200km on a bicycle on a Winter’s Day!

Two Albertonians, 39-year old AW Claassens and his step-dad, 62-year old Willie Duvenhage, attempted the AUDAX 200km cycle ride on Sunday, 23 June, 2019 in an effort to raise funds for Stepping Stone Hospice. We asked AW to relay in his own words what it was like to attempt a 200km ride on windy winters day – after reading his recollection of the race…. all we can say is, THANK YOU and we have so much respect for what you did. You finished and you are our heroes!

Sat 22/06/2019 – day before race

Had to make sure all spares were up to date... Had a last look at the weather forecast, realised that we were going to have a very cold start and that I will need a new pair of gloves. Also decided to add some plastic bags over the toes in my shoes to try and keep them warm. Made sure all bottles were filled with all the necessary drinks and shakes, froze some so that it will be cold when I have to swap them out. Made sure the headlight was charged as I wasn’t sure if we will be back before sunset. Went to bed early (8pm) but the nerves started to kick in. Some of the questions that keep going through my head... Am I fit enough? Do I have enough warm clothes? Am I going to finish? Will the bicycle break? I set the alarm for 4am so that we can be at the Circus Cafe at 6am, an hour before starting time.

Sunday 23/06/2019 – Race Day

Wide awake from 2am - think my nerves got the better of me. Stayed in my warm bed till about 3am. Had my oats breakfast and started packing the car, preparing for a long day. Picked Willie up from his house at 5:30. Temperature - 3 degrees outside!

Registered on arrival and now there was no turning back. There were 31 other riders listed to cycle the same distance. The others who did a 300km started 3am. We had a cup of coffee and got ready for the longest ride of our lives.

Ten minutes before seven we had a quick meeting and we were off. The more experienced riders quickly left us behind but we decided to take it easy and just pace ourselves and to finish the race as that was our only goal. It was 3.5 Degrees Celsius and my fingers were throbbing from the cold air seeping through my gloves. We had 37 km to first check -in point.

  • At Gewels 24 h – Heidelberg 37 km
  • This was the first stop after a long climb past Suikerbosrand and we were still feeling good, I swapped out the first water bottle. We were lucky to have a support car that met us at each check point.

  • Total in Devon - 87 km from start
  • Still feeling strong, bought some biltong to get some salt in the body to prevent the cramps, also had a Coke. Was relieved as most of the climbing was over. As we turned I realised we had a headwind all the way back. It was a long ride to the next check point and the wind played a major role.

  • Sasol – Nigel 122 km from start
  • Relived to get to Nigel as the buildings helped with wind. We decided to also refuel; I have never enjoyed a cheese burger from Wimpy as much as I did on this day! We rested a bit, swapped bottles and off again. At this stage all the other cyclists were ahead of us. It didn’t deter us as our goal was to cross the finish line. We focussed on getting to Three Rivers in Vereeniging. All the down hills now became up-hills with the ever-present wind pushing from the front. Our normal chit-chat quickly turned into silence as we battled the wind and the hills. For some reason I thought the Three Rivers stop was closer than what it was. That threw me, messed with my head. I didn’t even have to think about peddling any more, the body just took over. It felt like I was on auto-mode.

  • Three Rivers - Total 179 km from the start
  • This was the last check point!!! We came so far and were ready to just finish. All I could think of was just a few more kilometres to go. My battery of my watch went flat in Nigel, so I couldn’t check to count down. We planned to finish the race in 10 hours which means we should have crossed the finish line at 17:00 - didn’t happen. It was getting dark.... and colder very fast...! But then I finally saw the Circus Cafe. We made it! We were the last of the 200km cyclists to finish the route, but we finished! It was 18:00, I didn’t really care about the cold or the pain and aches - we finished 206 km on a bicycle.

    AND we managed to raise R 3700 for my favourite charity and still waiting for a few more promises.

Caption: AW Claassens and Willie Duvenhage preparing for their 200km challenge!

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