Monday, 28 March 2016

Race to Cradock - Chesneywold to Slaapkranz

A condition of leg fatigue and exhaustion that arises from taking an extended period of rest whilst engaged in cycling activity. "I have picnic-legs after that coffee stop"

synonyms: Spongy legs, wobbly knee'd , feeble knee'd

The route out of Chesneywold leads to a tar road that heads north toward Barkly East. You follow this road for a few kilometres before turning on to a gravel road toward Rytjiesvlakte. Before the tar, not long after leaving the house, the farm road kicks up. My legs weren't happy. I had developed a sharp pain on the inside of my right leg just above the knee cap. If I had managed to catch up to Casper I am sure he would have told me it was a pain in my lower vastus medialis or some other muscle by some equally meaningless name. Science is for classrooms and doctors rooms. Out in the middle of nowhere I had no need of fancy terminology. I was sore and I could point a finger at the offending muscle group. Latin and/or Greek are not prerequisites for feeling pain.

I pedalled up the tar road trying to stay in touch with Casper and did a rather pathetic job of it. The gap was getting bigger. Turning onto the gravel road I stopped to give my legs a breather. Casper disappeared from sight up ahead.

The travel agreement between myself, Casper, Alex and Janine was that the car would leave Cradock on the Thursday morning and any stragglers in our group would get uplifted from the trail or be left to make their own arrangements to get back to Johannesburg. It was only Monday morning and Cradock seemed a long way off. I got back on my bike and got to the task at hand.

A few kilometres later I was passed by Janine. She had made a remarkable recovery since Chesneywold and looked strong. I asked her where Tim and Fjord were. She said the last time she saw them was on the tar road. Apparently they were going too slow for her. A short while later she had reeled in Casper. The first steep climb of the day was the perfect opportunity for a walk. As I dismounted Fjord pedalled by. I asked about Tim. Fjord said Tim was just behind and was feeing bleak. Fjord clearly wasn't. He pedalled up the steep climb passing Casper and Janine, who were both pushing their bikes.

At this stage I was really sore and figured the best I could hope for, come Thursday morning, was to to picked up next to the tar road near Baroda a short distance the wrong side of Cradock. A proper finish seemed an impossibility. I scratched around in my pack and found some pain killers which were quickly administered.

Halfway up the climb I stopped and looked back. I could see Tim behind me. He was stationary and was slumped over his bike. He was having a worse time of it than I was. Mercifully the painkillers were starting to take effect and I felt a whole lot better than Tim looked.

By the time I got to the Kapokkraal farmhouse I had caught up with Casper. Janine had already started on the portage and could be seen carrying her bike a few hundred metres ahead. There is a little known sneak up the valley to the right and I was sure it would allow us to get ahead of Janine. I could see from the distinctive tread pattern of Alex's bike that he had employed the cunning sneak. To cut a pathetic story short we crested the nek a few hundred metres plus some behind Janine. I'm sure the sneak works for someone as strong as Alex who can ride stuff that has me walking. I'm quite happy to let Alex have exclusive use of that sneak in future.

As proof of her fallibility Janine went a little too left over the other side of the portage which allowed us to get slightly ahead of her. That situation was quickly reversed when we trundled through the bush to get to the Spitzkop farmhouse ruin only to see Janine pedalling off a few hundred metres ahead of us. It seems everyone except me, and Casper by association, knows that there is now a perfectly rideable track off the mountain.

We set off in hot pursuit and only managed to catch Janine 15 km's later at the gate of the first checkpoint at Slaapkranz farmhouse. It was 12:45. We were still on schedule but the soggy conditions, which didn't seem that bad, had taken their toll.

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