Mark Roberts (cpt.);
Fred Wagenwoorde (CEP – Chief Executive Pusher);
Flip Cloete (Just Flip);
Jeremy Van Zyl;
Nicole Godfrey (all the frickin punctures);
Arne van Rensberg;
Set the scene: Team strategy meeting opened with Eye of The Tiger. It was all downhill from there…Kidding.
What an honour to report on this experience. Twelve riders who only really knew each other by sight from the odd Saturday long ride (when they bothered to pitch up…) descended on Swellendam to take on the #202km #CDC2016. Everyone made it on time and with a bicycle (we were doubtful about Godfrey, but she pulled it off – proud of you, girly).
At 19H30 sharp, we settled down to dinner and a team strategy meeting. I would like to note at this juncture that Freddie did not bring one item of food. For the entire weekend. He left Cape Town with a cappuccino from Seattle Coffee and some sparkling water.
Strategy was basically this.
We aim to get 12 riders across the line.
Failing that, we aim to get all 3 girls plus 3 boys across the line.
Failing THAT, 6 riders across the line.
Failing even that, bottle in the spokes of the first triathlon team we see and steal their kit.
And failing that, bikes in the sea, and we never speak of this again.
It was agreed that Captain Roberts would run the line for much of the day, checking that everyone was coping and happy, Freddie would be his second in command and make sure all the girls got to the top of the climbs with the team, and Duane would act as the social lubricant, initiating awkward conversation with his particular brand of northern suburbs charm, manoeuvring seamlessly between different genres of small talk… Hulley the Hazzard at his absolute best.
We all agreed that this was a social ride and that none of the MTD-style hooliganism that characterises Saturday rides would be tolerated. We agreed so hard we even looked at our feet after awkwardly making eye contact. Mostly with Craig. Because that’s the only part of his face you can see… #beardedbeauty.
So cut to Saturday morning 5:45 am, locked and loaded (I am in exactly zero of the start line photos and nobody can figure out why… FFS) to commence the Coronation Double Century 2016. We knew by kilometre 5 that there would be absolutely nothing social about this ride, and that Godfrey would get all of the punctures in the history of cycling on this day. All of them. ALL of the punctures.
We made it over Tradouw Pass without incident, but Op De Tradouw claimed its first victim when our beloved Prawn (Sean Hidden) started battling with tummy cramps that claimed the rest of his DC. So we were down to 11, and the time trialling commenced. Flip and I initiated the first 20 minute FTP test of the morning having to chase the MTD steam train down the pass en route to T1 – I have no idea what the official name for this is on DC – for some piesangs and coke.
The stretch between T1 and T2 was a welcome reprieve for all us. We were caught amongst a bazillion teams, being pulled along by an extremely hardworking ladies team (I forget their name… nobody cares about the domestique these days) and a bright red Toyota Hilux. Which Hulley drafted shamelessly. In MTD kit. While those bazillion cyclists looked on. Cannot take him ANYWHERE.
T2 came and went, and then the fireworks started. Godfrey acquired her second puncture and Roberts’ front wheel about 4 km out of the neutral zone. Although the team had been working together beautifully until this point, it was now that the commitment and teamwork came to the fore. It was here that we just how special this bunch of people were. Before the start line, I’ll admit to having been a little uneasy about the range of ability in the team. We had never ridden together, only very vaguely knew each other, and kinda just set out hoping for the best. In addition, everybody knows that DC actually starts at 180km. And this is where team MTD truly pulled rabbits out of hats. Every single person did their bit to get the crew over the final 3 rollers. There were no egos, no frustration, work rates off the charts, and we managed to get 3 girls and 5 guys over the line together to smash our goal time by 25 minutes. 11 team members finished, and all within 15 minutes of each other
It was an absolute pleasure and an honour to ride in this group of misfits. And what an experience to see athletes in such a self-focused and individual sport work together to get each other to the finish. This is a special race, but one that can also go pear-shaped very quickly. The humility and support of every person out there made it truly memorable.
If you get the opportunity to do this race, grab it with both hands.
I asked the team to let me know what stood out for them about the race:
Craig Anders – “The MTD group (and individuals’) brand is very strong”.
Godfrey’s response – “True that. And very respected…. Even if Saturday night wasn’t respectable at all.”
Also Godfrey – “Arne smacked my bum.” Arne did smack Godfrey’s bum, and nearly took out the entire peloton in doing so. Totally worth it, though.
Jeremy van Zyl – “It was clear that the club is held in high regards. That, and the high calibre of athletic ability amongst my team mates really stood out. It was really so refereshing to see that egos were nowhere to be seen and we were one team!”
Sean Hidden – “All I remember is Immodium.”
Every single member of the team commented on the impression that the leadership and captaincy of Mark Roberts made on them. He and Fred Wagenwoorde truly buried themselves for the sake of the team. It was a display of maturity and self-sacrifice that will stay with me for a long time, and that I will draw on when my demons get the better of me, as tends to happen in this ridiculous sport. It will be a while before I come across such selflessness again. We salute you, Captain. And Godfrey will fix your punctures for the rest of her life.
Also, a huge thank you to our back up driver, Gina and her Co-driver Estie, who provided us with music, vibe, and all the coke at our transitions...and beers at the end! Those 13th and 14th people are a massive part of the DC team!