This seconding at the Coronation Double Century this year differed from previous years, in that we were allowed to follow our team and assist when necessary as opposed to only being allowed to stop at designated feed zones. This caused numerous hair-raising moments!
There were certain rules in place and certain areas were considered no feed zones, where we weren’t allowed to stop. We also had strict instructions to remain 50 metres behind our team and to keep the following distance should another, faster team pass.
But right off the bat, we realised this was going to be more difficult than we thought. Vehicles and cyclists were fighting for their position on the road, with some vehicles trying to overtake into oncoming traffic and others were blocking traffic outright from overtaking and getting to their team because they were following their slower teams. Cyclists’ frustrations were high and we received a few “not suitable for publishing” comments as riders were trying to get past our vehicle from all sides when we were literally unable to get out the way. Going down Tradouw’s Pass was nerve-wracking as the cyclists were going faster than us so we had to keep our wits about us!
I must admit, the great thing about following the team was when someone did need our assistance on route. I felt like a mechanic at the Tour de France! When one of our riders suffered a flat, we simply pulled up (being careful not to take out any cyclists as we did so), took the flat wheel off his bike, popped a spare wheel on, and off he rode. We then fixed the flat in the comfort of the car and gave it back to him later. The same rider suffered a broken chain 20km from the finish, and rather than fix the chain, we simply gave him another bike to ride. If the riders had had to fix these themselves, their finishing times would have been much slower. Granted, this didn’t really matter to our team, but it did make for a much more pleasant experience for them. But with that luxury, came the frustration of vehicles pulling off to the side of the road at any time to assist a team member, often in the way of the cyclists and other vehicles.
There is no doubt that the logistics on this event are a nightmare and kudos to the organisers for pulling it off, relatively incident free. Click here for what the organisers had to say about the new rules for seconding at this year’s event.
Aside from the logistics, I was surprised to find that being a second is very stressful. From finding the right spot to pull over and setting out all the nutrition bags, to assisting them on demand with whatever they require. So next time you see the guys at the Tour de France or any other race which allows seconds, spare a thought for them! Having said that, what an awesome way to experience the race first hand!
Congratulations to everyone who participated. This is one very tough race, not only because of the tough terrain and distance that is covered, but a team event brings with it a host of politics which I will save for another blog.
Were you a supporter on the race? How did you find it? Let us know below…