Cruising into 2015

This past weekend was the SA XCO #2 held at the Voortrekker monument in Pretoria. It was my first XCO race since worlds in late August last year which ended in a disaster after having my derailleur ripped off my bike and watching as the chances of a possible medal position slip through my fingers.

When things like these happen it can go both ways. It can either motivate you to come back stronger and fight another day or it can be extremely disheartening and take a while before you even want to get back on the bike. As for me, my confidence went completely out the window but I held my head high, and began preparing for 2015.

I’ve set new goals and have a fantastic group of people around me. I signed my first ever contract with Red Bull who have given me a new set of wings! A sick set of wheels from Specialized South Africa which will see me on the woman’s specific ERA (he’s beautiful)IMG_4649

And been given the opportunity to race for the Sasol racing team for Marathons which led me onto a slight detour at the beginning of the year. I raced alongside Yolande De Villers for 2 stage races, the Tankwa Trek where we placed 3rd Woman and then the GR300 where we finished 1st. They were both incredible 3 day stage races and Yolande was an absolute star to race with! IMG_3586

From there I made the decision to miss the Absa Cape Epic. It was an incredibly hard decision as once sucked into the hype of the Epic fever it’s hard to pull yourself out… But I have embarked on the long road to Rio 2016 for XCO. Of course there is the possibility that I may not get there but I am wanting to give myself the best opportunity. Usain Bolt will not run a Marathon when wanting to qualify for the 100m – that’s one way of looking at it.
XCO requires speed and power, it’s a 2hour max race. You have one chance and one chance only. It’s cruel , unforgiving but very exciting!

So with that said, SA cup #2 was my first XCO race this year. I flew up to Pretoria earlier than usual for better preparation. The course was rocky and loose and not very technical. The hills were placed perfectly well so that no one had the chance to recover, I knew it was going to be hard!

The pro elite woman started at 10:00am Saturday morning. Very few people realize the importance of the start in XCO even Marathons for that matter. As once off the front group it’s very hard to bridge over again and if you do … You probably the first to get spat out the back when the pace turns up. I was ranked 7th which meant I was in second row (top 5 ranked girls were row 1). Not such a mission but if you didn’t get near the front in the first few 100 meters before the single track that’s where you would stay till your reached the last quarter of the lap, this was where the first opportunity to pass came. Sure, I had practiced my start… Once or twice.

The gun went and we were off and it was if I was wearing takkies… I just couldn’t find my cleats.
First try – fail
Second try – fail
Third try – fail
Finally on the fourth try metal met metal and I was on my way. By now I was sitting in tenth as we began the hill. I tried passing but no one was budging. Ears closed, Elbows out. And I watched as the front two girls snaked away from the rest of us. We reached the top and began the rocky decent that I had punctured on in practice. The rocks were sharp and unforgiving so I decided to run slightly heavier tyre’s on race day that were safer than taking a chance. Many girls paid for this in the later laps as I heard many were puncturing left right and centre.
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Once we reached the bottom of the technical decent there was a nice decent on an open jeep track followed by a drag to the tech zone. This was where I bridged over to the two leading girls (Mariska Struss and Candice Neethling) making sure I didn’t bring the others with me. But I knew I had emptied myself out before we began the final climb… (Stupid girl!)
Mariska got a gap on us and it took me a while before I came out the red. She got just far enough in front that I could no longer see her. I couldn’t see anyone behind me so from there I got into my own rhythm. Towards the end of the 4th lap I saw Mariska in the pits jumping back onto her bike later I learnt she punctured but she flew past me at such a speed I honestly just let her go… she didn’t get very far though 7 seconds she pulled out on me up the hill.

With one last lap to go, I gave it one more shot, I descended as fast as I could and was able to catch onto the wheel again, but as luck would have it I made a small mistake and took a little tumble. I never had much chance of closing the gap now, Mariska could smell the finish line.

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I ended off in a very pleasing 2nd place 20 seconds back, a real confidence boost going into the new season. Well done to all those who competed. It was a really treat to watch everyone fight it out on Saturday. And to all the great support on and off the track you guys are awesome! XCO is really on the up!

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This weekend we head down to KZN for the PMB Mountain Bike Festival.
Friday will see us bombing down the hill on the Endro.
Saturday we head to war in the XCO.
Sunday we race around KZN in the Marathon
Make sure to keep up on the latest action.

Till next time
B

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Towering on

We are on our way to the 2 day Hansa Fish Canoe Marathon, in a full mini bus with the Stellenbosch University canoeists and finally I have found some time to write about this past weekend’s racing in Nelspruit area, the Isuzu 3 Towers stage race.  The amount of gees in the canoeing circle is unreal… here are some shaved heads and scary looking beards the boys worked on last night. Would any cyclists dare to have this much gees for a stage race?

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The Isuzu 3 Towers came close to that, the organisers were absolute treats on the stage every evening making the entire tent roar with laughter, this was a weekend full of good racing, great trails and warm company.

I flew up from Cape Town on Wednesday afternoon in time for Velo Life’s new shop opening in Pretoria. The evening was awesome catching up with team mates and friends over delicious treats and red wine.

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Yes we wore dresses! Even if some were bare foot we were dressed for the occasion

On Thursday morning we left for Nelspruit in the Velo Life bus making our way into the heart of Mpumalanga. The venue was Mankele mountain bike park, which was established in 2007 in the foot hills of the escarpment by the 3 Towers organisers themselves (Geoff and Mark Mayer plus their mate Greg Anderson.) It is fast becoming one of South Africa’s favourite place to Mountain bike. Mankele also hosts an SA cup cross country race each year.

The 3 Towers is a 3 day stage race which you can do in teams of 2 or solo. It consists of three different events: “The Race” that was for all the racing snakes and big dogs.  “The Challenge” was shorter than the race. It was for all those who wanted to have a joll all day and not have to crawl over the line in exhaustion after each day’s stage. And then there was the “Mncane” which was the smallest of the three. It was for those who enjoy the trails and want to be a part of the whole experience. Let’s say husbands were doing the Race so the wives and children could also come along and ride the Mncane or Challenge and experience the event. It truly was special seeing whole families enjoying the weekend on their bikes.

My partner was Frankie du Toit and being juniors we could only race the Challenge. Because of the shorter distances juniors were allowed to race (Bonus!). We honestly had the greatest time. The terrain each day was extremely hilly. You go off the start line each day and you literally climb climb climb climb climb and when you think it’s over you climb some more. This is what the organisers told us each evening about the following day’s stage. They almost made people dread it. But they were just psyching us out. It was super great yes there were a lot of climbs but the type of climbs that you feel satisfied afterwards you reach a tower everyday and then you know “we’ve climbed for +-  30 kms, it’s all downhill from here!” flip I can’t explain to you how awesome the trails were, just fast flowing GOOD stuff. You need to experience it before I try to explain it. Here are the race profiles of the Challenge.

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Each day was very different even though the longest day was something like 46km’s… I know what you thinking, “Ha, piece of cake.” But it was tuff, your average speed is a lot faster than racing say a 72km. There is no time to relax. Frankie and I somehow got caught up in the whole overall rankings and ended up not only racing just for the top step in the woman’s category but against the boys as well.  And may I just add some men are super sexiest! I mean seriously if a girl comes riding past they jump onto that wheel faster than you can say “jackass” some screw seems to loosen in their head and they hold on for dear life leaving their partners in their fumes. It’s honestly my favourite kind of racing because men take no prisoners. Beating them is an added treat and being beaten by them you can always say “I’m just a girl stop being so competitive;)”

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Overall we had an absolute blast.  Thanks to the organizers, caterers, cleaning staff, bike mechanics… the list goes on and on, so thanks for a world class event. A special well done must go to my team mates Amy Willams and Johann Wykerd who won the mixed category in the Challenge, Candice Neethling who won the overall woman in the Race with her partner Cherise Stander.  Frances and I were able to take the overall win for the woman in the Challenge. Whoohaa!

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Other than that I’ll be cooling off @ the Fish River Canoe Marathon this weekend. No doubt there will be some men on my wave! Good luck and remember I’m a girl!

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Until next time, keep peddling & paddling & don’t forget to work on your Gees

Yankie Doodle

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Bike life of late

Winter is approaching. As I fly over the snowy peaks from Cape Town to Durban on a very crisp morning on my way to SA marathon champs this weekend and then a month long holiday. First I think it’s about time I report back on my last month of traveling and racing both locally and internationally.

I set off sometime last month to do the popular Sappi Karkloof classic. I had been out of the racing circle for a few weeks and was rather excited to race the local chicks again to see exactly where I stood. But of course being Bianca Haw nothing ever goes 100%. Firstly, I flew in from Cape Town round 5pm Saturday evening. With my bike unassembled and unwashed (its bad luck to start a race with an unwashed bike… well my father’s theory anyway) but that’s beside the point. Secondly, riding to the start line 2 minutes before your batch is meant to leave is always a bad idea. Thirdly, never ever try jump onto a veranda like a pro if you are not a pro!

So to cut a long story short my bike was really not feeling the racing vibe he flatted on the veranda, refused to be fixed, and only after a new back tyre was replaced and 10minutes late for the start he was half satisfied. During the race he protested again snapping his chain. So honestly I believe he’s become a real capetonian- soft. It’s a lesson learnt, you need to be prepared, being unprepared can cost you a lot.

 

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Congrats frankie and Alex on such awesome results.


The following week was sani2c week. Even though it is in my back yard and I have ridden its flowing trails hundreds of times I was not allowed to race due to being underage. I had a plan. Beg my parents, the organisers to let me ride unofficially. After a long training session on my own near Underberg and stressed parents not knowing where I was. I found myself on the start line of sani2c the following day. Racing unofficially was great no pressure but some really fast racing amongst strong riders. What an experience and reality check of how fast I will need to be one day. I had a little fun over sain2c and was lucky enough to ride the last 3 days. The scenery and people were awesome. I found it really motivating too. Competing against some of the strongest ladies in the country was inspiring and sure gave me a boost for my next stint in Europe.

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The young pinner Tyron Bird showed me some of the ropes of how to be an incredible bike rider on your back wheel.


After Sani I set off to Europe to race the 3rd and 4th round of the UCI world cups held in Czech and Germany in a back to back weekend. I chose to go to this as it was the only opportunity this year I could go to compete at this level in a back to back weekend. And was the level high alright! These girls are quick, its incredible how amazingly fast the human body can really be.

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Oh and there’s me… the big one on the right. number 5


Traveling

I was lucky enough to travel with 2 of the most genuine people you will ever lay your eyes on Candice Neethling who raced as well in the u23 category and Chris Nixon came along to be our Supporter, Mechanic, mentor, and super advisor.

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Racing

It’s a different ball game. Easy and racing in Europe cannot be put in the same sentence.

Czech, Nova Mesto was first up; with 60 girls on the start line from 32 different countries it was a sight not to be missed. The course was rooty, bumpy and an enormous amount of fun. The start loop was like the start of an F1 grand prix. What a shock to the system! I could not believe how fast I had to ride off the start line. Nothing like I had ever experienced before. We were out the start gates at an incredible pace, holy smokes. I ended a solid 10th.

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Germany, Albstad was steep, slippery and steep again. I started a lot faster this week as not getting boxed in at the start was critical as the course was so tight and not much space to pass. It was just up, down and around, and up, down and around, again and again. Some of you may have watched the race on TV, the TV lies! Those hills looked flat I got multiple messages saying “it didn’t look to bad” I had no comment. I ended 14th, sounds worse… but I was more satisfied with that one believe it or not. The times were all so close. Yet the general public only look at the end result which is acceptable. As in the end that’s all that matters you can win by 4 minutes or half a split second but that’s still a win. I went out there to ride my bike, just ride it like I always do. So that now I can see exactly what needs to be done to improve. This is cool because I now know that there is a lot of room for improvement. I’d be a little bored if I knew I had no space for improvement and that’s the best I’ll ever be. Hey, I was happy, 2 minutes closer to the lead this week. Two more races and I should be on the podium. Right?

Never fear dear people there is always space for improvement! “The mind will give up 1000 times before the body does”

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thanks Cherie Vale for the great pictures!


My thoughts  

I’ve recently uploaded kindle onto my phone which allows me to read books electronically and buy them for cheap cheap (yes rather Jew of me, but the less money I spend the better I feel) I’ve been reading a beautifully written book… strange hey because I am not one for reading. And even worse feeling emotional about a book. It’s called ‘Fault in our stars’ the movie is also coming out really soon so I’m going to try get to the ending before I cheat watching the movie. But my point is it’s about a young girl with incurable cancer. And we all know cancer is becoming one of the biggest illnesses in today’s world. 1 in 4 people will get cancer in some stage of their life… now I know what you doing looking around at the other people in the room thinking: ‘ok, I only have to beat 3 of these buggers and I won’t get it.’ But this is really happening you may fall ill tomorrow or I might never. But for now you need to take a step back have a good look at yourself and be thankful for what you have. When my day comes I want to lie in my death bed and know I did everything I possibly could to live my life exactly how I wanted. It might have not gone as planned or maybe I followed many other paths. Sometimes you just need to forget about all the noise around you and not focus on making people happy but instead what makes YOU happy because at the end of the day it’s about you. What do you want? Tell me what do you want!?

 

Lastly I’d just like to thank Johann Wykerd for making my dreams come a reality and never for one moment doubt my ability, thank you sir. To Velo life and all the crew for always being there to help put my scattered life into place before each race. My family and friends for all the incredible support and encouragement you guys are truly the greatest. And of course my fellow adventurers, Candy and Chris. It was an honour and I was fortunate to travel and live with you for 2 weeks. I truly appreciate all your words of wisdom and encouragement. I hope to be back to do it all again sometime soon.

Till next time just ride your bike

 Yankie

Life on the other side of the ocean…

Many have warned me of the dangers of racing overseas, I have heard the war stories let me tell you. Living in Campervans. Driving ridiculous amounts of kilometres every week to races on different ends of Europe. Being pulled off the route on your 4th lap. And of course the big one… Exchange rates. But this is the life you as an individual have chosen. People can push you as much as they like but in the end it is your decision whether this is career you want to pursue. So on the 26th March of this year 3 young juniors and a fantastic man set off to discover the unknown for themselves.

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It was the land better known for their pizza, pasta, and smooth Italian men. But little did we know how crazy these people are about cycling. Thousands and thousands of cyclists took the roads daily and at very arbitrary hours of the day: 9am -11am as if no one has jobs over there…  We arrived at the little town of Montichiari where the second Italian cup was being held.  The race was held around the town through the streets and up the hill to a castle where we road through the castle, down stairs and awesome technical sections. It was literally indescribable. Friday night was a time trail night race, completely unheard of! The track was lit up by street lamps and head torches. It is a definite must try in South Africa one of these days.

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 Sunday was the cross country race where +- 5000 spectators lined the route screaming and shouting the town was buzzing with excited fans. I couldn’t believe the amount of people and how little South African XCO is in comparison to this. Not even of African champs receives this amount of support and this was just an Italian cup race. There were Swiss , German, Belgian even Russian racers that had trekked across countries  to race. Everyone was so hungry to race… Awesome! We all had a fantastic race Nicol was placed 10th in junior men. Frankie a solid 6th and myself a lucky 3rd in junior woman.

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I thought to myself: How has South Africa got it so wrong? Our cross country races are held mostly in the sticks where the human population is close to none… Leshoto or the Addo Elephant park for example… Our only spectators are our parents that have to drive us because we are incapable of driving ourselves or very very committed loved ones… other than that the average Joe doesn’t even hear about it. It isn’t about racing on the best routes, it’s about being spectator friendly, and do-able for the average weekend warrior. We are lucky if we get 10 women on the start line. Overseas an easy 150 hungry women are ready to race.

Our next stop was Nals situated on the boarder of Germany. This race was now one of the Junior world series. Hundreds of juniors were expected here from all over Europe. The best in the world. We arrived early that week just for a change of scenery. And just some words of advice when booking accommodation… look on google maps before you just book. We thought we were very cleaver to book 5kms out of town as this gave us some freedom from all the hype but… that’s 5km as the crow fly’s up a vertical accent. Easy on a bike but in a car, that’s another story an easy 20km’s round the mountain. We stayed so far up there was snow in our back yard… But it was quite nice;)

The town was completely dead the entire week until Friday. Suddenly the trucks and campervans rolled in the town came alive. Banners, route marking, tents were set up making the town a gigantic race village. Once again there were bound to be thousands of spectators making their way from afar. The race was tough. The climbing was hectic! Little chicks can climb faster than mountain goats I swear! I felt like an ox dragging a 200kg cart on my back. But we’ll get there.  Nicol was unfortunately not well on the day and pulled off early. Frankie had another awesome race ending 8th and myself 6th in the junior woman. I think we can only go up from here as now we know exactly what needs to be worked on.

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Overall the trip was really worthwhile. Thanks Johann, Nicol and franks for such a good trip. Your company is always so enjoyable. And just a bit of insight for those of you who are considering this career… remember: It is not a glamour’s job. It is hard and painful but you need to decide how you want your life to be lived. There are many ups and downs. Times when you will perform incredibly well and other times not so much. It is a selfish sport but at the same time very rewarding. You are able to see the world by doing something you love. Meet people you would have never met. Whatever you choose you must enjoy it and remember it is never too late to make a plan. Commitment and determination are the key factors. Your mind is incredibly strong; if your mind is in it you WILL succeed in your own way. And for those of you who are not looking at this as a career I urge you to support the sport, it is incredible beyond belief you will feel a part of it. Mountain biking is the fastest growing sport in South Africa so should Cross country be! We have super talented athletes that can be the best buy without support from our fellow South Africans  our flag won’t fly very high.

Keep those pedals turning. Till next time

Bianca

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sneaky preview of our new kit 😉

Professional tea drinker, avid stellies student and lucky Velo life bike rider!