Saturday, 26 March 2016

Race to Cradock. Getting to the start line.

The caffeine coursing through my veins finally relented at around 1 am allowing me to get almost three hours sleep. Note to self - don't drain two or three plunge pots of coffee the night before a big race.

The alarm squawked vulgarly, it was still very dark outside. It was one of those mornings where the excitement of the day before had somehow leached out during the hours of darkness making one wonder how this had ever seemed like a good idea. The rain had subsided sometime during the night and the stars had an annoying hint of cheerfulness about them. So too did Casper.

The night before I had packed and repacked my race kit. I had vacillated between a lightweight backpack, a smaller Camelbak, and no pack at all. The decision hinged on what made it easier to carry my bike up the mountains and what served as the better headrest for roadside naps. The thought of the bike frame digging into my neck and shoulders put paid to no back pack. The stronger shoulder straps of my backpack seemed more attractive than my Camelbak. After all the toing and froing I went full circle and ended up where I started; I put everything back in my lightweight backpack.

The gristle and grease that I had preordered the night before were delivered to the breakfast table and were washed down with a hot mug of tea. I tiptoed through the mud in the car park on the way back to my room. I had overheard a comment from one of the ladies in the kitchen that the roads in town were still a little squishy. What exactly does 'a little squishy' mean? Come to think of it, what does 'in town' actually mean? Rhodes isn't big enough to to qualify as a town. On the drive down we had decided that the new definition, superseding the British definitions which revolve around Church buildings and Cathedrals, is whether a place had a McDonalds. No McDonalds = not a town. Rhodes, therefore, was definitely not a town. That it didn't even have its own fuel station put paid to it being a village. So at best, it might be a hamlet. It has, as far as I can tell, only two main roads with a half dozen interlinking streets - all gravel. The place is barely one square kilometre in area. That being the case, how much store can you place on 'the roads in town are still a little squishy'? And, if the locals are given to such excesses as describing the place as a town, how much value should I be placing on their description of 'squishy'? The parking lot at The Rubicon where we were staying was squishy. If this was the standard of squishy then we were in trouble. I knew from experience that the parking lot was always worse than the roads so remained hopeful.

Back in my room I managed to stuff my non-riding kit into a hold-all and dropped it at the bakkie. With less than a minute to go I joined the others who had gathered in the parking lot. We had a solid collection of competitors. Alex Harris looked skinny and in perfect race condition. Anthony Avidon looked buoyant. Tim was mysterious, as always. Fjord Jordaan was an unknown and we had not had a chance to get acquainted on account of him having driven halfway back to East London the evening before to get a new wheel. Janine Stewart was in race shape and had a determined look about her. Coen De Bruin seemed unaffected and looked like he was about to head out on his daily ride. That left Casper and I. Casper looked eager to get on with the ride. As for me, I simply felt resigned to getting the job done. The experience and strength of the other riders in our start batch was not lost on me. This was going to be a tough race.

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