Trying to describe the emotions of a race like Sani2C would be impossible just in words, no matter how good your lyrical skills are. The race is a beaut, lived up to more than what I expected and I will be back, year after year.
It was a test on so many levels for the Multisport Team element of Team Fairbairn Private Bank. My partner turned out to be a beast, more than I ever remember. I turned out to be hugely impressed with our team morale and even impressed myself a little, which I am quite stoked about. To grasp what happened, we need to go back a few steps, to August last year. I was fat, unfit and wanted to revamp my riding. I was a strong triathlete, but probably the weakest cyclist in my peer group.
I was determined to change this, and went on a new program, a new outlook, a new body type, etc. I went all in on the biking. I committed to multisport events, which were new to me, and to pure mountain biking events, which was weird considering that until November, 3 months later, I would not ride a mountain bike.
Events went well until now (barring Xterra), and I was pleased but not really sure how I would go against the pure MTB’ers, who are world class in this country.
The start of Day 1 was a nervous one, and reconfirmed that I take a while to warm up, something I need to work on for next season. Our first 30min on each day were spent with Brett looking back at me and me internally shouting at my body to go faster. After 30min we were in about 40th team overall, but we were catching guys continuously, slowly, with purpose.
The technical sections at Sani are totally unlike the Cape and are smooth and fast. I went through a particularly tough patch from 40-50km in the day. When I came right I wanted to go go go, and totally miscalculated a really tough corner, and paid for it in the worst way. At roughly 50km/h, I went down onto my left hip and shoulder, knocked my wind out completely and left me with an instant thought of “what the hell have I just done”. I slowly got up and back onto the bike, but the entire left side of my body was locked up and my hip hurt like hell. I was SO SO mad at myself. I had put the entire experience at risk, put my partner at risk too, all for a few seconds on a sharp downhill. Total talent failure.
The adrenaline of the fall ran out and I was left with a slight hunger knock of sorts, but moved on, Brett having to push a little on the hills for me. I remember going up this huge climb, thinking that it has to be the last hill. It was misty, muddy and I was tired. I even confirmed my case with a team we had caught, but as I said it, the actual climb marker was noted, and we had 2km of hills to go. You can tell by my face here that I am glad that day 1 was over. I was sore, tired, hungry, but happy. We were told top 20, which I could almost not believe.
I hobbled around, got my hip checked out, and struggled to sleep into day 2. I woke up worried as the day promised to be longer, muddier and with twice the climbing of day 1, with a hip I could hardly stand on. I put my game face on, sucked up the first 30min, consolidated our position and tried to repeat our efforts of day 1.
The first hour was spent going 50km/h down a long hill in the rain, with mud pouring into your eyes, other riders switching track all the time, reconnecting with God to confirm you would make it out of this and calling for your partner as everyone looked the same at this point, with our kit being totally covered in soft, slick mud.
By halfway we were finding our engines to be running hot and the Nandos stop was great. The walk around trying to fix Brett’s gears was hard on the hip and I seemed to lose some power after this. My engine felt stronger, but the variable power coming from left and right hips was a disappointment of note, as we lost a few places from there towards the end.
Convinced we had lost quite a few spots, I was amazed that we made it to 20th overall again. I got my hip treated, my eyes flushed and a massage to help the cause. My back was now totally locked up from the effort of stabilizing the bike with my hips and I lay down for quite a bit of the afternoon. I was determined to have a better day 3.
We were prepared to race hard at the start of day 3 and I was committed to going beyond my usual slow start, and 83km/h through a muddy downhill confirmed just how committed the entire bunch was for this. Great day however and we were smoking it with no technical issues, riding in a group of guys who had beaten us on each day. My hip felt about 50% better than the previous day and I was over the moon to get an 18th on the day and an 18th overall. We had a few laughs on day 3 and were quite disappointed to be done, finally seeming to settle into a groove, which boats well for Cape Epic in only 13 days time.
The organization cannot be praised enough, the local commitment from farmers applauded loudly enough and the passion of the riders for riding shouted from the rooftops enough.
A great adventure, which has given me huge energy for the next few weeks, which are set to drain it totally. On a personal level I cannot thank my partner Brett enough for being patient at the start of each day, putting up with a sub par Ninja on day 2 and making the experience one to never forget.
A few notes:
1. Our Morewood bikes were incredible. Seriously. WOW.
2. Our nutrition from Whasp and Sport-X, also perfect.
3. To our support crew in Biosport, thanks for looking after my broken body.
4. To our pro cycling team, well done on finishing 11th. You hung tough boys!
5. Rockets compression rocked our recovery. Slept in them every night.
6. Continental tires are the bomb!
7. It should be noted that we had zero punctures between 6 of us. Thank you Sludge!
That’s it. Time to get back to the real world. Mad love.