In preparation for the Absa Cape Epic, Team NAD traveled from Nelspruit, Mpumalanga to the Tankwa Karoo for the 2016 edition of the Tankwa Trek. A 3 day stage race set in the Western Cape. A second visit to the province in as many weeks.
Team mechanic, Nohan drove from Nelspruit in the Westvaal VW Bus with all equipment while the riders took the option to fly and save time on travelling.
Stage 1 of Tankwa Trek consisted of 89km with 1900meters of vertical ascent. The route took riders through the Witzenberg valley via an old ox wagon trail leading into jeep and single track. The Witzenberg valley forms part of the 2016 Cape Epic route and it was great to ‘pre ride’ parts of the course in preparation for the upcoming event in March.
“Day 1 was quite a bit of fun. It took a little while to get going, but when we found our rhythm, we were in a good place. A late mechanical hindered our efforts on the day, but we still enjoyed the singletrack and the beauty of the Tankwa Karoo” – Gawie Combrinck
“This was my first time riding the Tankwa Trek. It is a great training ground for the Cape Epic as we will be riding around this area in the 2016 edition. With all the international competitors at this years race, the pace was really hot from the gun. Team Bulls and their backup team made their intentions clear early on. Sauser, Gaze, Reid and Grotts all experienced mountain bikers made for a hard day in the saddle. We got dropped a few times by the group but managed to make our way back each time. The last climb of the day, we lost a bit of contact. Our legs came back over the last 20km on the day, but a leaking valve halted our charge and we lost a bit of time on the day” – Nico Bell
Team NAD finished stage 1 in 6th position and 3rd South African Team.
“Nohan feeding Gawie at the Waterpoints” photo Oakpics “Beautiful morning light in the Karoo” – Zoon Cronje
Stage 2 included the infamous Merino Monster. A climb that had everyone at the race talking for hours before the start. Another stage just over 87kilometres with just over 2200m of vertical ascent. The day started of cool with a little bit of a breeze. A welcome change to the 30+ degree temperatures experienced early in the week.
“Stage 2 with the big climb lurking, we knew we had our work cut out for us. Its easier to prepare for a stage if you have done it before, going into the ‘Merino Monster’ blind was an eery feeling. We knew that Waylon and Darren from team Usn would be strong going up the climb. We hit the bottom of the climb with the main group. Riding at our own pace and tempo, we managed to limit our time losses and caught a few teams on the descent. Unable to regain touch with Team Usn, we rode a steady pace to finish the day in 4th place and moved up to 4th place overall on the GC” – Nico Bell
Photo – Oakpics Photo – Zoon Cronje
After two hard days in the Tankwa Karoo, a spectacular day 3 arrived. With 78km and 1150m of vertical ascent, the Koue Bokkeveld served up a single track extravaganza. After an 11km neutral zone, the bullet dropped and everyone charged out the gates.
“Wow, Day 3 was beautiful. The Bulls launched an early attack, which we anticipated. We kept our cool and stuck with the USN team. Really enjoyed the singletrack. The New Zealander Sam Gaze put a few attacks down and put a few people in the gutter. Eventually his gas ran out and together with USN, we could get away. In the end it came down to a sprint and they just edged out the win on the stage. Really happy with the form at this time of the year and it was good to see a bit of the 2016 Cape Epic route and we have a little bit more knowledge after the race” – Gawie Combrinck
“A really fast stage. After the neutral zone the hammer was dropped. A lot of quys tried to get to the front and we were racing for the singletrack. Team Bulls got away and we were in the chasing group. We tried to put Waylon and Darren under pressure, but none of the attacks worked. It was a good stage. We set it up perfectly for a sprint, but unfortunately Team USN finished ahead of us on the day. We finished 3rd on the stage and 4th overall in the race. Always great to race in the Western Cape. This coming weekend we take on the National Marathon Series in Sabie. A favourite for Gawie and myself. We are both suited for the Ultra Marathon and it should be another great race in our back yard” – Nico Bell
Photos – Zoon Cronje