Transbaviaans feedback from a newbie

Having crewed at the Transbaviaans 2015, a very bad case of FOMO led to a 9 man Extreme Lights contingent entering the Transbaviaans 2016.  Fitness levels varied, but for us having a team building experience, and crossing the finish line together, was the most important.  

Transbaviaans (5) The Wille Honde from Stellenbosch.  Names have been withheld to protect their identities as some incriminating pics follow...[/caption] Pro coaches always give the advice that one should try to give yourself a couple of days to acclimatise before a big event.  All of us had to get pink slips, as we’re not allowed out too often, so we decided to combine the TB with a hunt at Kareedouw, the week before the event.  This involved a lot of carbo loading.  As this post focuses on the TB, I will not include too much info/pics on the hunt (except for down below).

Preparation & strategy

Our team’s fitness levels varied greatly, with some members buying old bikes four months before the event.  All of us are generally quite fit, so it wasn’t too difficult to make the change from trail running to mtb.  It can be safe to say though that none of us were over trained. Our strategy was to take it easy until Bergplaas, and then just try and make it to the finish.  We thought that we would try to go down the big dipper in daylight, but the evening before the event we let go of that idea.  Having decent lights, I do not think that we would’ve been able to go down the big dipper any faster in daylight.  

Gear and planning

You have to be prepared to ride in very cold/wet conditions.  If the weather didn’t play along, it would be a completely different ballgame.  Luckily we had good weather, so we could skimp on too many extra clothes.  Your bike has to be in a good condition.  No servicing the week before the event, and no light weight tyres!

Transbaviaans (9) Team kit is awesome, and contributes greatly to team spirit.  Rather than getting matching cycle shirts, opt for wind jammers, as that will probably be your outer layer for the entire race.[/caption] Lights played a big part.  Yes a basic light will suffice, but a wider beam (like the Extreme Lights Endurance Cycle Light) just makes going down the passes so much easier.  It also allows you to see "around" the corners, enabling you to pick the best line.  You will definitely be faster and safer with a decent light. Planning can be difficult when crates are involved, but I do believe that most of the time we overcomplicate things completely.  We decided on the following simple strategy:

  1. Start off with a thin baselayer, cycle shirt and windjammer (with removable arms).
  2. Ride the entire race with our lights already mounted on our bikes.
  3. Don’t hand in any crates for CP2 and CP3.
  4. Have a full set of warm clothes available at Bergplaas, as the descent thereafter will probably be cold and in the dark.
Spares on the bikes:
  1. Spare tube, tirelevers, pump and bombs
  2. Tyre repair kit, chainbreaker, multitool and lube
  3. Cableties and duct tape (which we used)
  4. Headlamp for emergency use, spare battery
For any major repairs, you’re probably not going to make the end of the race, unless you can get to the next CP.  There isn’t much use in putting an entire toolbox in your crate, as your breakdown will probably not happen at a checkpoint, where all your spare kit will be waiting. Also, Racing Tyres are great for doing short sprint races.  For any endurance event, riding with a slightly heavier, sturdier tyre with a proper sidewall will definitely benefit you in the long run. Transbaviaans (6) Going up MAC - the Mother of all Climbs. Spectacular scenery.

Nutrition

If you are used to a specific energy drink, you will probably want to pack that.  The food at all the CPs is excellent and you are also given sufficient snacks to pack, which will last you until the next CP.  Kudos to the organisers here.  The chip rolls, jaffels, sandwiches etc were all excellent.  Powerbar also supplied ample energy bars and drinks.  Just make sure to take snacks for the first two hours until you get to CP1.  You have to eat all the time.  I only packed jelly babies for the first two hours and one bottle of Ensure.  From CP1 onwards I only ate and drank what the organisers provided.  This was more than sufficient.

Transbaviaans (8) No mean faces were faked. At times you simply have to bite down and keep the legs turning.

The top of every hill is a celebration. The top of every hill is a celebration.

Strategy

We wanted to finish as quickly as possible, without burning ourselves.  We vaguely had 14 hours completion time in our minds, but weren’t stressed about this.  In the end, we came in very stoked at 13:53.  Tips on how we executed this was:
  1. Communication is key.  All team members need to have the same expectations for the race.  If this is not clearly communicated before the event, you will probably get into arguments along the way.  We saw many a team fighting at checkpoints and along the route.  The frustration of misaligned, poorly or not communicated expectations will definitely spoil your race.
  2. We didn’t care about cycling fast, but we cycled efficiently, and didn’t stop for long.  The weaker members of the team (myself included) didn’t do any work for the group.  Not even early on while we still felt strong.  Our job was to try and hang on for as long as possible.  This worked great!
  3. Synchronising toilet breaks and crates/clothing changes.  Rather than all queuing at a CP to go the toilet, we would stop 1 - 2 km after a CP and all slash at the same time.  All changed into warm clothes at CP4.
  4. We didn’t rol ossies at the CPs.  It is very easy to spend 20min to 30min at a checkpoint.  That is if you’re a bit of an introvert and not very sociable.  20min per CP =  + 1 hour and 20 mins to your time.  The longer you go into the night, the happier you are that you didn’t faff too much earlier on.  One team member getting the drinks and the other grabbing the food all helps to take off 30 mins to an hour in the end.
  5. If a team member had to stop for a short while, someone would remain with him, while the others would slowly continue cycling, while waiting for the other to catch up.  This way you would keep your momentum.

Tips for next year

  • Sort your accommodation out early on.  This year we stayed in town, 10 guys together in one room.  The fact that we didn’t have to drive to the start was a major major bonus.  When you book, “just out of town” can easily be an hour’s drive on a bad dirt road.  Not great for the day.  Also take ear plugs along, as statistically speaking, sharing a room with 9 others, at least 3 will be snorers.
  • We drove back to Stellenbosch on the Sunday.  It would’ve been much better to stay for another day in Jbay, and then tour back via R62 on the Monday.
Transbaviaans (3) Smiling faces as we approach the finish. 13 hours 53 mins and we were quite keen to remove our saddles from bums.[/caption]  

Experience

In summary, the entire Transbaviaans experience was incredible.  Kudos to the organisers for presenting a professional race, that still has a lot of community involvement and soul.  The food and service at the checkpoints were excellent.  All information was clearly communicated before the start.  The scenery was spectacular.   There were many memorable moments - singing Afrikaanse volksliedjies | after a team member bonked at CP5, asking to call his wife while five people are waiting to go | having a jaffle while sitting on the toilet | flying down the big dipper in the dark | the beer at the finish line | the tannies that wash and clean your sunglasses at each CP | stoepkakkerkies in Currydough | spending 5 days with an incredible bunch of blokes, making memories and bonds that will last us for years to come.   Being family guys, we do not spend a lot of time together on weekends or during happy hours at night.  This outing allowed us to bond in a way that most guys bond during their school or varsity years.  We’ll definitely be back next year!

Transbaviaans (1) Happy campers at the finish. That beer tasted soooo good!

A couple of highlights from the rest of the trip

Jag (5) Getting comfortable on the shooting range before we head into the veld.

Jag (3) We were treated to a Jeffrey 500. In the pic a bullet is compared to a normal 30-06 Springfield.The shot of a lifetime. The farmer where we hunted is an expert shot. He took out his "special" rifle for this shot. Adjusted the scope a further 1.2m high and 40cm to the side. This perfectly centered head shot was made at 468m, with a 16 - 18km/h cross wind. As said, a shot of a lifetime! The shot of a lifetime. The farmer where we hunted is an expert shot. He took out his "special" rifle for one of our team members for this shot.  Adjusted the scope a further 1.2m high and 40cm to the side. This perfectly centered head shot was made at 468m, with a 16 - 18km/h cross wind.  As said, a shot of a lifetime!

Big Blade B will never hear the end of the one that got away... Big Blade B will never hear the end of the one that got away...[/caption]


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