While this wouldn’t be the last we’d see of them, the early pace had taken its toll on some of our turbodiesel units that were not used to the fast start running into the bottom of the first climb. We crested Tradouw a minute ahead of the time inked onto Brendon’s forearm, but at the cost of Klyde, Stuart, Garth, and Donald. Down to eight, not ideal, but at least it wasn’t six. Well, the comfort of eight lasted a full 15 minutes until a mass merging with the UCT lads, Bluff Meats and the Freedom Boys. Needless to say, all hell broke loose as a frenzy of watts, egos, and lactic acid tore our eight riders to six. We lost Sean and Willem off the back, despite Brenda’s effort to drag them back. We nearly lost Aaron too but ol’ Brenda has an incredible knack for folding himself in half and becoming an aero hero (or hairo as he’s later be dubbed at our fines evening). This helped bring both him and Aaron back to Neill, Will, Waldo, and Kevin who managed to sneak away in a four-man break amid the chaos. This left the boys cast adrift of any teams and back to long pulls on the front for the big units, until we were joined on Op De Tradouw by FreeWheel Cycology Racing.
The Op De Tradouw climb loomed large and we’d need to keep a steady rhythm up here or risk losing some of our bigger units, who we’d need for the relatively flat approach to Montagu. While the total climb itself isn’t too bad on paper (you’re looking at 18km at 2 per cent average grade) the final 5 kilometres ramp up at an average gradient of around 7 per cent. Enough to hurt the legs if climbed too enthusiastically. Everything was going quite well at this point until Neill ‘Hungary’ Ungerer started getting a little restless - especially when Active Bodies came thundering by, having flashbacks to riding with them in 2016. Waldo even tried a little dancing on the pedals for the first time, this sight reassembled the first few steps of a newborn Kudu. Will-I-am got a little Pro-Fomo, too. Will always gets riled up when the pro teams come flying past us. In his early years, he was known for ridiculous breakaways and riding alone to victory. At one point it looked as if Neill and Will were going to do just that - well, until they eased up for the four rabid Savages foaming at the mouth, obviously trying to avoid fines that evening.
As always the support from the other teams on the road enables a brief hiatus from the pain cave. When the shouts of ‘Savage!’ or ‘Hammer!’ are heard it’s almost a certainty that the suffering in the paceline will intensify! And that’s exactly what was needed if we were to equal or even beat last year’s time to the 105km mats - something that looked pretty unlikely, especially losing half the team within 50km. To our surprise, however, we managed to roll over the mats in 2h46m, just a minute or two off our initial goal. In true Savage fashion number 7 trundled in almost 20 minutes later with the balance following in quick succession bar Donald who made a guest appearance in the lunch bedouin after the race, Nibali autograph in hand.
The section from Ashton to Bonnievale always proves to be a notoriously tough section that can tear teams apart, not that we needed any more of that. Go too hard here and you’ll pay for it later, miss the split and it’s equally as damning - ask Aaron. The crosswinds blew him around like a rag doll and soon he, Garth, Klyde and Sean were out the back fighting for survival and a place in the final six. And what of Donald? Well, Don was somewhere in the wilderness probably hunting down Vincenzo Nibali and Nino Schurter although he denies these allegations, citing the two European pros were in actual fact stalking him for a selfie or two.
The newly resurfaced Jacaranda lined roads heading towards Bonnivale made for a surreal and picturesque pain cave. The headwind meant the turns on the front were met with increasing shouts of agony from the legs. The paceline was ticking over well with a much-appreciated guest appearance from Emce van Zyl in the ranks. The team had rallied well after the armageddon start of the day to only lose two minutes from our goal on the section to Bonnivale.
The stops allow a normally unspoken conversation to now be verbalised, which makes for some great entertainment at the expense of some broken bodies. When Brendon asked for a show of hands who still had some legs, only 4 hands went up, now its a party. The only person to laugh was Calvin “cool shades” Moore, as he was helping run the support car and not riding this year.
This led to Klyde’s moment to shine. Ah yes, Klyde the Cannonball. Not only is he the nicest guy in our team, but he’s also got one of the biggest motors too. The Cannonball managed to find an extra gear despite his F1 inspired first pit stop which lasted a full two minutes. After a caffeine-induced fast-charging of his batteries, he was able to put in a couple of big turns on the front before he, Sean and Kevin began seizing up from cramps with 16km to go.
Being number seven did not sit well with Kevin, so much so that once he was dropped he emptied himself to get back onto the group. He then went straight to the front, did a turn and then was not be seen until the beer tent, Savage! After his departure, the team was down to the final six, Will, Neil, Waldo, Brendon, Garth and Stuart.
On the first sister the boys caught the Savage ladies team hammering away up the climb, only over the top of the sister did we say goodbye to the Ladies as they were powering towards a 3rd place podium! In the ranks Stuart and Garth our first half casualties had risen from dead and were sitting on the front of the group on the climbs. Only when Will started to get a sniff of the finish line and flattish roads did the “Hand of Waldo” have to be deployed to keep Stuart in the six.
The final climb was upon the boys and the pain in the legs induced by the ramp to the finish line was only matched by the pain of having to stop the Garmin 8 minutes away from our goal time. Although we missed our goal of a sub 5, the euphoria of having ridden oneself into the ground for your mates was still in abundance. We had improved one position from the previous year to 13th, the headwind must have made the day a bit tougher as only five teams ducked under five hours, opposed to 13 teams in 2017.
A massive congrats must go to our Mixed and Ladies Savage teams that both podiumed with third place in their categories! The teams rode really well and got so much support on the road. Hopefully, they become a regular appearance at the Coronation Double Century! Our final team was the Savage Old Ballies, they crossed the line with all 12 riders in just over seven and a half hours.
Thank you to all our amazing sponsors for making this possible and the incredible team at the Coronation Double Century for making this event amazing every year!