May 31, 2012

Sani2c Report

This report comes off the Sani2c blog, which I also write. Find it here

It’s 10am, on Wednesday morning. I am in the SLOW Lounge at Cape Town International airport with 5 other excited guys, all racing under the Pure Planet Racing banner. We are departing for Sani2c and our bags are checked in, our kit is ready and our bikes are waiting in Underberg.

The banter has begun and the race between the lot of us will be contested almost as fiercely as the race for the overall prize, dominated this year by Team 360Life.

We know that what awaits us is 3 days of the best riding, the best hospitality and the best goodie bag on the race calendar. We know that our social sessions in the evenings with BoE Private Clients will be as hotly contested as the race. We race hard, but we play hard too.

By 3pm, we are now 8 guys in the car, heading towards Underberg, carpooling like champions, but traveling light – Mango has left not one, but all our bags in Cape Town. The banter is now at professional levels and the mood is superb, despite the obvious fact that we have 2 helmets and 3 sets of cycling shoes between us.

It’s 11:30pm and we are sleeping outside Underberg school, the truck has just rolled in. Our heads are a little weary from all the red wine, but we are happy to see our kit. By 12:30am, we are asleep, gear ready for our 4am wake-up call. This is not ideal, but thankfully, we are here for the experience. We rise to a hearty breakfast, one last drive together to the start where our bikes are ready and where we drop the famous black plastic boxes off. It’s very, very cold.

Before I know it, we are 10minutes into the race and I cannot find my partner. Is he ahead or behind? I opt to wait for him, but it’s the wrong decision. Eventually I hammer to find him and he is waiting for me next to the side of the road. I know it’ll be a long day of chasing so we get right into it. The single track riding and the floating bridge stand out. The water tables are amazingly cheerful and the scenery is incredible – frosted roads in the first hour was something new to me.

That last hill up to Mackenzie Club… #pain

We manage 35th overall on a long day of chasing and within shooting distance of our other teams. We shower, clean ourselves and head for heaven, otherwise known as the food tent. Banana bread is being consumed in biblical quantities and war stories are being spread far and wide. A sleep is in order after last night’s delays and for 2 hours, I am dead to the world. I wake up to a tent camp buzzing with life. Sani2c is alive and people have had a superb day.

A massage, more food and some serious banter later, it’s time to mingle with clients of BoE Private Clients and we find ourselves discussing a plethora of topics ranging from tyre pressure to safely buying the right stocks. The Facebook IPO is a hot topic, but the tent beckons with promises of warm food, double dessert and a sleep before the big day tomorrow.

There is a nervous energy around the camp in the morning. To define day 2, its best to say it’s the best 40km of your life followed by possibly the worst 50km. The weather is perfect as we make our way down the famous descent into the Umkomaas Valley. I almost stop by bike when we get to “WOW” and for a moment, I see my grandfather and know he would have appreciated this place.

The descent is fast, furious and just wow. Like a highway in parts, I have never descended that fast in my life. The flat section tracking the river at the bottom is much smoother this year and we are flying along until I feel the tell-tale sponginess in my back tyre.

I have a flat. A nice long slice in the sidewall that will require a tube and require me to ride with a super hard back tyre for the last 55km of the day on a day when all energy saving is valuable.
We are making good progress, passing teams here and there, but at about 75km my back is tired. My legs are tired. My head is tired. Day 2 has me in its grip and is about to twist a little tighter when we see the Lamond brothers up ahead of us, not more than a minute. There is 5km to go and we decide to see if we can catch them. They cross the line 66 seconds ahead of us and its cheers, back pats and war stories immediately. All the teams have had it rough out there. Day 2 is just not easy, not ever, which is great because this is a ride you earn.

We eat and eat and eat. There is a superb nap and a massage in there too. Celebrations at the BoE Private Clients area start early, it seems the guys want to share their days with everyone. The banter moves to dinner as we move along as a big group, some new friends made during the evening’s festivities, to the famous steaks of night 2. I sneak in seconds, I won’t lie. The steak is superb. The sleep I experience that night among the orchards compares to any of the best I have ever experienced. I have forgotten the world and am immersed 100% in the world of Sani2c.

Glen and his team of staff, volunteers and helpers deserve their own blog post and we will get to that, but right now I need to thank them all for looking after all of us, across 3 races, so perfectly. I know they do it for an amazing cause, but they go beyond that, every single time. I try to call everyone by their names, thank them for every drink, snack or plate of food I am consuming and want to send another thank you to every single person who looks after us on this trip. World class are two words which are served up too often and the team around Sani2c embody the original meaning.

Day 3 is the rush to the coast. Fast, furious and nervous are probably the 3 best words to describe the first hour. Dustbowls, crashes and many wobbly moments as we make our way through the cane fields towards the coast. My legs are superb and we are dragging a group along for the first 40km of the day, until most of them finally break and we lose all but 3 teams. The work we put in shows on Heart Rate Hill as we lose those 3 teams but at the top of the hill I see we still have a minute on the following pack and I vow to bury myself to get through to the finish without them.
We hammer that last 12km to the finish. When we hit the tar road, once over the bridge, we give ourselves the space to enjoy the last few minutes and high five the spectators, each other and congratulate ourselves on a superb day. 22nd we cross the finish line. Not bad for two guys who are not in the best form of their lives. We finished 19th two years ago, being in much better condition.

The wine is flowing and the conversation is close on singing at the BoE Private Clients hospitality area. We are completely relaxed, utterly distracted from our normal lives and wishing there was another day to ride. The weather has been perfect, the trails have been the fastest we have ever experienced and we have been spoilt by all the sponsors of the race.
How do we go back to our lives?

Life has a knack of giving us opportunities. Sani2c, presented by BoE Private Clients, is one of those. We ride in support of amazing causes, but we also ride because it’s the best trail, the best hospitality and the best weekend of the year. A big, no – HUGE thank you to all the sponsors who make it possible. We are planning for next year already.

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