Monday, 26 September 2016

Durban Dash Up 2016 - Just do it!

This time last year I did my first Durban Dash event. The race coincided with an oppressive heat wave that resulted in all but two riders pulling out of the race. Paul Erasmus and I pedalled up from Durban crossing the finish line together to jointly win first and last place. First place gets you kudos from your mates. Last place gets the only special award of the race - the coveted Lanterne Rouge. 


While it may seem ridiculous to celebrate last place anyone who knows anything about an Andy Masters event knows that completing any of his events is as good as winning. There is no shame in taking home the red lantern. 


That was last year. Roll around April this year and the Down version of the Durban Dash beckoned. Dash events are like bookends - unless you have both ends the set is incomplete. The weather office predicted fair weather so I prepped my road bike. There is a section of gravel road leading to the Old Halliwell checkpoint that rain could make impassable. It's only a fifteen kilometre stretch but it can be tricky, even in dry weather. One rider doing the Up last year on a Cyclocross bike fell off 5 times on this section resulting in him having to pull out due to an injury. There's an alternative route but it adds so much distance and time that you may as well ride a mountain bike and take the direct route. The weather office predictions came to pass and I was able to tick off 613 km's in 28 hours and some change. Although fast, it was only good enough for third place. Two guys planned well and executed better, crossing the finish line in just under 24 hours - I want to be like them when I am big. 


As race time for the next Up race approached I started thinking about how much faster I could do the Up ride on my road bike. I already had my bookend set and didn't need to do the race again. However, I couldn't shake the idea of riding the Up on a skinny bike. A few mouse clicks later I had officially entered the race. You would think I'd snap into action and start prepping my bike and planning my race. While a good idea, it's just not me. 


I squeezed in a few training rides early September and even managed a pair of tar sessions on my road bike. Nothing too demanding. It's always a good idea to get used to the different setup like I do the weekend before any big road race like the 947 Cycle Challenge. 


I had already fitted a big range MTB cassette on my road bike for the Down ride. I knew the Up was going to be a bigger challenge. In particular, the climb out of Pietermaritzburg and the climb up Oliviershoek Pass were going to be tough. I hoped the modified gear ratios would suffice. I was prepared to suffer a bit for those 25 kilometres to enjoy the speed benefit the bike gearing would bring over the remainder of the route. A mountain bike, while more comfortable, is not the weapon of choice on a tar road race. It's like entering a donkey in the Durban July. It will probably finish but the photo finish technicians won't be on speed dial.


Then the weather changed and the heavens opened. One week before the race the roads around Harrismith were sprinkled with snow and the field for the Hill 2 Hill MTB race in Durban thinned out as people didn't relish the idea of a mud race. Various weather sites agreed that it was going to be cold and wet on the first day of the race. All of a sudden my faithful "donkey" started to look a lot more attractive than my Cervelo "race horse".


The Cervelo had developed a creak and I suspected the bottom bracket needed some attention. I also knew there was a niggle or two on my mountain bike. 2 days before the race with the certainty of rain at 100% I abandoned the idea of riding the Cervelo and settled on my mountain bike. Someone said they might have a set of 29er slicks I could use but they couldn't find them and I wasn't about to part with a handful of shillings for new tyres for just one race. I knew I should have be proactive and got my ducks in a row but that never happened until the night before I headed down to Durban


The wiring for my dynohub USB charging system got damaged in the last day of The Freedom Challenge and I hadn't got around to fixing it. I also needed new brake pads and there was something else that needed fixing but I couldn't remember what it was. 

The cassette, chain and chain rings were well past their use by date with almost 3500km's of use since last service. I figured they hadn't showed any ill effects so were probably good for at least one more outing. 

The tyres, while adequate for serious off-road use, were a little heavy. I didn't fancy swapping them out for a lighter set which I had as I wasn't sure I had enough sealant to do the job. In truth, I was also being lazy. 


Before I tucked into bed I had managed to do very little on my bike. I found my Revelate saddle bag and fitted it to my bike. It should have taken less than a minute to fit but it ended up taking me at least ten minutes as I couldn't remember how it fitted to the saddle. I couldn't find new brake pads so fitted an old set that had a little wear left in them. I figured I would only have to use the brakes through towns if I caught the traffic lights on red. I also found two power banks in my box of race stuff and put them on charge. 


I set my alarm for 5am so I would have enough time to find the rest of my kit and attend to my bikes wiring problem and that 'something else' that I couldn't recall. 

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