“Hey everyone, I’m back again with the second edition of my monthly racer blogs. This time I had to show real grit throughout my most recent racing block, which saw me back on the mountain bike for a change from the road scene.
April, has been quite a whirlwind for me – actually it all began at the end of March when I embarked on a three week trip with my team, Valley Electrical Titan Racing, where we competed in three different Cross-Country events over three weekends.
Our first stop was in hot, dry and dusty Bloemfontein, for the third round of the SA XCO Series. As much as I was really looking forward to competing alongside South Africa’s top Elite women again, unfortunately, my race didn’t quite go according to plan.
After a good start, the effects of dehydration began to set in and I found myself losing both power and focus very quickly. On the end of lap 3 of 6, I bounced my way through the main rock garden and rode straight into the bank directly after it. I had lost most of the feeling in my arms and once I stood up to find my bike again, my head immediately began spinning and my wrist throbbing in pain – I decided to listen to my body and call it quits.
It took over an hour for my core temperature to come back down to normal. I don’t usually pull out of races, but in this case, I knew it was the right decision as it could have ended up being a lot worse if I had carried on. I’ve learn’t from experience that you don’t mess around with dehydration, and this experience was a character-building reminder.
Week two of our three-week trip brought about a new opportunity to race again, this time at the Category 1 Namibian XCO, after a “quick” roadtrip to Windhoek from Bloemfontein with the team. I really enjoyed the awesome track in Windhoek, with the terrain varying so much to our usual South African XC tracks; loose dirt complete with small pebbles meant keeping smooth was the main aim of the game on this course. The track had several technical features, such as drop-offs, jumps, rock gardens and technical, steep climbs – a bit of everything really.
I learnt my lesson from the previous weekend, and made sure to hydrate myself continuously throughout the week leading up to the race. In turn, I was able to complete the race while staying smooth and consistent, and avoid dehydration despite the hot dry conditions – I’d say that was a success in my book. I managed a 5th place overall in the Elite category, and left with renewed determination for African Champs the following weekend on the same track.
I’d say African Champs was a priority on my racing calendar this year. I chose to race up in the Elite category, despite the fact that this is only my first year in the U23 category, in order to push myself beyond my comfort zone and focus on racing my best race. However, the outcome of the race was not really what I had hoped for. Once again, I had a solid start, sitting comfortably in the leading group of riders, and just as I thought to myself, “Today is going to be a good day,” my wheel washed out in a berm on the final flow section of Lap 1 and I found myself on the ground. A spectator rushed to try help me, but as outside assistance is not allowed in XC, I had to wave him away (as politely as possible), roughly straighten my handlebars and then rolled down to the tech zone to have a few other mechanical issues sorted out.
After my bike had been attended to, I began my long chase back over the next five laps. I actually began to slowly eat away at the time deficit, but the gap between me and the front group was just too big to close. I was effectively in “No man’s land” and the fatigue of the chase really hit me on the last lap; I crossed the line exhausted and drained.
This sport is definitely not for sissies! Despite my mixed bag of results, I returned home after my three-week racing block fulfilled after spending some quality time with my teammates, who truly are a great group of people, and after the wonderful experience of exploring new places on two wheels. I would really recommend Windhoek as a cycling destination to any South African looking for a change of scenery without requiring them to travel halfway across the globe. I am currently on a forced break from the bike, due to a serious crash I had whilst training on the road. Thankfully, I came off lucky with no broken bones – but you’ll have to wait to read more on that in my next Blog.
Cheers!” – Tiffany