How to do a stage race in “style”
16 November 2016
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Hello and welcome to another edition of our Old Mutual Live Mountain Bike podcast, I’m Gerald de Kock. We’re at an event again, as we quite often are on the Mountain Bike podcast. As you’ve gathered by now, it’s all matters mountain biking that we’re talking about. We meet the personalities, the characters, the event organisers, the people who are behind the scenes, in front of the scenes, people who ride and win these races and the people who don’t win the races. Listen to this…
That sounds really nice, you must know what it smells like. Lamb chops and boerewors on a gas cooker outside, very nice looking, brand new motor home and we’re at a stage race. Charl Bleach and Shaun Sale are sitting down very comfortably in their camper chairs here. Sean, did you have a good day today on the bike?
Shaun Sale: Today was a tough day and it’s never an easy day out there in a multi-day stage race, especially when it’s seven days. As much as you can say, people always ask which event is harder than another? I think when you start doing multi-stage races, a day out is always a tough day, but we had a good day. Everything went according to plan, we consolidated today. I think it all paid off, it went well for us.
GDK: There is lovely food available obviously at the event, but you’ve taken the precaution of just adding something in the middle of the afternoon here, just in case.
SS: Yes, before an event we all try and watch our diets, being cyclists. You try and keep your nutrition right, you try and eat as little, you try not go back for second dibs in terms of the food. But at an event, everything changes. You can have the huge lunch, but wow, everything comes back to make you want to eat as much as you can.
We thought we’d have a little South African braai. We’ve come to George two years in a row, torrential rain, this whole field has been under water. This is the first time, and we’ve done it now a couple of years in a row, that we arrive here and we’ve got this beautiful weather. So why not have a braai?
GDK: Absolutely and this is clearly a team that works well together because you were sitting quite calmly here and allowed Charl to get up and turn the meat, he couldn’t move. Charl, is it going all right, the meat okay?
Charl Bleach: Oh yes, it’s all good.
A partnership forged on the Cape Pioneer Trek
GDK: Tell us about your combination, how did you get together and what makes it tick when you’re on the bike?
CB: Interesting story actually. We met on this race a couple of years ago. We both had solo entries and I met him a week before the event started, in a bike shop. He said to me, just another customer in the shop and I told the owner of the shop that my partner then had pulled out. I was going to do a solo entry and Shaun was there buying something and said: Hey, we should ride together. I said: Ja, ja, whatever.
A week later I got here and we started going the prologue together and then Stage one, the whole day, just happened to start battling out with somebody, another solo rider, back and forth, back and forth. Just before we got to Calitzdorp, literally five minutes I rode up to him and looked at him and I was like: Shaun, I know you, I met you a week ago.
I said we should have just ridden together, we should have entered together and then history was kind of made after that. We still finish it solos. Then at the end of the race he mentioned what am I doing for the Epic and well, I had a partner at the time. Then the partner again pulled out and we ended up doing the Epic and now we ride together.
GDK: Isn’t that just the beauty of the sport as well. You go through some pretty dark times and you find a chemistry that works and it’s obviously clearly working well.
CB: For sure, it’s brilliant. He’s a bit stronger than me, so I just tag along for the fun – if you can call it that!
GDK: I’ve had to come and talk to you because it was Shaun’s turn to turn the meat, now it’s back to you Charl as I come back to Shaun, let’s just move it on a little bit. It’s not just riding the events that has got you involved in mountain biking, or the other way around, but you’re involved in another way as well, to hiring stuff out to events, tell us a bit more about that.
SS: Yes, our company is Sales Hire and we have an event division that specialises in obviously providing the support for events. We do ablutions, we do showers, we do portable fencing and we do a lot of the major events in and around Cape Town. When you look at all those kilometres of fencing and ablutions, generally we have a bang at it.
For a love of stage races
GDK: And some mountain biking, in a strange way, plays a really big role in your life.
SS: A huge role in our life and obviously it’s a passion for us. When I started I was well into, close to 100kg and realised that we’ve got to make a plan. We’ve got to make a plan quickly and the mountain bike thing was a natural way of life. It’s become a full part of our life, to actually become healthy.
GDK: You do this, you do Epic, what else do you do in terms of stage races and races and where do you race?
SS: We’ve done Epic, obviously we’ve done Pioneer every year for the past couple of years. We do Wine2Whales, we do STVB, we do all the basic races that we can get an entry for. We’ve done Sani every year, so we try and get in as much as we can.
GDK: There’s a bit of a flame going here Charl, the intensity, it looks as though we’re getting towards the end of a stage here. The pace is increasing, the boerie is looking good, there’s an incredible salad going on here as well, where did that pop out from?
CB: That’s from Hettie, she’s inside and waiting to talk to you.
GDK: You’ve got staff! That’s the way to go here. The camper van is a brand new camper van, I think this is part of Shaun’s new business as well, making camper vans. Hettie, hello Hettie. I’ve walked into the camper van here and you’ve provided salad for the guys here. It’s all part of the support you provide here?
Hettie: Absolutely, behind every strong man there’s a stronger woman hey?
GDK: That’s fantastic, you come on the tours and the trips to do this and get some enjoyment out of it?
H: I run away from home, so this is much easier work. They need somebody to support them.
GDK: Do you go to the water points and that sort of thing –
H: No, I can’t go in the camper, so I have a normal vehicle here. Then I follow to the water points and take photographs, I also like my photography.
GDK: Listen, there’s a bike rack on the back here and maybe space for an extra bike…
GDK: Do you also ride?
H: I do ride but I just do coffee rides.
GDK: Fantastic, you’re clearly doing a wonderful salad and a great job for Charl and for Shaun here. The meats off the braai, lunch is about to be served, it looks spectacular guys.
SS: You’re welcome…
For the love of the journey as well
GDK: No, no, I’ve had my lunch and I haven’t earned it because I haven’t been out there on a bike. But Charl, I found out what mountain biking is to him, is it a habit, when did you come into it?
CB: Sjoe, when did I come into it? Possibly 20 years ago I’d say, it was the same story. I had another hobby, I used to frequent bars, if you could call it that. I actually grew up on rivers and stuff, I guided for years and just the outdoor lifestyle and that took its toll on me. I also had a big belly and didn’t really participate in sport. From guiding and actually doing rafting, I just decided, I always liked cycling and got into it in a big way.
GDK: Are you guys competitive?
CB: Yes, there’s no other reason to ride is there? I mean really! One day, one day we’ll get there, but it’s the journey.
GDK: Where would you like at the end of the race to be, you drive your beautiful motor home away from here saying, we did a lekker job there, what would that be?
CB: Not another broken arm.
GDK: That happened last year did it?
CB: 10km to the end of the last stage and funnily enough I just fell on the flat surface. I had a broken arm before and it just re-kind of snapped it a bit, but finished the race.
GDK: We know what Shaun does for a living, what do you do for a living?
CBS: I work in the film industry in Cape Town and around and stuff. Six months of the year I’m flat out and then the rest, I’ve got jobs, but I’ve got more time to train and stuff. So six months on and then six months off the bike.
GDK: How much training would you do?
CB: It’s kind of tough for me over summer, literally my hours are shocking, I kind of work with clients and stuff like that, so I’m pretty busy. My hours are stuffed, but if I wake up 04:00, try get on the bike at 05:00, if I’m back by 07:00 or 07:30, I can get to work. I’ll get home 8:00 or 9:00 at night, if that’s possible, sometimes. Summer is stressful and then winter I ride.
GDK: I suppose I better ask Shaun how much he trains as well, you did say he was stronger than you.
SS: For sure.
GDK: How much do you train?
SS: Look, let us correct something, Charl is a machine, have you seen the size of that man’s calves? My day is taken up by just trying to hang on!
GDK: Are you a committed cyclist, a committed mountain biker?
SS: Absolutely, this sport, consistency is everything and if you’re not consistent, you’re not going to get the rewards. Everyone talks about trainers and programmes and I’m sure they do help, but first rule, consistency. So everywhere, just try and be as consistent as you can.
GDK: I tell you what, you’ve been consistent over the meal here, looking spectacular there. The lunch is ready, Charl and Shaun, thank you very much for chatting, enjoy your lunch and enjoy the rest of the ride. It’s been wonderful to see how, I suppose those who aren’t in the tents operate at a stage race here. It looks very, very nice indeed. I bet you staying in these, have you done the tents before?
SS: Absolutely, we all started off in the tents and we’ve been there, done that, got the t-shirt.
GDK: No more, in the camper van with the chops and the boerie, cooking outside. Thanks very much guys, enjoy the rest of the race. Thanks for downloading this edition of our Old Mutual Live Mountain Bike podcast. Little insight into how you can go about getting onto a stage race and doing it in a bit of style. Because I think after all, that can add to your wonderful experience. Until next time, cheers.