25 Nov, 2015

Putting Spring back into pedalling legs

With well over 800 finishers, the Eqstra Spring Classic remains one of the more popular one day races on the calendar. Photograph by Erik Vermeulen.
Chris Woods determined to ride the rocks while Graham Wilson flounders a bit behind him. The final results reveal Graham actually beat Chris to the finish line. Photograph by Erik Vermeulen.
There were a few places where a tandem’s chain would have been pretty close to the ground. Photograph by Erik Vermeulen.
The author after bombing through the culvert under the R114, his legs had returned by then. Photograph by Jetline Action Photo.
Riding the wide open spaces of the Eqstra Spring Classic, riders get to see some of the more interesting parts of the Muldersdrift area. Photograph by Erik Vermeulen.
One of the friendlier faces in the mountain biking community, Derek Reyneke gives a satisfied smile. Photograph by Erik Vermeulen.
Gregory Botha giving it “horns” through the forest technical section. Photograph by Erik Vermeulen.

Last year’s Eqstra Spring Classic looked so awesome that Raymond Travers simply had to try it out. This was his experience.

My race prep was pretty good, or so I thought.

My bike was in good condition, my legs were in fair condition and my kit was good to go.

I even went and rode the trails at Avianto a few times on weekends leading up to the event to prepare for this trail’s “more-rocky-than-usual” ascents.

But on race day, the “wheels” just about fell off and I rode it like a rookie.

No, it wasn’t the venue’s fault. Neither was it the organiser’s fault. It was purely my own fault.

I bombed out of the start shoot like a racing snake and hit the first 10 kilometres with gusto.

Having ridden the trail at this Muldersdrift bike park often, I enjoyed the first quarter of the race tremendously. I shot through the berms, attacked the hills and snaked the hairpins and S-bends with the enthusiasm of someone old enough to be my child.

When the distance measurement on my computer climbed into double figures, my legs felt as if they were not there anymore. The pain reached down into the lower reaches of my muscles and it was “eina!”

I slowed down.

I no longer did what I had done up until then. I no longer aimed for the wheel in front of me with intentions of passing that wheel and then attacking the next wheel.

For the next 20 kilometres or so, my Eqstra Spring Classic experience was more of a survival camp than a 45 kilometre mountain bike race.

I still enjoyed the ride, mind you, but I definitely rode “within myself”. I tried to give my legs enough time to recover and chose low “spin” gears whenever I could. I even took my bike for a “hike” on a few occasions as the ascents proved too steep or too technical.

Thank goodness, however, that Avianto’s blue and green trail (mostly in reverse) is spectacular enough that riders can still enjoy the ride itself, no matter what speed they actually ride it. And that is exactly what I did.

The mountains and open fields on the “western” (perhaps “southern”) side of the R114 are simply beautiful, with space aplenty and enough tree clumps for good forest sections. After the horrific climbs experienced during the first half of the race, the ascents seemed almost “friendlier” and I slowly felt the return of my legs.

I was able to increase my speed back up to my normal race speed.

And then, on the return to the other side of the R114 (the Avianto side), I could enjoy the fast turns, short-but-dramatic ascents and tree-dodging trails with more speed and pleasure.

A “false flat” rise towards the last turn and the finish. What a ride!

But, for goodness sake, if you are going to ride it next year, start slowly!

My top eight cool things at the Eqstra Spring Classic

  • Amazing spirit at the finish (if you haven’t finished it, you won’t understand);
  • The sublime single track through a rocky forest;
  • Bombing under the R114 in a culvert;
  • The berms found on the first few kilometres of Avianto’s blue route;
  • The awesome goodie bag;
  • Wide open spaces, particularly near the chicken farm;
  • Steve Saunders and Richard Beswick’s commentary; and
  • The single track sections (which you hit at least twice) down by the river, which is called Muldersdrif se Loop – no kidding!
Raymond Travers

Raymond Travers

Modern Cyclist Editor |