Nedbank Sani2C - Beware of the Mambas
So we all know how much I love the Sani2C,last year being my first Sani extra amazingly awesome because of my then partner,Owen Botha,the Bestmed ladies Team Manager but also a ridiculously talented single track rider from his past -racing BMX's!
This year was to be different,I had a female partner by the name of Hlubi Mboya, a spirit I fell inlove with on one of their training rides leading up to her Epic.. All this meant was, I was going to suffer.. Lots.. considering I was nowhere near as fit as she was post epic but with her being new to mtb'ing, I would hate for her to have only known Epic when Sani is just.. Worlds apart.. She said yes and before we knew it we were off to Underberg!
Our rush out of Joburg was symbolic of what the next few days had in store for us - we left JHB round 1.30pm due to work constraints,arriving in Underberg just before 9pm.. What a drive.. Dinner org'd by Owen who was riding with another friend of his and off to our home for the night..some shut eye.. Wake.. Laze.. Breakfast..work..hand in tubs to Supergroup trucks and before we knew it.. It was 8.55am and we still hadn't handed the car keys in for the shuttle service.. Gloves in mouth..water,panic..make it to our batch just in time to wave at Owen and Jesse as Doug bid our batch off.. it was 9am! Oh boy!
We had decided to sit with Owen and his partner which we did till wp1.. We were pushing quite a bit with Owen leading the pace ,this days a blur to me.. Beautiful dual single track.. Butterfly waking floating bridge,Owen wondering why the hell my tools were all so heavy.. More beautiful trails..climbs..forests... The long climb to wp2 starting on normal ground then grass..it felt like forever.. Wp2.. Mass eating.. Legs squirming ...biiiig climb.. another Big climb..rolling hills.. Speedbumps.. Airborne tricks.. Giggles.. Cows.. More rolling climbs.. Top of the climb that had me speaking fluent French was the finish.. And I'd felt the day proper... i do still wonder why we have to be taxed so high for waterpoints.. if there's a waterpoint coming, you can bet your little toe there's taxes to be paid - a climb.. I cant complain though..5km to wp sign, climb or no climb there's a 6th gear that magically appears..**!
Super M's.. Shower.. Kos.. Connecting.. Dinner time.. My first ever Kelvin Trautman pic.. Happy as whipped cream on strawberries, sleep.
This day has always been a reminder that you you gotta keep moving.. Day 2 is known for its amazing drop into the Umkomaas Valley.. Somehow... It's not all downhill but point is.. I don't think you'll ever see anything more beautiful than the moment when you come round a bend and the whole Umkomaas Valley opens up infront of you.. Green.. Lush.. Carpeted mountains.. Lush trees.. The valley at the bottom.. Picturesque doesn't do justice.. It's God defined.. When words fail and all you know is awe.. As the heart threatens to start the water works.. It's a moment I'll never forget.. We rode along this beauty for Km's... I've said this before.. There's no seeing such beauty ... This magical place where the normal world ceases to exist as you are enchanted without paying for it.. With all you have..
More amazing single track,I getting caught with my pants down as I took a tumble around one of the bends.. It was funny.. The more I tried to get out..the deeper I fell in.. Oh boy.. Pants down proper.. Till this gent asked me to stop moving so much so he could help.. I passed him #PrincessPinarello then twas my turn.. The man (Guardian angel #1) pulled me out the whole without flinching.. Moment of silence.. His name was Gerald.. Big and strong..perhaps when you're almost a midget.. Everyone is tall and strong looking but we know he was strong because we know I'm not light :) pulling my pants up, I jumped on my steed as he begged me to wait and collect myself.. No such luck as I chased behind his wheel.. More beautiful single track .. Wp1.. The day was only about to start for us.
The fist 40km's had been.. Out of this world.. The next 35km's were to be war..blood and all sorts.. The word of the day was #Qhubeka (carry on/keep going) ... About 3kms in we heard a sound no one wants to hear..as I looked back.. Hlubi's chain had snapped.. In panic I hoped someone would stop to help cause me having a chain link and attempting this would have not been pleasant.. As this cyclist stopped, Okkie was his name.. Guardian angel #2 ..'would you girls like some help' he asked.. Yes please.. His partner Stefan stopped as well, my little Afrikaans understanding here came in handy as they spoke hardly any English and I piped in for everything I understood.After an eternity we had fitted the link but it just wouldn't sit properly.. We yanked jumped and bullied Hlubi's bike but the link wasn't sitting in.. At last Okkie looking at us to say we'd have to go back to the wp for mechanical assistance,Stefan was losing it with the hundreds of people going past.. In the mental blur was the reminder that these things happen,control what you can.. Everything else the good Lord can handle.. With shoulders down and hope lost.. the link settled.. a miracle..we had fought with this link.. as we bid farewell to Okkie & Stefan, we were back on our way.. oink oink oink oink (that's how it felt..) .. we then manage a wrong turn to the left instead of going right.. off route as we about a km in see a group marching back.. Murphy sure has some humor.. I couldn't help but wonder about the Mamba stories Farmer Glen had been telling.. how would we even know what Mambas like? I knew if it were lions my partner would have been in serious danger.. did they like beef or chicken.. were they indifferent? I pondered, I knew we couldn't be alone.. just incase the Mambas got hungry and Hlubi and I were the only cooked looking option... river crossings.. bridges.. fun stuff.. non-fun stuff then the suffering reared its ugly head somewhere there.. the climb to Nandos was just unforgivable as I stopped on the side - it had gotten very hot and I needed to have a team talk with my head.. some how the climb wasn't easier.. it hurt still as Hlubi and I both ran outta water.. with that, my head going even more into a frenzy.. so random.. as I got off the bike, an older man came past, I asked for water and he offered me out of his camelpak as he swore he hadn't drunk out it yet.. I couldn't have cared as I gulped mass sips out the tit.. the difference as I apologetically thanked the man, got on my steed and rode to Nandos.. bless him, Guardian Angel #3.
Wp2.. Water.. chicken & hot sauce.. bananas.. bananas.. mass descend.. Push of a climb, the insanely frustrating grass part... then we were home free.. the suffering was over!! The wind had picked up but I didn't care the climbs were done!! Head right, and somehow some strength had returned to my legs as we went through single track.. beautiful rolling hills.. my body was remembering strength.. it was amazing to watch as Hlubi asked what had happened.. perhaps it was a... fear.. of the climbs.. and once they were done came calm.. calm came with legs.. I don't care - all I know is I felt good and it was home time.. last wp as i manned the dates on the table..more magical forest climbs, happy heart and before we knew it.. the finish.. what a day it had been! Hlubi had been super supportive, our partnership had grown... boxes..tent..shower.. food... wine for the pain.. more wine for the pain..sleep :)
The most amazing I felt was day 3.. as Hlubi and i chatted bout the last day the night before.. I realized it was a blur from last year.. all I remembered was a fast start, wind.. Owen driving a very fast paced leg train as I was pulled like a wool rag doll.. uphill single track.. dizzy.. finish.. hmm.. would today be different?
As had been the norm, Hlubi and I woke nice and early and... before we knew it..were running late.. we got to our batch as they were taking off.. I rode to the first wp with gloves off.. its official, we're special!
The start had been fast and flowing, some awesome saves and lots of giggles.. the beautiful forest climbs.. I felt good.. I needed today.. more beautiful track, somewhere from leaving wp 1 we came across Steves partner #Guardian Angels #4.. the wind had picked up, if I'd learnt anything from last year from Owen, twas to conserve energy and jump a train, get dizzy but don't let go.. he asked if we wanted to sit his slip.. those words sounded very similar to 'let's go shopping for a bike' .. in glee I told Hlubi the strat as we sat behind Steves partners legs, strong and consistent, a very good shield from the wind too, wrong turn by us 2 and Steve and his partner were gone as I asked Hlubi to hide behind to see if we could catch our train again..the wind was insisting on being acknowledged, we only found them at Wp2 but while we were chatting non stop, they left..sigh.. amazing ride as my partner QOM'd every climb, what a machine! We chopped to the finish and somehow the last bit of single track along the freeway was the saddening reminder that it was all almost done.. I wasn't ready to let it all go as we came out onto a climb.. seeing the last of the lush mountains and spotting the sea from afar.. one last bit of single track and we were on the bridge to the finish.. through the finish line a moment like no other..I'd lived through years in 3 days.. what an adventure!
On our ride on Saturday I found myself smiling.. the last day was all I needed to find self again.. growth comes through pain.. you appreciate something more after you've worked for it.. hard too.. I remember 'skrik vir niks' from one of the guys referring to our descending.. and 'you girls are inspiring to watch'... the ladies at the villages as we came past..them seeing something very different.. black girls on bikes.. they gawked and whispered 'hawema.. umuntu.. abantu base khaya' in translation. ' Oh my God.. its a person, its one of our people'.. the possibility to inspire sometimes just is, sometimes its trying to stay on the bike just a little longer on a climb not only for yourself, but to inspire those behind you to try.. mtb'ing reminds you of a lot of things that we forget as we go back to our normal lives.. sharing is caring (even if you gotta suck life from a foreign tit).. you're only as strong as the weaker partner, your handling of the weaker saying alot about your inner.. team work is not a 1day game, no one wants to finish alone... till next year Sani.. heaven bless the arms that saw those trails to completion.. Pure. Art.
Ps.. apologies to the 2 Nedbank girls I almost swiped..eek.. and anyone else who didn't appreciate my asking for track.. perhaps its part of the fun and games -I mean well I promise**! :) Gerald, Okkie, Stefan and GA #4.. we owe you guys biig time!
Thanks to Team Bestmed ASG for making this amazing race happen for myself and Hlubi.. I forgot to put on Shammy Cream on day 3.. heaven bless Ftech kit.. that chamois sits above the rest (no chafing).. Rudy Project.. with my gunslinger trail riding tendencies.. my photochromic lenses are beyond a necessity as I strive to push my technical limits! ... and #PrincessPinarello.. my beast♥