The Crater Cruise 2006
The hype for this event has been building over the past few month’s. The first place prize purse of R45 000 added to the excitement and the build-up. With names like Robbie Hunter, Ryan Cox, Jock Green and Nic White on the startline, the race was turning out to be a virtual who’s who of S.A Cycling.
The tension mounted before the start as the talk of combines and tactics flew around the start paddock. This also led to most of us missing the fact that there was a neutral zone until the first river crossing; due to this the race was flat out from the start. After the river crossing Johan Labuschagne went away to take the first hotspot at the end of the tar. The pace in the bunch was fast and furious on this section as the bunch scattered to find the “right” line over the corrugations. The group was whittled down to 30 or 40 riders over this section and as the pace continued to increase over the rolling hills.
As we passed Venterskroon the group was continuing to shrink in size. Robbie Hunter set a blistering pace through this section forcing the bunch into a single line and shrinking the group with every passing kilometer. As we approached Suikerbossie I could see a few of the roadies were getting anxious as the bunch was still sitting at 25 strong, Darren Lill was the first to go, only a few of us could follow and leading up to the King of the mountain the pace increased substantially.
Jock Green took the honours over the top but the move had allowed a small group of 10 riders to get away. We continued the pace up and till the tar section to consolidate the lead, however as we reached the tar Ryan Cox attacked and took Nic white with him, this led to a flurry of attacks as the roadies tried one by one to get away. The mountain bikers had to pull together in this section as we worked on pulling back the Ryan and Nic. As we reached the half-way river crossing there were a series of attacks that were starting to take there toll on me and a few of the other members of the group. I managed to hang in until just before the technical section with 25km to go. Keeping the group in my sights, I slowed down to a more consistent pace and worked on maintaining my position.
As I neared the Energy Dynmaics/Anatomic water point in the last 10km I could see the remnants of the group I was in ahead, I tried chasing but the cramps were starting to grab hold of me and I decided it was better to consolidate my position. I managed to catch up to within a few seconds of the guys in front of me but, had nothing left to close the gap.
Finishing in 10th position, I was happy with the outcome of the race however, I was disappointed not to have beaten the top roadies. I am happy the title remains with a mountain biker and there could not have been a more deserving winner. I will definitely come back even better prepared for next year, as this has to be the most unique mountain bike race in the country.