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Prepping for Zuurberg when the lights are out

Prepping for Zuurberg when the lights are out

Cycling coach John Wakefield tuned up for the PwC Great Zuurberg Trek at sani2c, but his love-hate relationship with the event continued. This is what happened.

Well, here we are back from sani2c, which turned out to be a very up and down few days with a bunch of mixed emotions.

As with any race in which time, effort and funds are invested, it’s always a gamble on the final outcome.

In your head everything plays out well before the start, but, when that gun goes, it isn’t always the case.

Anriette unfortunately was sick leading up to the event and her health was an unknown, but, having raced with her for years now, I had no doubt that she would give me 150% each day and turn into the angry devil I have grown to love racing with.

She shot off the start on day one like a bat out of hell and I was, “Yoh, we are racing!” I gave serious chase as I realised we weren’t there for the haircut I had expected.

We were sitting pretty until the 40 to 50km mark when the lights went out for Anriette. We regrouped, took stock and made an effort to get to the end in the best shape possible and set up a game plan for stage two.

However, unfortunately the second days was a carbon copy of the first – except, I realised, this time there may be additional problems when two things happened.

We were approaching the RedBull stop, which is great when someone’s lights have gone out. The caffeine gives the central nervous system a kick up the butt and often helps to wake your body up.

But, alas, with the RedBull flags on display – added to the very trim ladies dancing – I heard “Coke, I need Coke” being shouted. This is when I realised that the lights really had gone out!

As we climbed up to the second waterpoint, I took stock of Anriette and decided on her behalf that she had not recovered from the bronchitis leading up to the event and was in no way fit to continue.

Although she argued, I called it off at the waterpoint.

This is the first time I’ve won an argument with her so, in my mind, this was a massive achievement. I mean BIG!

These circumstances are something that is part and parcel of partnerships and stage racing. Many teams don’t understand this element and often race as two individuals.

A team is only as strong as the weakest partner on the day. Your job then is to work to each other’s strengths and nurse the weaker one to the finish.

Today you might be strong and tomorrow not so much, so having your panties in a knot is not a option. The last thing you want when you are on the rivet is for your partner to pay you back for the day before.

I have seen riders two kilometres apart and not talking, but what does that achieve? To be honest, absolutely nothing. Besides, of course, having to look for a separate tent that evening.

Communication is key and making sure the partner is eating and drinking is vital.

Anriette had two versions of “John”. The sharp “JOHN” meant I was going to hard too quickly and “Joooohn” translated to the tempo being a touch too high.

Simple, but very effective.

I was really excited to ride the event as I have a love/hate relationship with it – from really good results to being airlifted out of the Umkomaas in a helicopter.

So this DNF was upsetting cause I love racing my bike, but my partner’s health and long-term goals were more important. It is elements like these that many teams ignore.

For my trouble, I now have Anriette’s bronchitis. I’m on a course of cortisone, so I’m unable to race for 10 days according to Wada rules.

I can’t think of riding my bike now cause it feels like I have been snorting glass. Hopefully this will pass quickly and I will be fighting fit for the PwC Great Zuurberg Trek.

John is a director and coach at Science to Sport and competes in cycling events as one of the country’s top age-group competitors. He has coached several riders to national and world titles.

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