Cape Town - There is a curveball in
store for cyclists in the 2019 Medihelp Stellenbosch Cycle Tour - the final
premier seeding event for the Cape Town Cycle Tour.
In Val de Vie Estate, the
event has found a spectacular new home, but that also means a slight change to
It now features the proverbial ‘sting-in-the-tail’, the iconic
Helshoogte is the biggest
climb on the 102km circular route and comes well after halfway, rather than at the start of the race. This will necessitate a slightly
different riding strategy. We quizzed a few locals on how they would attack it.
“It is crucial to eat and drink enough in the first
65km,” advises marathon-distance specialist Ariane Lüthi, a long-time
Stellenbosch resident who does much of her training on the climb. She suggests
cyclists start fuelling after about an hour.
“At the latest,” she says, “not
after two hours, which is what a lot of people do because that’s when they
start feeling hungry. Then it is usually too late.”
As predominantly a mountain biker, she is also all-too
aware of the benefits a rider can get from riding cleverly in a bunch.
smart and draft as much as you can - while taking your turn at the front of
course - to conserve as much energy as possible.”
Men’s elite racer Max
Sullivan, who also trains on the pass almost daily with his team, Mad Macs
presented by Häzz, echoed Lüthi’s sentiments.
“Ride smart and then be
ready for the climb,” he says.
According to Sullivan, whether a climb is at the
start or the end of a race, it always helps knowing how long they are, both in
distance and in time.
“Strava has the pass set as a category three climb,
although a European mountain goat would refer to it as a speed bump,” he jokes
adding that the official Strava segment is 4.6km long at an average gradient of 5%,
with the first 500m or so are at around 10%, whilst the rest of the climb
meanders between a gentle 1 and 5 percent.
“Gert Heyns, the South African XCM
champ, has the fastest time at just under nine-and-a-half
minutes, whilst the elite bunch is likely to go just over 10 minutes on a good
day. Most riders will spend anywhere between 14 and 25 minutes getting up the
climb,” he says.
Sullivan advises riding the
first steep section as steady as possible.
“Keep a rhythm spinning through the
pedals as the gradient is very consistent. Find that rhythm that you can hold
for the first five minutes or so and stick to it, the rest of the climb will be
a breeze once you've crested the first rise,” he says.
“From there on you can
shift up into the big ring or down on the cassette, for the racing bunch this
is where the speed picks up and the fun starts. There are a couple little ramps
around some of the corners, so I suggest building up speed on the flatter
sections and carry momentum whilst shifting up the gears as you hit the
Upon cresting Helshoogte,
cyclist will be treated to a spectacular view of the Winelands and the
Franschhoek Valley, followed by the pedal-free descent into Pniel, which will
allow some recovery before tackling the last, fast 30km to the finish.
“For the elite racers, the
new route will change the game somewhat, with more fatigue and tactics at play,
there's no telling how the race will unfold,” Sullivan says of the sharp end.
“Personally, I expect fireworks and explosions on the climb, with a small group
going clear to the line, it is close enough to the finish to have a crack and
really give it some. The new venue, route and event date is a change for the
good, I'm looking forward to lining up on the start line on Sunday and kicking
2019 off with a race to remember,” he says.
To stay informed of developments of the Stellenbosch
Cycle Tour, join their Facebook Page at www.facebook.com/stellenboschcycletour or follow them on Instagram at
@medihelpstellenboschcycletour or Twitter at @StellenboschCT.
For more information on Medihelp, visit www.medihelp.co.za. For more information on Val de Vie, visit http://valdevie.co.za/.