebi ( Hawk) mountains where my parents stay and that’s where race took us.
KoloProZivot is a big series of marathon races across the country. It’s quite commercial so some old school hard core mountain bikers don’t like it because the route isn’t the most technical usually more gravel roads than single tracks. And the organizers try to pull as many people in as they can so they want to have the route not too hard.
This one race though is known as the hardest of all the series with 1800 climbing meters on 65km as well as most technical.
I know the local organizers so I managed to get Wild card to be able to start in 3rd chute and not right at the back of the many riders.
People must ride their seeding up as here. So there I was standing at the chute with my dear dad again. It’s been a while since that happen as I was pregnant and had my daughter. My dad was so kind to lend me his super light Specialized Stompjumper Hardtail 29er. I usually ride soft tail so it’s was a bit bumpy on the downhills but I felt really good on the climbing and was usually passing people. There was steep climb right from the start and then some gravel roads where people went pretty fast pace. We hit great single track called Cizkovy Kameny which is near town Trutnov and it’s been built to attract more tourists and they are still building more and more awesome trails which includes roots and rocks and built berms and bridges too. There was bit of bottle neck which was the only negative of the race. The rest of the race was up and down with some steep rocky technical descents and back up steep hills with beautiful views on green fields and woods.
I have finished in 4th place in my age group which was a pity but still a good result considering it was only 2 days after my overnight flight there where i got no sleep at all. I also managed to give my dad almost 10 minutes which he didn’t take very well at first. But it had to happen one day. It only took me about 20 years to beat my very competitive and fit dad! He said thought he isn’t giving up just yet!
One very cool thing about Czech races are their top up stations. As rider is approaching the water table person shouts at him water or energy drink. You shout back your response and while you pass him he hands you full bottle and you hand him your empty one. So you don’t have to stop and loose momentum.
Another thing is children. There are 6 categories under the age of 13! It starts with push bikes race and in each category there were from 50 to 70 participants! Amazing numbers!
There is a big kids zone at the finish area as well as little pump track for kids. Showers and choice of 6 meals for participants are included in the race entry fee.
There are also lot of stands should you wish to buy new gear.
It’s like a little bike festival. Well done and I hope South Africa can learn and put together more often races like this where there is lots to do for whole family.
I was happy to be on the start line of a race again after few months of no racing ( my husbands schedule didn’t allow me to race).
New experience was a ladies only start. With Jennie Stenerhag and couple of other very strong ladies in the front it was bound to be tough start. It’s much easier to start with the guys and hang in the bunch for a while. So that didn’t happen. There was a bit of flat patch and then slowly the climbing started. That day was seriously windy! I tried to keep up with some fast ladies but soon went my own pace alone in the wind. The climbing started pretty steep with beautiful views on the surrounding.
After the proper climb we were rewarded with world class single track called Inferno with switch backs and tight corners which was lot of fun.
From there we were heading more toward Stellenbosch and the old Hellshoogte pass and another steep climb up Botmaskop and again stunning views with amazing single track called Skyfall. The name says it all. Lots of tight switchbacks and if you don’t make it right you gonna fly down a steep hill. I kept my speed there rather bit conservative as sometimes it’s better to be safe than sorry.
From there we went to Banhoek Valley which is beautiful and as far as I know not normally open to ride. So it’s quite a treat to get to ride there. Slowly riders were getting tired and I passed few on the switchback technical uphill followed by rocky and sandy up and down 20kms. Which started to get enough and I was also getting tired but kept my mind positive and pushed hard all the way to the finish. I was happy to be at the finish in 4 hours of serious exercise and even more happy to finish 3rd in my age group.
Awesome route that was lot of fun and challenging. When I got home it was another challenge to look after my little one with my sore body for rest of the day:)
I have registered for the race in February on the day when the entries have opened. I was highly pregnant then. But I felt I need to have something to aim towards after my baby is born.
Long story short I have been able to ride much less than I thought I would have. Not just because of time and breastfeeding but as well because I want to spend time with my daughter. And when I’m on bike I think of her and I tend to do short ride and rush back home. Yes motherhood changes you!
The closer the time of W2W came the more I was thinking what did I get myself into? Am I being a bad mother leaving my 7 month old baby at home? I registered to race with my good friend Lara Woolley and that was a motivation not to pull out of the race. I haven’t seen her much since I have had the baby so I wanted to ride with her at last.
We started in E group which was bit below our league but since we haven’t done any races this year we haven’t gotten better seeding. We were excited to ride together and the aim was to have fun. The start is quite tough with long steep climb on gravel road. We managed to get away from the bunch with few more guys and then had the single track for ourselves. Once we hit the portage section we realized we are bit stucked as the pace was much slower than in the front groups.
Anyway we enjoyed the beautiful views from Sir Lawry Pass and joked around with the other riders. Once we reached the top it was little bit of a fight to get ahead of some of the slower people so we could enjoy the single track in fast speed. We got to Oak Valley on a high from an awesome day in a saddle and finished 4th in our very competitive age group.
This day is always lot of fun even though the start is not easy as your legs are tired and you have to push hard from the start to get a good position for the single track later. 85% of the route was single track heaven this year. But don’t think its easy. One must be able to master switch backs, riding between trees in forest and over A – frame and lots of bridges. Me and Lara had lots of fun. I was just a tad bit weaker but managed to hang in there. We finished 4th again and realized we wont reach the podium with all the pro ladies ahead of us. Which we more less knew as the competition is every year stronger.
The afternoon is spend by chilling around with friends and telling stories from the bike. I had to pump the breast milk also! Which isn’t so much fun but necessary if you want to keep breastfeeding. It can be done and its so good for the baba. So if you are a new mum you don’t have to wait to stop breastfeeding to ride a race!
I was bit worried how the legs will feel as I haven’t done many long rides. From the start I could feel the racing legs are not there but I could go reasonable speed and I just kept positive attitude which is very important. Once you start thinking negative that you don’t feel good or that you are the weaker link in the team you are finished. So there we let the C bunch drop us and had the single track and roads to ourselves. Which was actually awesome. We enjoyed the views of coming down towards Himmel en Aarde and first glimpses of the sea. We absolutely loved the single track there. My racing legs were suddenly back. Yes bit late!
This is an awesome race and definitely on your to do list if you haven’t done it yet. But remember don’t forget to practice your mtb skills. Thank you ITEC for support and Concept Studio for getting me ready and lastly my amazing husband to letting me go and looking after our daughter so well.
- Practice race nutrition before the race
- Find out what they will have at water points so you don’t have to take everything in your pocket
- Pace yourself – don’t go all out in the first hour of race – especially for the boys!
- Practice carrying your bike for the portage section – your lower back will need to be strong – do some core exercises during your training as well as uphill walking or running so that your calves don’t cramp once you are on the top
- Practice switch backs, riding over rocky terrain, sand, bridges and A-frame
- Drink enough water during race and after
- Have lunch as soon as you have finished
- Have few massages before the race if you have booked your massage package
- Practice how to plug a tubeless tyre and fix broken chain
- Have fun!
I have not planned to ride the Rainbow Challenge but my coach ( yes even coach has their own coach) talked me into it. I have taken 2 months after Epic of easier fun riding. So my form has not been on top form and also my love for chocolate had me bit heavier.
Anyway I got last minute of a month training with Garden Route 300 and the Greyton MTB race being part of my prep.We arrived nice and early on Wednesday already to get settled in Pietermaritzburg. On Thursday morning we couldn’t wait to hit the trails. Quickly I realized it wasn’t going to be easy race. Lots of steep climbs with lots of single track and tight switchbacks. We got in just about under 2 hours of practice and headed of to local Coffeeberry for breakfast.
Friday we planned to ride again on the course but we woke up to rain. Off we went to have proper breakfast at our hotel rather and waited. But lunch time still raining we decided to hit the Virgin Active rather and did an hour on the spin bike with few sprints to get the legs switched on for following days race. The gym was new with a view on Cascades and pleasant experience and probably safe bet opposing getting muddy on the trails.
The next morning it wasn’t raining luckily however the course would be muddy. My start was only at 9 30am so I had proper breakfast and try to keep calm. Which wasn’t easy with everyone walking around and saying how hard that course was. I thought come on how hard can it be? Surely its just one day on fresh legs and having done muddy Cape Pioneer Trek and Epic not much can surprise me now right?
There was about 40 of us on the start with about 10 ladies in each age group. Mine was 30 – 34 which is a strong field. I saw Delene var der Leek that I know from Pioneer.
Off we went and started climbing almost immediately. The strong ladies went ahead and that was last time I saw Dalene obviously in good form. I was glad we did bit of the route as it was probably about the first hour of the race. It took us an hour to do about 10km. Steep climbs and muddy slippery single track in beautiful green forest. I didn’t go all out as was warned to keep energy for last 20km. That saying I was still pushing hard. After about second hour we were out of the forest and did little bit of gravel road in bush where I expected elephants and rhino march pass me every second. The field split a lot by then I managed to pass few ladies from my age group and then I was riding alone mostly with one older lady around me for a bit. We climbed up again and rode on top of the hills where we got amazing views of the landscape. I was glad by then I came as this was great change of scenery from Western Cape. Coming back towards Cascades we were welcomed by more single track that was really awesome and had even dual track. By then we did 50km and I think everyone would have been happy if we went to the finish. Nonetheless we had still another 24km to go. Steep climb followed with tight switch backs that took some coordination by then. Then bit of gravel road where I could see the last water point and another girl ahead of me so I didn’t stop even though I didn’t have any water left. Stupid 🙂 Suddenly I shouted with pain as my legs went into cramp. Which was indication of them being tired. Anyway I pushed through and it went away. By then I had all my 6!!! gels and energy bar. So I threw a sachet of Rehydrate straight into my mouth which gave me last bit of energy and also helped with the cramps. Last bit of single track was bit of a pain as it was steep and slippery mud with rocks around and my energy levels were about done. I rode some keeping a momentum and speed and have to admit ran few down hills as one doesn’t have much control in the mud like that.
Last 5 kays was luckily ride able and I managed to get into the finish. People were right when they said it was tough route. I think not the typical marathon route where is mostly gravel road with some single track. This was hard technical single track with bit of gravel road. But no complaints I loved it and so did Jaroslav Kulhavy and Tereza Hurikova the next day and finishing 1st and 3rd with their advantage of having good technical skills.
The race was marked very well. The route was awesome as described above. Water points were ok. Its not Dryland great choice but fine. Overall great race and great experience to ride the XCMarathon World Championship. I finished 5th in my age group which was ok result considering not being in top form.
I have decided to ride the RECM Knysna 200 on Monday the week of the race when Hannele Steyn saw me in gym and asked me to ride with her. I have been taking it bit easy after the Epic so im bit out of shape at the moment. I haven’t done a lot of high intensity and have put on few kilos. She said she wanted to ride easy so I thought her easy might be good hard training for me.
I have driven up on Thursday with my client and registered at Thesen Island where the race village was. We had lovely dinner there and then Hannele accommodated me in her place close to the Heads. It was really cold in the morning but no rain.
It was quite tough to get out every morning out of warm bed as it was really cold. We had layered arm warmers, leg warmers, under shirts, gillets and jackets every day. I kept all my clothes only last day I took off the leg warmers during the race.
Day 1, start at Elephant Park
78km, 1600m ascent
The start was chilly but we got warm quite quickly with some steep climbs.
I was quite out of breath on the climbs and felt unfit while Hannele was chatting away to me and fellow riders.
I loved the route as it was quite a lot of single track and even though muddy it was lots of fun and all ride able. Having done the GR300 in February I expected the 200 to be easier but first day took us 4:25 min which was about hour longer that I expected but really great riding.
We finished 2nd ladies team 5 min behind Bike plus ladies. Most strong ladies were in Pietermaritzburg for SA Marathon MTB Champs so we were lucky.
70km, 1800m ascent
Start at Rheenandal
Another cold start and we headed straight up longish hill I could feel my legs from the previous day. We managed to stick with Bike plus ladies to the top but after a descent there was a river crossing where I got a bit stuck behind few people and had to push following steep single track climb and lost the ladies.
Once out of the bush and on top we had beautiful views and some more steep climbing to water point 1 where we had 2 shots of Hammer Peanut Butter energy gel and got going again.
Long downhill in forest and off we went up again. Hannele stopped few times to fix her saddle. Just after 2nd water point where we hit amazing Enduro single track she lost her saddle completely. I think she lost one of the screws and had to take the saddle under her shirt and ride without it for 25kms to the finish!!!
As I said before she is pretty strong so I don’t think she mind that much and rode standing. I kept ahead for a change and she rode behind me to get a bit of free wheeling.
Amazingly we still finished 2nd ladies. it was quite funny getting to finish and she took the saddle in her hand and wave with it to the commentator.
58km, 800m ascent
Start in Harkerville
Harkerville is famous for its Red route through indigenous forest and sea views.
This morning was the coldest and the organizers even put a gas heater to the start chute! How thoughtful! Off we went and my legs felt the worst out of the 3 days and not much power. I tried but got passed by lot of people and was thinking of poor Hannele. Her patience is huge! The forest was surprisingly not so muddy and the roots were slippery as much as I thought they would be. We enjoyed the single track but I thought there could have been more. Soon we were heading out of the forest towards Knysna on gravel bumpy road. Once on top of the hill above Knysna we got really amazing view of the flat sea and surrounds. I felt like stopping and taking a pic but then I was the slower one so rather not:)
Once down first bumpy then few roots downhill we got to the flat finish. Hannele was in front powering it. I’m usually not great on the flat so took it as a great training and managed to keep the legs turning and pushed all the way till the end. The last bit of push was my highest heart rate on that day.
We were very lucky with the weather as we had sunshine every day.
The organizing was superb. Food was at the Tapas bar and Sirroco restaurant. Both were lovely with proper wintery food including healthy vegetable soup, sea food curry, chicken lasagne, etc. Really something for me vegetable lover.
We also got some amazing kit from Cape Storm – winter jacket, wind riding jacket, arm warmers and as 2nd ladies we won sleeping bag, hoodie and Amped portable charger.
Thank you Hannele for being great patient partner and your hospitality, Hammer for their energy gels and recoverite in the finish, Seattle Coffee at the start and finish, Trek and Nakd energy bars, Squirlube and ITEC and Pat and Louise for organizing great event and Dion for lift and company.
Oak Valley to Lourensford. 69km, 1800m ascent
It started raining on Saturday evening even though light. We didn’t feel like getting out of our sleeping bag into rain again. Luckily it was a light rain only. We got going and my legs were pretty much numb not even sore any more.
We started climbing up steep technical uphill and went up and down in Grabouw area. It took us just under 3 hours to reach the portage and luckily by then the clouds opened up and we could see the view of False bay and Cape Town. My Scott wasn’t too heavy to carry along the portage and soon enough we were enjoying nice flowing single track in the forest. After reaching second water point there was a last single track switch back climb that felt like never ending. The last 20 kms was very bumpy and I had enough by then. Not the smoothest finish. There was short piece of single track just before the finish. We managed to get into the finish in 4;45 and were welcome by cheering crowds and my husband and friends. I was quite emotional on the edge of crying and just wanted to get out of the crowd but it took long to get on the final stage for finishers picture. We also were pretty hungry by then. But felt relieved that its done collected our medals and went to shower and then fetch our Woollies picnic and relaxed at last.
Thank you to my sponsor ITEC for their support, Nakd and TREK bars and Hammer nutrition. Also big thank you to all the supporters calling out my name along the way and my friends and last my husband and sister for their support.
Oak Valley – Oak Valley 85km, 1800
With a promise of lots of single track and slightly shorter day I was looking forward to today. The morning was chilly but not for long. Forecast predicted warm again but luckily there were few clouds and bit of a breeze so we never got so hot as on friday.
We started off with an up hill and I found out my 4 top end gears are not working. So I had to push really hard on the climbs and mostly standing. I don’t know how single speed riders do it. There was some really cool flowing single track down so I tried to push ahead few guys to be able to enjoy it fast. Even Celina praised me how well I passed them in the single track and that I went fast. Now that’s a something coming from her since she is a XCO national champ.
We got to water point one in about 1,5 and the SRAM mechanical support fixed my gears relatively fast. Happy to have my gears back as we went quite long up hill but with beautiful views and then long down hill towards Lebanon and water point 2 that was on top of a steep climb after RSAWEB hot spot. We filled up there and grabbed the usual snacks and off we went more up hill but then we finally got to Lebanon and enjoyed the flowing single tracks even the rockier part. I went first again and loved it. I didn’t hear Katie( the race director) mentioned the Paul Cluver bridges so when we get there I was slightly tired. And had to concentrate not to fall off the bridges and there were lot of people watching. Once refueled I felt bit better and off we went more up and down. 10km before finish I got a nose bleed and it didn’t stop for a while when I looked on my bike frame it was covered in red. Not the best view. So I rather kept looking forward and kept going luckily mostly down single track.
When we got to finish I looked like I broken my nose or something. But luckily not. I felt actually much better than on Friday just looked worse.
My husband waited in the finish so I chatted to him for a bit and then the last usual routine except we went out for dinner to the Oak Valleys Pool Room restaurant where we had delicious meal.
One day to do 69km and 1800m ascent to Lourensford.
Its raining a bit hopefully it will get better!