Queen stage throws a curve ball
Pro mountain biker Chris Wolhuter, who took second alongside Andrew Hill in the 2015 PwC Great Zuurberg Trek, shares his perspectives from the sharp end of the race.
As it often is with three-day mountain bike races, the second stage is usually the queen stage. What does this mean? Well, it means you’re going to hurt; it’s often the hardest stage and day two of the PwC Great Zuurberg Trek was no exception.
With 80km of riding, 2 000m of ascending and the rumoured bumpy, grassy drags, it was going to be one of those days.
Andrew and I rode on the front up the first climb until it was just ourselves, Kevin and Pieter left. Up to the first waterpoint we encountered a number of steep rocky drags, each hurting a little more than the last.
The views from here on in were outstanding; although looking at them was evidently not an option as I hit a rock from not watching where I was riding, so from then on viewing the scenery was off the cards.
A steep technical descent brought us to the base of the next major climb up to the radio tower. Last year, from this point on the going had been exceptionally rough but thanks to some hard work by the course builders, along with a tailwind, this section wasn’t as taxing as before.
Mountain biking can and often does throw curve balls. With what we estimate to be a decent gap to the third team, a sort of truce is often reached on the more technical dangerous sections.
It’s worth backing off a bit in order to avoid rider injury or mechanicals with the compromise being a bit of time lost. Today however a curve ball that wasn’t even on the radar was thrown.
The lead motorbikes were passing us in the grassy section on the side of a road as we approached the final waterpoint. What we – and the lead moto – didn’t see was an old barbed wire fence, rolled up.
The lead bike unfortunately rode straight into it and crashed. With that the fence kicked up and got stuck in Andrew’s cassette and derailleur.
Fortunately no one was hurt and we managed to get the wire out fairly easily. Kudos here to Kevin and Pieter, who showed good sportsmanship in waiting for us at the next waterpoint.
The final technical descent dropped us back into the valley and to the base of the final climb. The queen stage had a sting in the tail waiting for us; the hiking wasn’t over yet as we had to dismount again in the final push to the top.
In the drag to the line Andrew and I managed to win the friendly sprint to take out the second stage. It was a sweet feeling to take the stage.
Super ballies Andrew Mclean and Bruce Diesel showed that the diesels kicked in during the long hard stage and rounded out the day’s podium.
With no time gap today, we go into the final stage still 1:15 off Kev and Pieter. Tomorrow we will enjoy the fine Hayterdale trails before one last drag up the Zuurberg Pass.