Team Bestmed’s new rider, S’annara Grove, placed third in the 29.2km elite women’s individual time-trial at the SA National Road Championships in Oudtshoorn last week.
“To be honest I didn’t go into 2018 thinking I was going to do the SA time-trial race,” Grove said.
“However, I managed to do quite well at the KZN triathlon and time-trial champs, surprising myself with the good results.
“With that in mind, I decided I’d have a go at getting on the podium in Oudtshoorn.
“The long drive meant I only arrived the evening of the day before the race and I had to take the morning of the next day to go and check out the route.
“It was a nice cool morning with only the slightest breeze in the air. It would have made for perfect time-trial conditions if it had lasted. I really wish it had.
“Unfortunately,” Grove said, “the desert-like weather of the area prevailed and come midday it was close to 40 degrees Celsius with a strong wind picking up just in time for the start of the race.
“A time-trial is different to a lot of races. You sit there watching as your opponents go off, getting more and more nervous as the minutes tick by and you wait for your turn.
“Your adrenaline is pumping like crazy, heart pounding way faster than it should considering you’re not even moving yet. All you want is to finally have your turn, to be out on the course and pedalling your bike.
“When the countdown finally started and I accelerated away from the start I actually felt terrible. All that adrenaline had my legs feeling like lead and my heart beating like crazy.
“It took a few minutes and passing a few riders [from different age groups] out on the course before I finally came right and really started pushing it.
“There was an unfortunate head wind on the slight downhill section that took you to the furthest turning point on the course. It’s the kind of section I would’ve definitely preferred a tailwind to work with to get that speed up. It’s ideal when you get that.
“It wasn’t even the toughest area on the course though. That title definitely goes to the section following that where we faced the struggles of the heat, a head/cross wind and the loneliness of the course on a long straight that took you to the next turn to town.
“I’d made the decision at the start not to take on water and remove the bottle cage from my bike for the benefit of aerodynamics. It’s 40 minutes, I thought, how hard could it be?
“If there was one section that made me regret that choice, it was there.
“It was all about keeping your head down, staying as aerodynamic as possible and keeping it together until you made it to the turning point in the road.
“When we twisted back towards town with the wind at our backs I felt like I was flying. It was a slight uphill, but honestly felt like a flat with the wind chasing us that way. That, plus the shadier areas probably made it one of my favourite points on the course.
“By the start of the second lap I’d come to the conclusion/realisation that I probably wasn’t going to catch Yzette [Oelofse] out in front of me [my minute man]. I couldn’t even see her anymore.
“I wasn’t going to win the race.
“It’s a tough realisation to have in a time-trial. You’re very alone out there and it’s up to you to get your head right. To get it through your head that you’re not going to win, but you could podium.
“You don’t want to end a race with regrets. Thinking about how you could’ve done better and the sections you could’ve pushed harder. How doing this and doing that could have made the difference. You have to make the difference while you’re out there.
“A time-trial is about going as hard as you can for the distance you’re given. When you cross that line there better be nothing left in the tank.”
She said it took about 3km past the first lap and the 11km-to-go sign for that idea to really kick in.
“So I did, I buried myself [in the race]. My maximum heart rate went higher than it’s ever been recorded on a bike.
“And you know what? it worked.
“I didn’t know it at the time, but when we completed the first lap I was in fourth place. By the time we crossed the finish line, I was in third.
“Maybe it wasn’t first, but it was a podium. For a first SA champs, I’m pretty happy with it. It has shown me how far I’ve come in the year I’ve been cycling and how far I still have to go.”