With the Southern Hemisphere barely a week away from the winter solstice, Cape Town has been experiencing a brilliant spell of crystal clear ‘warm’ winter days. Although rather fresh, the weather has kept me, and the rest of Cape Town, in a great mood. Another contributing factor to my high levels of stoked’ness was my improved performance at this past weekend’s Western Province Provincial XCO Champs held in Durbanville, just outside SlaapStad.
Ever since changing to a 29r, it’s felt as though I’ve spent most of my time in the saddle fighting the bike. Whether it is climbing, cornering or even descending, I simply haven’t felt ‘the flow’! The good news is that on Saturday this all changed. After a few, very overdue tweaks to my setup, I’ve now finally finished a race happy with how my body responded to my bike’s setup.
The old setup was a combination of a narrow handle bar, a zero degree rise stem and a saddle that didn’t support my spinal curve. This caused my hips to rotate and my spine to curve. The resultant riding position made inefficient use of my glutes and hamstrings, two very important cycling muscle groups. In response, my quads were compensating, and were duly getting overused. I wasn’t a happy camper! With the help of Lawrence, the magician, I finally got my ducks in a row, changing my saddle, stem and bar all at once. And oh-my-incredible-greatness what a difference it has made to my pedalling position.
Gone is the narrow 610mm handle bar; in its place a wider 680mm bar. My stem has dropped from a 100mm zero degree rise to a 100mm negative 17 degree rise. I also changed my seat to one which better suits the curvature of my spine.
In hindsight, these few tweaks should’ve taken only days to happen, however, for a variety of reasons, they instead took months. Why, when Jeroen Swart saw me climbing at the World Cup in March and said “your stem is too high, get one with a negative degree rise”, did I not act or at least test his advice? Why, when Lawrence has been saying for weeks “that’s the wrong saddle for you, try one that has more support”, did I not act sooner and research saddles? Why did I acknowledge their advice at the time but not action it? Man, I’m peeved with myself!!
The frustrating thing is that procrastination is the biggest culprit! I’ve obviously been resisting change and now realise how that lack of innovation has been hurting my ability to perform on the bike. Being peeved though doesn’t solve anything or help anyone. I have no-one to blame but myself for procrastinating. So having now made the changes I’m saying, with a positive attitude, waaaay better late than never!! It is a case of becoming more aware of my setup and actioning changes as soon as they become apparent and necessary.
This tri-vector ‘accomplishment ’, where I was able to get my arse into gear was late on Friday afternoon. It meant that, with the WP Champs the very next morning, I wasn’t going to be able to test ride my new setup. I was taking a gamble rocking up to race with freshly tightened bolts! This is very very naughty and not recommended, ever! One should always train on a new product or part before racing it.
Luckily, the race was held on practically the same track as the Nationals back in February, so I didn’t have to stress about racing a track I didn’t know. I did, however, want to test the setup, and of course, have some idea of my braking points so as not to kill myself at race pace. With this in mind, on arrival, I managed to sneak in a skelm lap. To say the least, I was stoked. The more aggressive stem angle allowed me to get over my front wheel and activate muscles I didn’t even know existed! And thanks to the new saddle, I felt solid when seated. I survived my recce lap, put on my number board, did a bolt check, and headed to the start ready for action.
I lined up next to James Reid (360Life) and Renay Groustra (RSA Web), who would be my main competition for the day. Also accompanying us were the juniors who are renowned for their quick starts. With the gun sounding, we were off, sprinting down the grass start-straight. Unsurprisingly a junior took the hole-shot with a cadence that would put any hamster wheel to shame.
Things settled down quickly though. On the first single track climb, Reid powered away putting some time between Renay and myself who were soon riding together for 2nd and 3rd overall. While James charged around the track in the lead, Renay and I battled it out for three laps until I was able to put some distance between the two of us. In sections where I would usually be squirming on my seat looking for those extra watts, I was able to sit solidly transferring all the power to the pedals. The more aggressive cockpit coupled with the better suited saddle were doing their job fantastically!
During the race the gap continued to grow until, on the 7th and final lap, Renay put in a massive effort. Fortunately I had just enough left in the tank to hold him off to take 2nd overall on the day behind an incredibly strong James Reid. With James still U23, he took the overall race as well as the U23 WP Champs title. Renay finished up 3rd overall and the 2nd elite, while I pinned it over the line as the first elite, thereby taking the elite WP Champs title.
Keep it pinned
Oli is currently living the dream as a professional mountain biker, racing for the GT squad based out of Cape Town. Keep up with Oli on his blog http://olivermunnik.wordpress.com