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Race Report: Xterra Grabouw

Xterra South Africa
Grabouw, homeland of Western Cape
2nd, 2’18” behind winner Richard Murray

You should get into your car as Antoine and I did for the week leading in, or step into your Dre Beats, turn up Radioactive by Imagine Dragons and feel the mood. It was the theme song for the weekend’s big dance. Played it often, played it loud. Though it’s been mostly Ben Howard in between.

To conclude: I was running happy. Running tall. Delighted with my form starting the next four week’s of racing.

It started like they all do, with desire and self questioning. More particularly with Mandoza as the sendoff track. Green capped team swimmers drew level within a minute, having started 5m behind our elite field of orange. Must be a sight from the chopper, morning light, glassy black water turned to froth in a forming echelon, mountainous surrounds.

That there morning light was blinding too, creating a treasure hunt for the first bouy due East. All round as pleasurable a swim as could be desired in the emptiest Eikehof dam ever after the wettest summer!? Go figure. Perhaps there is metaphor in that.

Lost 30” to Murray and the lead swimmers, which was disappointing and less than ideal. Pool form needs to translate better. Smoothed through T1, a rather large transition area with some 800 bikes, and started riding well. Apparently the Lite had 1300 in theirs

The course was marked 10days out, a next level production by Stillwater, as confirmed by warm showers, shuttle parking services and round attention to detail. The fun in that is not just wanting to ride to physical capacity, but to challenge oneself technically. I was loosing ground to Conrad Stoltz, and gaining nothing on Richard, but felt happy with both power and finesse, hitting the lines I had planned to.

It was an intense pleasure to finish the bike through the crowds. Even had a mini huddle up on the last hill going batshit crazy for apparent reason, and they must have walked a kilometer uphill to get there. Couldn’t keep focus and cracked a smile rolling to the dismount line, it was just too deafening. The race has grown, matched by the crowd expansion. Thanks for the effort in being there.

Plenty fun that course, and got to ride the new 2013 Specialized Epic on it, which I’d received in the week. Major change is the SRAM 1×11 setup. Opted for the 34t front. Couldn’t get comfortable with the position of the grip-shift so had Dylan switch to the trigger shifter on Saturday. Seems golden, just some big steps between gears which catch one out being used to more incremental shifts, but the high and low are crazy versatile.

Had a bet waged on the run split, between Antoine and I. The youngster schools me on every run we do. So even with the win well beyond reach, I had reason to shift along. Seemed midway I was gaining well on Stoltz, but the class act of Murray was gapping further away. Unfortunately my chase to Stoltz ended prematurely, being told 3km out that a course error made by Stoltz had sent him short. Perhaps useful not having to hustle on the beach sand to a viewing audience.

Not victorious but honestly pleased with my progress. On the up and up and really enjoyed being in the mix, especially on home trails.

Short week, with Saturday morning’s race in the Philippines next. On plane now, after a manic 48 hours. It included the first house party of the new digs, and a hospital visit to my ice cream business partner.

He had round two of brain surgery this morning. Humbly I’ll claim to remember the brief visit, always. Seeing my mate sit there, bloodied pillow, cables connected to the inside of his skull, looking into his eyes and seeing a lion heart of calm fragile bravery. I salute you Jacques. That’s real racing mate, you’re going to get there.

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