I didn’t write yesterday because I feared a backlash and didn’t want to appear to be hanging up the towel until I was able to really do what I do best… recover.
Stage 8 was radical in every sense. Long, winding, tough, single track climbs. A 30km 2% ascent from 46-76km in thirty degree weather added to the mix as well as a new 8km longer approach to the Umkomaas descent provided enough ammo to hurt on a good day.
Team Pure Planet Racing woke up with dual chesty coughs and to keep the body guessing I had slept 11 hours to try and break a rising fever I had. It seemed ok, but not gone, so we ventured off into the Umko valley – the famed descent that is the crux of Sani2c.
The new approach hurt as nobody was sure where it would end and nobody wanted to give up space in the line as you may end up behind a slow descender. Nic tore off the line as he wanted to rail the Red Bull section midway down the descent and I gingerly made my way across, hoping it would let up sooner than later.
The descent is just indescribable. For about 20km you hardly have to pedal as you ride the perfect single track down into one of the most beautiful valleys in the world.
I should just stop there, while I am ahead, and that was possibly the plan – check body stats at 38km and call it. I felt great at 38km so tried to soft pedal out of the valley and when the first water point hit at 44km, I was still smiling.
The next 30km slowly but surely twisted me inside out and left the soft squishy bits showing, those that don’t like sun, soil or the searing back pain that was starting to creep into my world.
Properly struggling as we hit WP 2, I doused my head (which was steaming I’m sure) in a bucket and tried to cool the core down. The last 30km are a bit of a blur. I merely turned pedals. I kept thinking about the money we had raised and just making it through the day.
Obligation came to mind. It was a good motivator.
Five and a half hours later, we were back in the athlete village where every 2nd person was coughing up oysters or dealing with a bad tummy. War zone would be the best description.
The doctor took my vitals and gave me a firm talking to, so I will spare you the numbers and just say that I slept most of the afternoon and spent the rest of the time trying to cool my core down as my fever was raging.
In bed at 7:30 and around 1am, I woke up soaked but without the tell-tale fever signs. It was a positive, so I changed jackets and attempted to do the same again ie sweat myself out. By 5am I was awake and ready for the day.
My mission was simple.
No matter how long it took. Somehow, we were still in the top 50 teams so we were off in A batch. I immediately manned the rear and basically had the first 20km of the day entirely to myself as I dropped off the back to avoid the dust and then just soft pedaled till the first B batch dudes came tearing through.
I soft pedaled some more to water point 1, where I had a chat with some people and thanked every single person for their care and attention. Again, I soft pedaled to water point two, where more thanks and appreciation were the order of the day. Big love for the volunteers.
Just before water point two, disaster struck as we came around a corner to find a stationary vehicle parked and a kid on the floor in total agony. The car had come up the road we were riding on and the kid had hit it flat on the bull bar at 40km/h. Nic & I had dropped out of the group to help another gent with his chain not 5min before and it sent a shiver down my spine to think it could have been one of us lying there so close to the end.
Once the situation was settled and an ambulance was on the way, we soft pedaled some more into the new section of the last day. It was a beautiful, smooth piece of single track that lasted all of around 20km. It was a beautiful ending to the big week. We rode in alone to the finish line, a treat as we coud pace ourselves and I didn’t have to hurt so bad.
Then it was over. Just like that.
Now I sit here in the airport, waiting on my flight.
Now what? We raised around R40 000 for our food gardens over the week. That is a huge success. We suffered like champions. Not a huge success in our books as we were making our way up through the field and I feel we would have cracked the top 10 by the end of today.
Now we turn our eyes to recovery before we pick a new adventure where we can use our skills and networks to benefit the larger community and create options for others.