Winter has delivered so many gorgeous days this year, but when it decides to rain... it POURS! Friday was one of those days & DH racing was not sounding like the best of ideas, the roads became rivers & the freshly burnt pine plantations had turned into a mush of mud & ash. A few riders braved the storm & got a few runs in, but my window weather report was not making photography a look like a good idea. The online reports were showing clear all day Saturday & Sunday, but on Friday that felt very far fetched, especially in a valley that has some of the highest recorded rainfall in the country.
Low & behold Saturday morning was clear as a bell! So surprised, but excited to get on the slopes & see how much of a mud-fest we were in for. I hopped in with Pieter & got a lift up with the marshals, at first I thought we were going to have a rerun of the last Provincial at Cascades with bikes getting clogged up, but luckily the track was surprisingly solid. There was a thin slick layer of mud on the hard pack in places, which made keeping any lines tricky. Saturday was practice from 10am to 4pm. A cautious start for most, seeing where it was safe to push it a bit and where it was too slick to & the usual line checking. As the day went on the speed went up... unfortunately so did the crashes. The dirt went from slippery to soft & was difficult to read.
Half way through, some berms were starting to take serious strain. A massive hole in a specific one was said to be caused by the Palmer effect, but we are still awaiting confirmation on that theory. Guys saw me shooting & turned on the steeze & after a few minutes the entire top half of the corner was MIA. Chris Nixon was the first to find out the hard way, followed closely by Devon Katzen & Dane Olsen. From there on out I was cashing in on crash shots while the team putting the candy tape up warned approaching riders. The section on the ridge above the "mine shaft" was probably the most dangerous place to lose your line. Slick, even to walk on & a super steep slope on your right... there were a few catch nets, but not something you'd want to be the test dummy for. From there it was fast & flowy to the road gap & then through the young burnt pines with a few jumps & a rock drop to the finish. Having 2 days of riding meant I could tackle the track in sections rather than cover it all in one day, so I stuck to the middle section from the shuttle drop to road gap for day 1.
After the shuttles had stopped I packed up & took a slow stroll back to the gate with a friend & had to stop & grab a few tourist shots & still couldn't believe how lucky we were to have such a good day after the storm just a few hours before.
Sunday was game time! Woke up to another amazing day, a few clouds, but nothing threatening to spoil our fun.
An earlier start with a few practice runs until 9:30am, then it was time to line up at the start for seeding runs. Only a few riders in racing was put on hold. Someone crashed high up on track, not sure who, or exactly what happened, but was hearing that he dislocated his elbow & was rushed to hospital, hope it's not too serious & he has a quick recovery! After he was sorted out the racing was back on & luckily without any more serious land claims. Going through the list, riders were getting quicker & quicker & giving us an idea of the times it was going to take to win. Stefan Garlicki, Theo Erlangsen, Tiaan Odendaal & Sam Bull were all in the low 2min 20's & we were hoping for those times to get pushed a bit in their race runs. The sun was popping out & hiding behind a few clouds just to pop out again a few seconds later, so the track was slowly drying & getting a bit more grippy. Some people were thinking rain was on the way & that we needed to hurry up before it hit, but looking at the sky I got a bit confused... there were a few white puffy clouds, but nothing looking like it was about to spoil our fun, my only explanation was that they were standing too close to some suspect burnt fynbos (natural cape vegetation). Unfortunately the wind was also starting to pick up & with no trees on the top half of the track meant there was no hiding from it, luckily it didn't affect the guys too much & we got the race runs underway.
Most riders were upping their times by a few seconds, so the chance of us seeing a sub 2:20 was looking more & more possible. 2nd last rider down Theo was the first to break it & got himself down in 2:18,98. Then it was time to bite nails down to the skin & see what the fastest qualifier Stefan could put together. He has been notoriously unlucky with mechanical failures in his race runs in the past, but not today! He came down to the finish looking smooth & pinned. Silence as he crossed the finish line... 2:17,14! He had done it! The fastest man down a mountain in South Africa!
Up to the road gap for celebrations & prize giving. An awesome weekend of racing once again, thank to the WP DH team & all the sponsors, Monster Energy, Stihl, Subaru Cape Town, Novus Holdings, cSixx, Powasol, Cycling South Africa, National Lottery, Orion Hotels, Kargo, Great Time, X-Fusion, Holdfast & Joya Apples.
Mega Podium with the Top 3 from each category.Results Here
Congrats to Stefan for taking the win!