Published by on Jul 8th, 2011, No Comments

Athlete Post: Xterra Knysna Race Report by Raoul de Jongh

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A beautiful setting, an incredible day and another world class event in South Africa. A special thank you first off to the sponsors who make the day possible for me on an equipment level:

The Morewood for performing flawlessly, the Garmin for providing reliable information in order for me to push the limits, Rehidrat Sport for fueling my day, Puma for providing the best racing flats. They carried me on the journey for the day, which went as follows…

To say that the field was stacked is true. Stoltz, Hugo, White, Boonstra to name but 4 guys out of a top 10 which looked fierce on paper and even more scary on the trails. Then there was the added pressure of having Kevin Evans in the mix, who conquered the race last year. As per usual, I wanted to be in the mix, but was realistic that my training has been limited due to work commitments over the last 12 weeks.

The start line was great and it was fantastic so say hi and a few short words with Conrad, who I have known since 1998 as well as having the luck of bumping into Dan on my warm-up and having an easy pedal with him, sharing his experience in the US over the last 9 weeks. So really, I was set at the start line for a tough day. To be anywhere, I would need to bring my A game.

We set off just after 12:30 and as was expected, after 1km I was around 12th or 15th. The guys hammer out the blocks and it was beyond my abilities (I was running 3min per km and losing time) but I knew that I would be better once it settled and we were going uphill where my training for African-X would benefit me.

I got to the top of the single track hill in 10th or so and moved my way up to 6th or 7th by the end of the run, taking confidence from the fact that I was running with Dan for the first time in my life. I knew he was not his best and that I should relish the moment as I would need to be a lot faster when he is on song.

Conrad was about 30seconds up attempting to put some breathing space between himself and Kevin and I had gained some time on White which I knew would count at the end of the day. Lieuwe, however, was gone… he was having a big day and I would never see him all day.

Onto the bike and into the single track and I brushed a tree as Dan came flying by and came off and hugged a tree as Kevin came flying by too, losing my water bottle in the process. I got straight into it on the hills and worked my way back up to Dan and Antonie and just as I got air between myself and them, my chain came off. Breathe RAOUL!

The next time we hit a steep section I gave it 50 hard pedal strokes and I was gone. The body was responding beautifully and I was holding the gap to Tyrone until around 15km, growing the gap on Dan & Antonie. I had to stop at the water stop as I had no Rehidrat Sport and was starting to get goosebumps from dehydration. It was 20-30seconds and Tyrone was gone and I would not see him on the bike again. The mud-covered bike and rider aboard it came into transition 5th male overall, something I was quite stoked about.

I knew I would not catch Lieuwe but in my mind I said I would give it horns until I was out the spooky forest, around 4km and see where Tyrone was. It hurt, I will not lie. I was breathing hard and it took everything I had to run the hills. I fell twice coming around slippery corners, ending up in the bushes with my wind knocked out on one occasion but as I popped out the spooky forest, I could see Tyrone and I knew 4th was mine.

I ran past hard and didn’t even acknowledge him. You don’t let a talent like his get a hint of hope so close to the finish line.

I hit the concrete road with 1km to go, hamstrings crying for mercy and so dehydrated I couldn’t even spit any more. It was a moment when I laughed at myself for what I am able to put myself through. I jogged through the line in 4th, best Xterra performance for me on a day when I least expected it, being in the middle of training for O till O.

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Thank you to all who made it possible on the day and the other guys for going as hard as they could. We war it out on the playing field but we are all friends once we hit the finish line. I love being a part of this sport.

A thank you to all the sponsors who make it possible for me to race here. BoE Private Clients, Fairbairn Private Bank, Gamin, Axis House, Velocity Sports Labs, Rehidrat Sport. Altogether, Pure Planet Racing had an excellent day out.