Monday, 13 March 2017

What will it take to win Race to Cradock 2017?

The Race to Cradock is a 575 km, non-stop, self-navigated mountain bike race starting in Rhodes and ending in Cradock, Eastern Cape. Riders are allowed a maximum of 6 days to complete the ride.
It is a non-stop event, so riders are not required to stop every day/night as in other stage races. Riders are required to be self-sufficient and carry all their own personal belongings with them.

There are a couple of people who could take line honours this year. My top picks start on the last two start days of the race - 21st and 22nd March. That's not to say a dark horse from an earlier start batch doesn't raise its head.

If you are not familiar with the race format you might be confused by the concept of 'the last two start days.' Riders are batched in daily start groups of 5-9 riders leaving every day from 15th March through to 22nd March. This to prevent congestion at the overnight support stations. Riders advise the race office of their strategy and riding tjommie preferences when they enter and are batched accordingly. The guys and girls who either self identify as race snakes or have a race pedigree that places them in that category start at the back of the field, hence my suggestion that the winners will most likely come from the last 2 start days.

The ladies top pick would have to be Janine Stewart who is the current woman's record holder at 61 hours 20 mins. She has a race pedigree of note. She's tough, determined, and experienced. She knows what it takes to prevail over that distance. I'm sure she will be looking to pare off at least a handful of hours so we'll pencil her in for 56 hours.

The guys in contention are Antony Avidon, Casper Venter, Charles Mansfield, Jacques Tattersall, and Leon Erasmus. All have race experience and know this section. I have the most experience on this section and although I lack race conditioning I'll tuck myself in at the end of that list as route knowledge and night navigation experience counts for something.

That's what it is and who they are. Now what will it take to win the race?

The key is an executable strategy. The old-bullet strategy of ride until you drop is going to come face to face with the young guns strategy of ride fast, stop and recover, and then ride fast again - the old tortoise and the hare story, except the hares are focussed and the tortoises more determined.

The challenge is the distance involved. It's almost short enough to race non-stop and almost long enough to win using a race-rest-race approach. It's going to be interesting to see who adopts which strategy and then how those strategies play out in a head-to-head contest of the Almosts.

I think the men's winning time will be in the order of 50 to 52 hours. Sub 48 is the holy grail. The current record set by Alex Harris in 2015 is 47 hours 35 mins. You need to beat that if you wish to wrest the chalice from him.

I've crunched all the data and offer the following as a race plan that will get a rider to the finish in 48 hours.

Place name, distance to get there, in and out times, (transit times to the get there from the previous point)

Rhodes 05:00

Chesneywold 68km 09:15 - 09:25 (4h15)

Slaapkranz 37km 12:20 - 12:30 (2h55)

Moodenaars 58km 17:30 -17:45 (5h00)

Kranzkop 38 km 19:45 - 20:00 (2h00)

Brosterlea 49km 01:00 - 01:45 (5h00)

Romansfontein 82km 06:45 - 07:30 (5h00)

Hofmeyr 72km 13:30 - 13:45 (6h00)

Elandsberg 33km 16:45 - 17:00 (3h00)

Newlands 51km 20:00 - 21:00 (3h00)

Rockdale 28 km 23:00 (2h00)

Cradock 58km 05:00 (6h00)

That's the plan. All that's needed is someone to deliver.

Any takers?

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