Day 6 – April 29, 2015
Start: Clifton Preparatory School
Finish: Glencairn Farm – oh what a view!
Official distance: 123 k
Descent: 2685 m
Ascent: 2879 m
Kits: Mike’s Bikes California Kits
Stunning views crossing the Drakensberg
I will confess to a rather humbling condition. I managed to get a staph infection on my bum. It did not surprise me to have a few saddle sores by day 5 but I really didn’t expect to need to see the medic. My bum was on fire by the end of Day 5. I had planned to just keep suffering through, but I am glad that I swallowed the pride pill and went to see the medics. I think from all of the long days in the saddle with wet, muddy shorts finally took its’ toll and made my butt vulnerable to the infection. Thankfully the medics had already seen many bums before I made my appearance in the “bum line” so they were well schooled in knowing that I wasn’t suffering from the average saddle sore. They treated me with a magical mixture of Friars’ Balsam and Merthiolate so I had a bright yellow and bright pink butt and sent me away with a 7 day supply of antibiotics and a 1 day supply of Bennetts Baby Bum Crème. I think they only give you a 1 day supply of the magical Bennetts so that you have to submit to the repeat examination the next day to get your following day’s supply. I will be stocking up on the Bennetts before returning to the states. The stuff is unlike any chamois cream I have ever used. I was actually able to sit down on Day 6 with minor discomfort. (again – everything is relative – lol).
Back to the ride on Day 6 – It was a tough one. I am really glad that I felt rested and strong after Day 5. Day 6 was the biggest climbing day of the ride with equally as long rocky descents that you couldn’t just coast through. Again, I am quite thankful that I was well prepared from riding in Marin for the 2+ hour long grinding climbs. Many people suffered on Day 6. The entire day was spent with my head down pushing until it was time to have the head up to break on the long descents into the Valley of Death. I am uncertain of the title of this one – I don’t know whether you were supposed to be sent to hell on the crazy descent, be hit by a flying rogue mini bus taxi on one of the district roads, if you were supposed to drown at one of the river crossings or if the scorching temperatures that were supposed to take you to hell. This was the first time in the race I wish there had been one extra of the potato/meet/egg stops because I was in desperate need of water for the final kick of the last single track climb. Thankfully, one of the first responders on the course had a 5 gallon supply on hand anticipating the heat of the day would have more than a few riders requiring a little extra fluid for the last 20k.
The cruel trick of the day was they extended the entry into the race village by an extra 5-8k so just when you thought you were there you had another 25 minutes of tractor trail through tall grass. There were more than a few people grumbling at the finish line.
The brochure said 98km and 2286m of climbing. The official revision said 123km and 2879m of climbing and mentions “monster climbs” like ‘Valley of Death’ and a RedBull Challenge (uphill?), “imaginary bridges” at large river crossings and downhills like “Face Plantation” (that took out the race leader with a torn rotator injury just like Karrie’s – but Karrie appears to be tougher.) Face Plantation was like a never ending, much steeper, ruttier, off-camber upper-Eldridge covered with 2 liter sized rocks and big drainage humps every 20 meters. Every contact point was on fire in the first few minutes of the 20 minute descent. I have no idea how Karrie made it down. I lost count of the river crossings but I do remember the thigh deep one right before a long, long technical climb where at the top I (again) stacked it into a foul smelling, slick rock, cow dung oozing farm creek and gashed up my shin.
After the finish I admit that I went straight to the beer tent and grabbed 4 beers (the only thing better than a cold Hansa is pretty much any other beer) before heading to the mechanic (Charl @ Trinity) to meet Karrie and drop off my bike. I handed one straight to Karrie and plopped down in a chair. I was going to offer one to Charl but I thought better of that idea and finished all 3 before getting out of the chair & heading to the showers. Up 2 places on the day due to Karrie’s climbing fortitude.
Charlie’s Day 6 lesson
While stage racing hire a mechanic if at all possible. You will be too tired to do your own cleaning, repairs and prep. We left the bikes with Charl after each stage and he and his Trinity Cycles team made sure that we were ready to go in the morning saving us hours of labor everyday and helping us rest.
(From Karrie – Charl – Thanks for the corn chips.)