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October 20, 2014

Cape Pioneer Stage 6: The not so simple way home

Its 3am, and I need to wee. Badly. In my tent, I am inside a sleeping bag and a thermal sheet, and I am wearing a full set of thermal longs, PJ’s over that, a hoodie and a beanie. It’s pretty cold.

The negotiation goes like this.

“You can sleep a few hours with a cold bladder, its too cold.”

“You are going to pee in your layers while you sleep.”

My first dream is of gushing rivers, so I head off to the portaloo and empty my bladder. It’s dead quiet and nobody is up. A moment of silence before the chaos of the morning comes in just a few hours.

By 5:30, the same place is alive with people telling war stories, filling bottles, farting and readying for breakfast. It’s our last day before we get to go home, and everyone is pretty excited.

Pioneer has been a dream and a reality. My elbow hurts, but my head is clear. My mind is at ease for the first time in months, and yet, my legs feel like empty prawn shells, not quite sure if they can deal with another 1st hour of VAVAVROOOOOOM from the front group.

We laugh our way through our last breakfast, admiring the 1000-yard stares from some of our fellow racers and Andrew gets a surprise visit from his wife and 2 year old son, which lifts his spirits on the morning.

I do a little warm-up and find a quiet spot to reflect a little on the week which has gone by so quickly. I just want to get through today safely and then get home to my wife, who I am missing terribly. Riding solo has been really good for me, emotionally, but I have missed her companionship.

Before I can get too into it, the start gun goes off and the pace is hot. So much for a slow day. The roads twist and turn and sitting at the back of the group, the yo-yo effect is even worse, meaning a full sprint out of every corner. There are many corners and I find myself in the usual batch, quite happy to ride with the leading mixed teams for the day.

About 5.5km in, we make a turn, and I see familiar colours on the side of the road, one clutching his arm, the other asking if he is ok.

My boys are down. They have ridden so well all week and I make a deal with myself to ride them back to the front group, if its all that remains in me for the day.

When I get to Stu, he is in immense pain. The man is a stud and suffers more than most, but the grimace is a deep one. I see what is left of his bike, and I know his collarbone is likely off.

“AD, ride back and get my spare front wheel from the mechanics”

This gives you an indication of his mental game. That he believes he can ride 80km with a broken collarbone, so that his buddy can finish the race as a team.

I tell him to sit down and shut up, and we flag down the last medic to come by. He calls an ambulance / bakkie / medical vehicle and we all lament what could have been for the two of them on the day. His race is over. Andrew’s race is over. My race, at this point, I don’t care about, as my buddy is my only concern.

A big thank you to Francois Theron for stopping and making some calls to get assistance for us too. A true gent.

After a long time, knowing he would be ok, we set off, calmly, to make our way to Oudtshoorn, now far behind the field, just Andrew & myself. As the miles come and go, our pace increases a little here and there, and before I really know it, we are hauling to the finishline.

His power on the climbs blows me away as my diesel just doesn’t cope with the accelerations. By 68km, with 20km to go, my engine is a little fried as we are riding up the very last steep hill and I ask for some respite to the finishline. I feel like I need to just enjoy the last 20km a little more, instead of arriving in tatters.

By my estimation, we slow down and lose maybe 15minutes in the last 20km, as we dominate the last water point, stop for two natural breaks, a dropped bottle and some photos. Now looking back, my rivals finished about 12-15minutes ahead of my on the day, and we could have ridden one of the better times on the day, just the two of us hauling across the Karoo into the headwind (AGAIN), on our own.

But nobody gives a damn about that. We cruise in, chatting, laughing and enjoying the last while – which is much more fun.

We are super bummed for Stu and our concern is to get to him at the hospital, straight across the line.

We ride in, and yet, he is there, just behind the line, in his torn gilet, bibs and a sling to welcome us home. I get quite bromotional when I see him as I am so super bummed again. He has worked so hard and yet, it was ripped from him on a flat, straight road on the last day when handlebars connected at speed.

It’s not fair. He made it through all the thick stuff – the treacherous downhills, the massive climbs, the relentless pace of AD’s thunderquads, the wind, the times his body just couldn’t give any more and then this – right at the end.

In conclusion, its a reminder that life is never simple. We have to do what we can, to make it simply as simple as possible, but these complicated scenarios find their way into our lives. These adventures are risky, but they are a very simple existence for a week, a reminder to do less, be more, and live more.

Thank you to Dryland for the incredible organisation.

Thanks to all the other participants – people were respectful, well behaved and courteous all week. Amazing to see. So often there are aggressive, vindictive people and behaviour at these events. Even the PRO athletes commentated how there was no underhanded behaviour all week, that it was a very respectful race for the win.

Thank you to the companies like Rehidrat Sport, Oakley, Puma, Ellipsis, Schwalbe & Llama Bar for the support. It makes it easier in so many ways.

Thank you for reading the reports and noting when you enjoyed them – I have enjoyed trying to capture moments, and at times, have simply been to deep in the pain cave to capture it all, but I will get better at this side of the coin.

Last day photos were scarce, but enjoy what I could capture:

Found this guy  before the start, zoning out on the grass, grabbing some sun.

Found this guy before the start, zoning out on the grass, grabbing some sun.

Last day startline

Last day startline

Rawly's front wheel.

Rawly’s front wheel.

Scene of the crime. Flat open road.

Scene of the crime. Flat open road.

The man of the moment, with the broken collarbone.

The man of the moment, with the broken collarbone.

Finish line feet.

Finish line feet.

Rider 59 has left the building.

Rider 59 has left the building.

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