Ambassador William Leslie and his cousin Grant recently finished the Greyt Escape in an impressive 2nd place. From tyre puncture to well deserved beers after each stage, the boys take us throught their experience of the 3 day stage race.
Time for a different challenge
After recently competing in the Fisherman's Trail Run, I was looking around for a bit of a different challenge. I love running and being out in the mountains, however I find myself getting more enjoyment out of outdoor activities when I mix them up a bit and I was hoping to find a mtb stage race of reasonable value. There are tons of stage races around these days, but very few that aren't going to cost you an arm and a leg. The Greyt Escape really tickled my fancy as the small mountainous town of Greyton appealed to me as having loads of rideable trails. Not much convincing was needed and a week before the start of the event, Grant and I committed to the adventure.
On the start line temperatures were cold, but it looked to be perfect conditions for riding. This all changed when we exited the Greyton Basin and were bombarded by a 50km/h head wind. Big gaps started to form in the field and it became a proper team effort just to keep moving at a reasonable speed. Icy wind and rain would accompany us all the way up the iconic UFO climb, and by the time we reached the summit, we had no feeling left in our fingers. We made the error of wearing our windbreakers rather than our arm warmers, which made us feel like we were dragging parachutes in the gale wind! Smooth fast descending on the wet tracks helped us make up some quality time on our rivals, however a puncture with 20km to go didn't. Misfortune struck as a simple thorn resulted in 20 minutes of stoppages.
Unbeknown to us, Grant’s sealant in his tires had dried up in the weeks leading up to the race which we found out the hard way when our efforts to reinflate the tires only lasted a couple of kilometers – rookie stage racers. We pushed hard to the finish and managed to come in third position for the day. This was a result that we certainly hadn’t expected going into the race however being only 1min behind the Table Mountain Bikers in second place, we fancied our chances to climb the leaderboard. At the end of each stage we would settle at the Oak and Vigne restaurant with over a couple of frosty craft beers and a delicious lunch.
Chuffed with the way the first stage went, we were in good spirits going into stage 2 and with the belief that a solid ride could possibly put us in second place – our competitive natures kicked in. We set off at a high pace and quickly put distance between ourselves and the Table Mountain Bikers who were lying in 2nd place. The tracks were amazing! Technical, rocky and off camber sections made for sketchy descents which suited us to a tee. We were able to enjoy the undulating hills and the tracks that followed in much more desirable weather conditions than the day before, laughing and talking smack most of the way.
The last 5km of the stage greeted us with a seriously steep “sting in the tail” according to the race organizer which we only just managed to crest in one piece. The free flowing single track that followed back towards the finish made the earlier struggles all worth it. After being enthusiastically welcomed by Mr Supercycling himself (Gerald De Kock) we settled into our post-race routine, Sterri Stumpis, craft beer and lunch. We now had a healthy buffer of 10 minutes over third place – very chuffed with the day’s proceedings.
The pre-race briefing described stage 3 as “short, sharp and fun” and with the distance 15km less than the first two stages we could sense the finish of the adventure. The highlight of this stage was most certainly the Bakenskop Cobra switchback climb. The climb began at around the 10km mark and you could pretty much see the next 5km of pain as the leading riders could be spotted traversing the steep switchbacks ahead.
This wouldn’t be the only punchy climb/ free flowing single track combo of the stage with sections such as “Davey’s Sprocket” , “RIP”, and” Rocky Horror” keeping the heart rate high and the adrenaline flowing. Before we knew it we were back at the finish line and the (long) weekend had flown by in a jiffy. We managed to hold onto our 2nd place, but more importantly this classic event had left us with the desire to start planning our next adventure almost immediately. It did not dissapoint!