Hakahana Trail Park proved to live up to its reputation as one of the leading MTB and Trail Running Venues in the country. With more than 1000 athletes taking part in a range of different formats and distances on the day.
The main race started with a frantic pace for the first leg (5 km Trail Run) of the Duathlon on a near perfect Autumn’s day. I was personally responsible for this as I sprinted the first 500 m at an almost best effort attempt. I did this to gain as much of a physical advantage as a mental advantage over my rivals. I wanted to blow them out of their comfort zone and race from the start - in the end I have no doubt that this worked. For the first time ever in this series (for this year or last year) I managed to run the 2nd fastest time and lose less than 1 min on the first leg of the event against Brand Du Plessis (Who is arguably the best Off-Road Duathlete ever in South Africa and almost undefeated in these type of events for the past 5 years). Normally I lost 2 – 2:30 min on Brand in the first 5 km of the race.
I have to confess that I have significantly improved my racing speed and power over the last 3 months. Thus it wasn’t a case of me running harder than before. I actually ran faster with less effort than any other Dual-X event I have raced so far in my life.
Starting the 30 km MTB leg in 2nd position was the plan from the start. I felt really strong and believed the race will turn out well for me. Unfortunately, after 5 km in the bike leg on the first single track section I wiped out with my bike loosing traction and falling. This cost me my 2nd position with William, Theo Blignaut and Aiden passing me. The result of my fall meant that my Handlebars where no longer centered correctly – the handlebars now faced way off to the left. Typically, in such a situation you completely lose focus and do things way to fast and irrational. I turned them all the way to the right. So when I jumped on my bike it must have looked to a bystander as if I was preparing for a right hand turn the whole time.…
With this whole fiasco I had lost a good 30 seconds on my main rivals and they were riding well working together. Luckily the course featured a couple of climbs that assisted me in chasing them all down. After the second significant climb I caught up with the 3 men who passed me earlier and I went back into 2nd place overall.
I stopped another 3 times on the course every time trying to centre my handlebars. It did seem odd for the camera crew as every time I opened up a gap on Theo and Aiden (By now William have dropped out of the group) I would stop turn around my body facing Theo and Aiden (making sure they don’t pass me) and try to centre my Handlebars. The big problem with my bars was that they were just tight enough that I could turn them, but not loose enough to position the bar correctly. On my final attempt I decided to make use of my multi-tool set to quickly loosen the bolts on my headset, turned the bars and then tighten the bolts again.
When I finally got my Handlebars in the correct position I managed to focus 100% on the race. There was then no more playing cat and mouse against Theo and Aiden. I waited for the last climb of the MTB leg to attack and open up a gap to make sure I will finish in 2nd place overall.
My plan worked and I managed to come into T2 in 2nd place. The final leg of the race is a 2.5 km trail run which I ran at around 3:30 min/km pace. My legs felt good and I was happy to see all my hard work paying off in the race . Also very significant for me was the fact that I managed to close the gap on Brand with about 2 – 3 min. He normally beats me anything between 7 – 8 min. This time around I trailed him by 3:50 min at the finish line. Taking in all the time lost stopping to centre my handlebars I must reflect back and say that things are looking positive for me going forward. Theo and Aiden have also improved since I raced them last time around especially Aiden who by his own account was pretty average earlier the year in all three Xterra’s…