Saturday, 27 June 2009

Day 12 - Van de Venterskraal to Toekomst

Soft day today. Too much wind, too much mud and too much cold rain to be fun. To add to our misery we sustained a side wall gash of the front tyre at speed less than an hour into the ride. Sorting that out in the pouring rain with an artic wind blowing a gale really tested my resolve.
We do carry a spare tyre but we have a DIY tubeless setup ("homeless tubeless" using a 20 inch BMX inner tube as a tubeless strip) with deep section rims (downhill spec) just getting the tyre off the rim is hard work requiring 3 extra strength tyre levers. I swear the cold must have shrunk the tyre because it didn't cooperate. Then we had to decide if we should put an inner tube in or try go tubeless with our spare. With all the thorns around an inner tube is not a good option. With our setup not being genuine tubeless we always face the possibility of the tyre not sealing on the rim even with an inflator. In the end we just opened the tyre sufficiently to stick a patch on the inside wall over the 1 cm cut. Fortunately it worked and we were on our way in 20 minutes. 20 mins sounds excessive but we don't have quick release skewers. To get the front wheel off you need to remove no less than 8 bolts. Glue and patches don't like water so Glenn used an emergency blanket to make a "tent" to keep the elements at bay. Then it took an age for the glue to dry sufficiently to apply the patch. We tried to speed up the process by lighting the glue - an old Indian trick taught to me by old man Pillay at my local bike shop - but with all the wind the lighter was as much use as lock-jaw! While all this was going on the rain was streaming down, we were getting covered in mud and our fingers were turning to ice lollies. Shivering from the cold we then had to scramble up a path that was as slippery as fresh snot. Knowing the route is a pleasure because after all this excitement it only took us about 20 minutes to catch up with the guys ahead.
This is our third mechanical problem. Two days ago we tore a valve stem. Yesterday I had difficulty trying to clip into the left pedal on a fast, bumpy descent. At the bottom I discovered that the pedal casing was "missing in action" and only the shaft was left. We had the good sense to bring a spare pair of pedals so that was a 2 minute fix.
So far our Rohloff hub has worked well. Mud is ugly and takes no prisoners with the drive train. If we were using a conventional "cassette derailleur" setup I have no doubt that the mud would have caused it to fail. As it is, our Rohloff "gear box" is doing good. We push big torque through the pedals. Today we were wheel spinning on a slope without moving forward. Already some riders have experienced drive train failure and I expect many more will. The wear and tear brought about by riding in mud can reduce a bike to trash in a single day. In a multi-week event like this mud can be a race ender.
At the end of todays ride we only covered a paltry 50km in 6 hours. Arriving in Toekomst we were easily seduced by the promise of laundry and good food. Having to layer up for the weather makes your clothes stink. Arriving late last night meant no washing. The next 2 support stations don't offer washing facilities and quite frankly I have gotten to the stage of finding the odour of my clothes repugnant! The other factor mitigating against moving on is our tactical options. The next support station in 100km ahead, which in wet conditions would mean another long night. Only got 5 hours of sleep last night and the leg is starting to twinge again from todays mud ride. Going to recharge here for today be then re-charge!
The race this year has been more arduous than previous years because of the weather and the extra "interesting" bits the race director has added. Some of them described as "mostly rideable" but aren't! One of the other riders staying here today commented "I just want to ride my bike!" Sounds like a reasonable request for a mountain bike race doesn't it?

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