“Hey Dude, lets head for a quick beer to ease into the evening.”
“No thanks, I’m just going to chill here.”
It was the first serious sign that something was way off. A Lamond never passes on a beer and never greets a woman with a handshake. If one of those two are off, you know shits about to get very dark.
I had to wear earphones in the night to sleep. His coughing and spluttering volumes were high. I knew that as soon as the alarm went off, the day would start in an off way.
“This throat is not good.”
Roughly translated, in Lamond, this means that life has ceased to exist in his throat and that the pain level is an 11 out of 10. “Not good” in Lamond means hospital time. They breed these studs with a high tolerance to pain and a high aptitude for problem solving.
He was keen to race, but knew he would be off his best. I offered to let him skip the day, as any good partner should, but also only brought it up once, as a good partner should. It would be a day of true partnership.
We were right there at 20km in, going up Sneeuberg Pass. My legs seemed to have returned today and as a little natural break formed near the front, I was in the top 8 and comfortable. Nic was just off, the intensity too much for his weary system, fighting for health rather than podiums.
I dropped back and gave him a manly shove to get him back into a small group and we nursed it over the top with the group to the water point, where we let them go. It was my time to behave as a metronome, setting the perfect, manageable pace for the day.
Words of encouragement were thrown around like rag dolls and we tried to focus on the scenery, the trails and really anything except his throat, which was on fire. He was coughing up oyster-sized, lumo colored chunks of phlegm from time to time, so really we needed to keep the intensity steady and avoid any real efforts.
The second climb of the day was a beauty, but tough on our progress as it required a change in pace or position on the bike every 10 seconds or so. A loose, rutted piece of trail that I will not forget in a while and one that climbed 600m into the sky before getting to water point two.
From thereon in, we nursed it. We had some fun down Face Plantation (where others broke legs, arms and faces today it seems from the stories I have heard) and I have to admit, I am flat out in love with my new bike. On full descend mode, there isn’t much I am scared of anymore. I am bridging groups on the downhill rather than losing time between them. Clearly, its all about the bike.
Once in our set up for the evening in Underberg we have taken every move towards Nic’s health – medical tent visits, sleep, massage, good food. We can only hope, as a team, that his health improves overnight as tomorrow we essentially start Sani2c, a daunting task on its own, never mind after 6 days of hard riding already.
I was immensely proud to be his partner today and when you come to these races, partnership is such a huge element to the week. We do everything together here and when one of us is in the dumps, the other has to be 100% focused on getting the other partner healthy / mended.
Thank you to all those who have gotten in touch regarding our fund raising efforts. I will return messages soon – my priority today is currently snoozing in the tent here and when he wakes I need to make sure he has everything he needs.