There are days in the world that stands out from others. The magnitude of an event, for instance, that just blew your mind. One of the primary reasons I wanted to ride Joberg2c was this day – the one with the drop off the escarpment, the perfect combination of single track, dirt road hauling and steep technical climbing.
Did it deliver?
The answer is a resounding yes. Today was perhaps the best day of mountain biking I have ever had the privilege of riding. My trashed legs from a day ago held out much better today as I took a more conservative start to the day, opting for a game of Pacman towards the end.
We woke up to crisp, fresh air. It was certainly not as cold as yesterday and with 120km of cycling ahead, 1700m of vertical to conquer and finding a way to not blow up with 30km to go, we had a big set of tasks ahead of us for the day.
I had to be very patient with my body today after everything I put it through yesterday. I soft-pedaled the climbs in the first 15km, letting groups go, hoping they would come back to us later in the day.
Today was the turning point for two critical elements in this race;
Firstly, I fell in love with my Trek Superfly 100 and together we rode faster than I have ever ridden in single track.
Secondly, our partnership just clicked today. We rode as a team and it showed as we maintained our speed all the way to the end. The emotions that come with finishing strong are so much more powerful than just hanging on for the last 90 minutes.
I wish I could describe the scene as you crest the hill onto the Escarpment and you see the rolling views, snow-covered Drakensberg peaks in the distance and the rolling green hills of Kwa-Zulu Natal leading the way in the middle. The transition from Free State to Natal was sudden and took my breath away.
The single track that led us off the Escarpment was mind-blowing. Tight, technical and somehow, really flowing. The skill level required building it – incredible!
This led us down to the valley, where I suffered with the variance in pace (again) and I had to let the group we were with go, again. With 60km to go, they took off like there was nothing beyond the second water point except smooth downhill.
At 76km we reached water point two where I discovered the elixir of life. I was feeling tired, but like I still had plenty to give. The elixir was in the banana bread and I am sure it was the magic ingredient. I stuffed no less than 4 slices into my face and off we went to Spioenkop, the famous battleground and the toughest climb of the day.
We went past a sign that read “Slagveld” and we shared a laugh that Afrikaners sure knew how to not beat about the bush. There was a synergy in our movement now – a shared pace that suited my diesel engine as well as a flow in the single track as I hung to Nic’s wheel better than I ever had. He was having fun. I was having fun.
The enduro run was immense, requiring quite a lot of pedaling and leaving a tired, happy grimace on your face when you got to the bottom. Around the corner and voila!
There, just ahead, was the group who I dropped out of earlier.
“Amazing what happens when we are having fun.”
This comment motivated me to give a little extra as we hit 100km and there was only 20km to go. I followed Nic in the single track as tightly as I could and on the Puffadder climb, we rode without putting a foot down – his lines were exceptional and they added to my ability to bridge. At the top of the last climb – we were 30 seconds down.
I passed Nic about halfway down the climb, absolutely loving how my bike was handling and how my body was responding. The group reformed at the bottom with Pure Planet Racing setting the pace and taking us to Winterton.
We connected with some others in the group who had ridden Single Speed World Championships last year and one of them commented that they got all emotional thinking of the fallen Burry Stander riding the Skeleton Loop which we had just ridden as well. The memory of the man brought goose bumps to my entire body and a little more speed into the legs.
I could carry on about the finish from here, but really, the emotion I experienced there will stay with me all week.
We ride these races as a form of freedom. We ride them as a method of improvement. Yes, we want to do well, but the memory of Burry and his incredible impact on the South African mountain biking scene will live long.
It was the first time I was really touched by his legacy in that way and I want to take it with me to the finish in Scottborough in a few days time. He was a big supporter of Songo.info – who we are raising funds for over this week.
Get involved. Futher the change. Be the change.