Friday, January 4, 2013

The Fall of a Legend... My Hero. RIP Burry Stander

Burry Stander... A name synonymous with success, with pride, with South Africa and more recently, with heart break. Burry was and still is an international icon to millions around the globe.

Yesterday, Burry was struck my vehicle and pronounced dead. Its strange, even typing this does not feel real. Burry, to me seemed so invincible, untouchable, wonderful. Watching him race was always a highlight, no matter what happened out on track, he would always rise to the occasion, proving to all, a fan or not, that he could do whatever he set his mind to.

I was fortunate enough to spend some time with the legend. Burry helped mentor me, coach me. He gave a lending hand when I needed one and was ALWAYS willing to give me advice, and, as Im sure you could all imagine, his actions made fall in love with him as a fan. Not many people can say they had the privelege to ride with their all time hero, let alone spend some time in his home, or in the gym with him. Racing alongside him, or more likely, behind him, was always humbling.

To Burry, I pray that you rest in peace, and that you may guide and give a protecting hand to your beautiful wife, Cherise, and your entire family. I thank you for the short time I was able to spend with you, and I will cherish every memory.

Thank you, Burry.


Monday, December 10, 2012

Fun in the Dark - Energizer Night Race

After taking my time I’ve finally pulled finger and pushed out this blog of this years Energizer Night Race. After having missed the past 3 years of this fantastic event, I decided that myself and Kendall had to make it to this one before she left for the States. We zooted up to Johannesburg along with the Travis Walker and Paddy Belton fromTeam Jeep South Africa.
Upon arrival, I noticed that the scale of the Night Race had been lifted considerably from the previous year. Lazer shoes, music performers, fire breathers, drum corpse, you name it, it was there. Eventually we were able to pull ourselves away from the mesmerizing entertainment to get in a quick spin on the first 8km of the 20km loop. The race would consist of two laps of the simple, but fun 20km course, meaning one lap for each of the partners. Racing the mixed category, we decided it would be best to send me off first in order to give Kendall the best opportunity at holding off any other teams, leaving her with a relatively clear route.
As soon as the light seeped away into the horizon, the race begun. After a good start, I managed to get a jump on two of the favourite teams for the overall victory. James Reid and Phil Buys had teamed up against Trav Walker and Patrick Belton, two ferociously fast teams. Things looked good until my gears jumped which resulted in me nutting myself on the stem and almost wiping out the thousands of other riders that were in tow. I managed to recover fairly quickly and regained a good position in the lead group of 3. I sat comfortably behind Patrick and James before follow and countering an attack by Patrick, not reading the situation properly, I opted to sit up and let things come back together… This proved to be a very stupid mistake on my part. Less than 100m down the road, my lights came loose. I tried to follow the wheels of the other two, but it proved to be too difficult. I stopped to tighten the two lights, losing precious time and almost dropping a position to Fritz Pienaar. Once the lights were tight and in place, I put the hammer down and as Patrick would say, “went full retard.” I took a couple really risky decisions, but soon found myself a second or two behind the lead group after one of the single track sections. Then disaster struck for Paddy. He bit the dust, letting James pull a sizeable gap into the next section.I managed to squeeze by Pat and start to chase down James who had now opened up a gap to about 30-35seconds. Single track started to get interesting with Patrick behind me, his light over powered mine, creating a shadow of my figure right in the line of where I needed to see in order to ride the single track. After a while we managed to figure out a reasonably good method and began to claw our way back to James. We came into the finish area with James a mere 10seconds ahead of us. This sent Kendall out in 2nd/3rd overall with Travis Walker.
Night race1
Then came the long wait to see whether Kendall, a first time night rider, could hold off the competition. Well, she did, and in grand style too. Not only did she hold onto our mixed category lead, but she held onto our 3rd Overall position, only a few minutes behind Travis and Philip Buys.
NIght race2
A massive thanks to all involved for such a fantastic event! Max Cluer always has his events dialled and this one was no different.
Now come some heavy prep for the 2013 season. I have some awesome news in the pipeline which will be announced in the next few days or so.
Until then,
night race 3

 night race4

Thursday, November 22, 2012

ROAD TRIP - Lord of the Chain Rings

Well its been a looooong time since I did a blog post, I kinda felt a little burnt out on it, but I've come around and have an exciting adventure to share with you all.

To get you all on track, Im going to run you through what has happened the last couple weeks since my last post. I've done a few long rides to kick off the base season, and was invited to the annual Lord of the Chain Rings stage race, which is nestled in the mountains of the Eastern Cape, in a picturesque little town called Hogsback. After hearing only good things about this event I decided to take the opportunity and teamed up with Team Jeep South Africa athlete, Travis Walker.  This was a VERY last minute decision, so far so that we only decided that we were racing together the night before we left. I was originally meant to ride with Patrick "Patrice" Belton, but due to his age, I had to do some shuffling around with some partners. We were left with a slight problem though... Kendall was left without a partner now for the mixed race. With T-Minus 12hours until we embarked on our trip, Mark Malherbe (Coffeeberry Momsen) came to the rescue.

Tuesday morning we were up before sparrows fart, packing the car, loading the bikes and getting a few odds 'n ends together. We picked up Mark and hit the road at around 6 hoping to get to Hogsback by around 3:30 - 4:00. This plan went horribly wrong, it seemed that our Garmin had the sole purpose of taking us on GNARLY dirt roads to get to Hogsback. Just before reaching Mthatha, the Garmin had us turn off onto another road, thinking it was a truck route we decided to take it but it eventually lead us onto a dirt road. Being in the spirit of "The Road Trip" we decided to press on with our adventure. The road began getting worse and worse, eventually becoming some serious 4x4 territory. The Jeep got us through the other side unscathed, but needles to say, there were some times we thought we were going to be camping somewhere in the country side of the Eastern Cape. We finally reached our destination, the quaint little town of Hogsback, after about 12hours of being cooped up in the Jeep. We nestled into the local backbacker for the night, before moving into the amazing accommodation supplied by the organizers at the Arminel Hotel & Guest Lodge.

Stage 1:
After an awesome day of relaxation at the Guest Lodge, day 3 of our trip dawned. Ahead of us lay a 61km stage, with 1450m of vertical ascent. We were all a little worried of the main climb of the day, Mitchell's Pass, nicknamed Mitchell's Arse (Mark Malherbe), was a BEAST of a climb, with gradients touching 40% in places. It was a 7.5km relentless drag which would be baking in the sun.

We rolled out at 7:30 with a short neutral zone to keep things under control before turning off the main road. Immediatley a small group of 3 teams managed to separate from the field as we began to roll towards the first piece of single track.  After studying the route, the night before,  I realized that the single track would be a good place to make our first move. We hit the single track relatively fast and popped out the other side with a massive gap to the next two teams.We decided to take full advantage of the gap, riding hard for short periods of time to continually open the gap. Eventually we had opened our gap up to around 2-3minutes before making our initial descent down Mitchell's Pass. We took the descent down the rutted pass pretty cautiously and once we hit the bottom, decided to take the 20km loop easy before wacking the climb back out the valley at a decent clip. Long story short, we took it a little too easily. Once we started the climb back out the valley we heard that our gap was now around the one minute mark. We kept things cool though, and road at a steady tempo up the climb, by the time we reached the top of the gruelling stretch of "Mitchell's Arse" we had managed to open the gap up to four minutes. After cresting the summit we began to take turns pulling each other, and before we knew it, we were rolling in for stage number one, with a gap of 4:32 over the second team.

So we pulled on the yellow jersey that night at prize giving, and called it a night.

Stage 1 - Coming into take the win

Stage 2:
This is the day Trav and I decided to make our own. With a massive 15km climb that ended around 14km from the finish, we knew that is where we would be able to make or break the race. Being the longest of the 3 stages, we felt a little nervous, but felt confident that things would play out well for us.

The neutral zone lead us towards the first short climb, around 3km in. Immediately a small attack came from the right, but didnt last very long. With a tricky single track section approaching I decided to put in a short surge to test the legs of the other teams, it seemed to work, I opened up a small gap but allowed for it to get chased down before putting in a real attack. Travis and I positioned ourselves at the front of the pack and put a small attack in right before the single track. Seeing as how we managed to open up a gap in the single track the day before, we decided to do the same, only this time we would ride at a lower tempo, to allow us to keep fresh while the other teams were chasing back. From then on we made the decision  to push harder on the descents, open up a gap, cruise on the flats, recover while the others were chasing, then hammer once we saw they were struggling to bring the gap any closer. This worked. Very well. By the second water table (40km) the gap had opened to five minutes. Thats where the BIG climb started. We took a little time to get into the climb, but we then started to climb at a really good pace. We took a slight wrong turn, but after a minute or two, the locals got us back on track. We continued to make our way up the snaking switch back climb, that lead us out of the valley and back into the clouded pine forest. We made a short stop at the third feed-zone, but soon got under way. We motored up the last little stretch of the climb, crested it and sprinted toward the finish line which was now only around 10km away. The last 10km blew by us and we crossed the line for our second stage win. Now came the wait to see how far behind the second team was. Fortunately for us we had managed to take the win by around 25minutes, giving us the overall lead to us by around 29minutes.

Going into stage three, Trav and I felt pleased to have a comfortable lead over second, but we both knew in the back of our heads, that anything could happen in the third and final stage. To quote Travis, "You can never have too much time in stage racing."

Stage 2 - Neutral Zone

Stage 2  - The start of the BIG Climb

Stage 3:
Donning the yellow jersey for the 2nd day in a row, Travis and I felt quietly confident that we could retain it until the end, although both feeling a little uneasy for some unknown reason. Although the stage was meant to be easy

"Oom" Charles Stander and partner, Nikki Smith, lead us out in the neutral zone. Once the lead vehicle pulled off, the racing commenced, furiously. Patrick Belton, Team Jeep South Africa, kicked hard out the feed zone. Having not raced the previous days 77km stage, he was able to set a blisteringly fast pace. Travis and I managed to close the gap to him at around the 5km mark and we were now opening up a sizable gap to the group that had formed behind us.  At around the 10km mark we came to a section where course markers lead in two different directions. We opted to follow the markers in which the camera man and spectators were filming and encouraging us to go on. Things then went horribly wrong from there, and 8km later we were back at the finish line.Yup, two spectators had told us to go on the finishing route instead of the main loop of the day. This was exactly what we DID NOT need to happen. After standing around for 10minutes or so we were told to back track the route and get on with our racing.  So, needless to say, we raced. HARD.  At water table one we got news that we were close on 50minutes behind the leader. There were times in that stage where both Trav and I went into some pretty dark places. I would offer Trav a push and about 45minutes later Trav would be offering me a push. We dug really deep, and by water point three (40km) we were around 20minutes behind the leaders with only 21km to go.  But after having raced the previous two days our leg were stating to feel a little flat. Patrick managed to get away from us after I dropped my bottle, and needless to say, we didn't see him again. We then began to climb the final major pass of the climb, and Trav began to go into the hurt locker. I gave him a little push and he soon found his legs again, but then came my turn. My fork went completely solid on "The Rocky Descent," as it had now become known, which sent my hands and biceps into absolute agony. Upon reaching the bottom I was forced to stop for a minute or two as I bundle up into a ball of pain on the side of the road. We eventually got going and started to close into the finish, to both of our delight. After 76km, an extra sixteen more kilometers then we were meant to do, we crossed the line in 7th for the day, 13minutes behind the eventual winners of stage 3.

Thankfully we had won the Lord of the Chainrings. After a hard fought day in the saddle we had managed to win the overall race by just under an hour over second place. It turned out that they had also gone wrong at the same place we had gone wrong.

The weekend also brought another medal into our household. My girlfriend, Kendall Ryan, teamed up with good friend, Mark Malherbe, for the mixed category, and after winning day one of the race and gaining the overall lead, they suffered terrible mechanicals on the second and third stage. With a snapped derailleur cable on stage two and a pretzelled rear disk rotor on day three, the soldiered through to finish second to Hanlie Kotze and her partner!

A huge thanks to all involved who made our trip to this race possible. To Max Cluer for pulling some strings, to Jeep South Africa for the awesome Jeep Cherokee, to Travis Walker who was an unbelievable team mate and friend, both on and off the bike and  to Andrew Hugo and his entire team for the amazing organization and coordination of the event. It was an absolutely brilliant experience!

Stay tuned for some videos of our trip!!

Until then B

Stage win #2

Overall Gold medal

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Catching Up from the homeland

Life in my homeland of South Africa has been pretty awesome since I arrived back in September. The racing scene has been relatively quiet. The trip back to South Africa has really allowed me to chill out a little bit and hit the reset button after long time away from home, racing across the U.S of A as I made my first real dig at becoming a professional mountain bike racer. Being back at home has really let me relax a little and have some fun. Don't get me wrong, I loved racing overseas, and my ass is absolutely itching to get back, but coming home and hanging out with family and friends. Thats priceless.

I am fortunate enough to also be spending my holiday back in RSA with my girlfriend, Kendall Ryan. Yes, she's a California girl. Its been rather funny watching her do backflips at the very sight of a monkey or any other wild life that occasionally passes by us.  Ive also managed to ween her off of her skinny wheeled race bike, and I've got her shredding on the dirt! Yup, she's quickly becoming beast on the mountain bike, always wanting to take the route with the MOST singe track/trails.

We've also been able to participate in one or two races since Ive been here. The last of which was the Kwambo Lion Classic in Zululand.  After waking up at sparrows fart last Sunday morning, we made the three hour trip to Kwambonambi, a VERY small town on the North Coast of South Africa. Part of the MiWay Big 5 mountain bike series, the race was really well attended, with the three series contenders  showing up to do battle. Still a little groggy from the trip, I zombied around the registration area, walking from table to table mindlessly. Before I knew it I was on the start line ready to go. A blazing fast 50km lay ahead of us, little did I know how muddy it was going to be. 

Around 10km into the race I put in a small effort to test the waters and somehow found myself opening up a gap on one of the short steep climbs. From this position I was able to ride my own race and pick out the most accessible lines through the deep mud, that covered 60-70% of the race route. I rode at a steady tempo for the next 15-20km, managing to open the gap up to around a minute. As I approached the 35km mark, I decided to give it the absolute beans and try open up a bigger gap. The tactic definitely worked, I soon got word that I had opened my gap up to well over the two minute mark, and I was now in the final 8km of the race. I went into TT mode, I came in hot to a fork in the road, where a marshall stood with his back to me. Assuming that I was meant to carry on going straight, and bypass the swamp of thick, stinky peanut butter goop that went to my left, I put my head down and kept charging. At the last second the marshall yelled to me to make the turn, I mad a quick decision to turn left which resulted in me getting horribly cross-rutted, and sent me down like a home-sick mole. I came down hard on my left shoulder and leg,  a sharp pain radiated from my just next to my shin bone. The adrenaline took over and I found myself lurching out the mud like some form of swamp monkey. I flung myself back onto the bike and carried on pushing through. Unfortunately, my leg was in excruciating pain, and I was forced to soft pedal the final few kilometers in. To top it all off, I got caught by two of the series contenders with around 600m to go. Although a little flustered, I though that I might be able to out wit them coming into the finish, as I had ridden it a couple times before the race. We came into the final 300m, one corner left, a tight ninety degree left and a short 50m burst to the line. I swung out really wide before the turn, after the other two got the jump on me.  But the speed I was carrying when we hit the final straight allowed me to close the gap that they had on me. Sean Merridew and I crossed the line together, with Guylin van den Burg in 3rd. The win ended up going to Sean by the narrowest of margins. That was definitely the closest finish I've had in a VERY long time.
Kendall managed to destroy in the women's race. She won convincingly by over 5 minutes.

Since then things have been pretty mellow I'm about to take a short break before starting my prep for the 2013 season. A huge thanks needs to go out to Bobby Behan and the guys here at Specialized South Africa, for hooking me up with an awesome 2013 Specialized SL4. Took it for a spin and it is by far the best road bike I've had the opportunity to ride! Im excited to get in many happy miles as the base "season" approaches.

Until next time

Friday, September 14, 2012

Lynford Classic - On the UP

Hey guys

Good news!! After nearly two weeks of being man down with illness, I finally managed to shake the bug and recover enough to give the Clover Lynford Classic a bash. Although I hadn't had much riding in the previous week due to the heavy rains that lasted an entire 4 days, I was still amped to throw my leg over the Spesh Stumpjumper S-Works and brave the muddy conditions.

Up bright and earlier on Sunday morning, myself and the family made the trip down to the race, in the small town of Ixopo, just outside of Pietermariztburg. The Lynford classic has been one of the longest standing events in the province of KZN. With its massive backing from Clover as well as being one of the most well organized classics in KZN, the turnout is good year after year, and it was no different this time round, even after all the rain that occurred in the weeks leading up to it. With only 200 pre-entries, it looked like it was going to be a poor turn out, but the beautiful weather the day of the race made everyone come out of the woodwork.

With a 9am start, it allowed us to get to the race a little later than the previous week.  There an icy chill that hung in the air from the cold weather that had swept through area weeks before. One thing was definitely evident about the race that lay ahead, there was going to be mud, and lots of it. Even the car park was caked up with thick sludge that had began to harden. Perfect racing conditions in my eyes.

So we rolled out of the race venue at 9am sharp. Carl Calvarley, Roan Exelby and Craig Stone were to name but a few of the racers vying for the top spot at the race. From the get go, Carl attacked hard, about two kilometers into the race we hit the first climb. I countered Carl's attack and managed to open up a gap. From there on out I didn't look back and remained focused on riding my own race and protecting my equipment through the mud. After the first 28km loop I had managed to open up a gap of two minutes. As I went into the second loop of 15km's I eased up the pace a little as the mud became extremely bad. This allowed Carl to close up the gap to around 45seconds. I managed to see the gap between us where the course double-backed on its self. Still feeling fresh, with only seven kilometers to go, I hit the final climb. A steep brute that wound its way back around the mountain, back with in sight of the race venue. I hit the climb hard and pushed the pace until I reached the summit. A short two kilometer descent to the finish lead me to the overall win, just over 2min30s ahead of second place, Carl Calvarley.

I'm still pretty happy with how the race went after being extremely ill earlier in the week before the race. I'm finally healthy and I'm starting to feel stronger, day by day. This weekend is inaugural Jeep Hill2Hill Marathon, stretching from Hilton and ending in Hillcrest. This is one of the biggest events on the calender and I'm hoping to have a good "Maiden" marathon. Yes, its the first time that I'm going to be participating in the marathon event at Hill2Hill. Needless to say, I'm a little nervous, but I'll take it one pedal stroke at a time.

Wishing everyone out there this weekend and awesome ride. Have fun and be safe!

Until Next time

Friday, September 7, 2012

Long Overdue Update

Hey guys

Sorry for the extremely long overdue post. After Wisconsin I was on my feet running around before heading back to South Africa.

The race in Wisconsin was very disappointing. I suffered major mechanicals from the start loop. My chain kept dropping off the big ring, down in between my bottom bracket (BB) and small chain ring. This resulted in my cranks locking up and me having to stop to try and pry the chain out of the gap. A suffered from this reoccurring problem, lap after lap, and eventually went down hard as a result of it. I popped my left shoulder, but determined to make it through the race I soldiered on, before it happened again with one lap to go. I ended up getting pulled off as a result of the 80% rule. Very disappointing to have trained so hard and to have a horrible day out due to mechanicals. The short track went better, although I was caught in a crash on the start line. I ran in 7/8th for the majority of the race before fading a little to finish just outside the top 10.  Still a result I was fairly happy with!

Then it was onward to Cali. After rushing around a couple days I was able to squeeze in an awesome little coffee stop with Steve Blick, Oakley Boss Man. Its always great to spend time with Blick and I appreciate him taking the time out of his busy schedule to hang out and talk with me.

Now came the crappy part of the last two weeks. 5am wake up call to make it to the airport before heading back to sunny SA. I arrived at the airport at around 7am, with a flight that was supposedly leaving around 9:45. To my disgust I found out that the flight had been cancelled weeks before, I had not been notified by anyone about the change of flights, which was now at 16:30. I no longer had my US phone, so I couldn't contact anyone about my dilemma, thus began my wait at LAX. I eventually boarded my plane to Dubai, slept some of the way, tried counting all the little lights that lit up the sealing to give the inside of the plane a "starry night" effect. Made it to Dubai, had a nine hour lay over before flying to Johnannesburg, then got to Johannesburg and had a further six hour delay, before flying to Durban. So to sum it up, my trip consisted of around 55hours of absolute hell. To top things off, I ended up becoming horribly sick after all the traveling. My system had taken an absolute beating and had succumb to a nasty cough that seemed to be worsening each day. I tried riding one of the days I returned, but it seemed to make things worse. So I took a rest in an attempt to be ready for the Stihl Umko Challenge that was just around the corner.

I felt I had recovered enough for the race, but once that had started, I realized that although I was recovered enough to do the race, I had been off my bike for over a week. I seemed to not have any power and felt pretty flat throughout the race. So to sum up the race... I started relatively well... I felt good but as soon as the pace was lifted I couldn't respond. I was able to get myself into third overall and was able to ride just hard enough to retain that position. I ended up taking a few more days off the bike and feel a lot better. Ive picked up my training again and hopefully I'll be back in top form for next weeks Hill2Hill.

Until Next time