The Experience in 2016

Friday morning , topped up my little Polotjie with fuel and set out a course using a GPS to a place I’ve never been before … Bergville , what was set out to be an amazing weekend in the mountains , far far away from human civilization and the deafening sounds of city cars and busses. The trip was filled with what one could call “scenic routes” , from the off ramp heading to Harrismith and the overberg pass leading up to the AllOut Adventures route. Words alone cannot describe the beauty one experienced on the route , the vendors with figurines and foreign tourists constantly nagging to have a photo of them taken. 

Now , back to the story at hand; as I checked in at Mont Aux Sources the Friday of June 24th 2016 I couldn’t help but panic , panic as to what I had set myself to do or to accomplish … then it hit me. I had never done a stage race before , nor were my legs ready for what was about to come to them on the treacherous weekend of Ride The Berg. As I laid in bed contemplating on not starting the Saturday ahead of me , I called a friend letting them know I had safely arrived at my destination (Mont Aux Sources) , without doubt I let her know I couldn’t start because of a stomach bug crippling me and possibly affecting my riding the day ahead. Soon as the discussions were turning up she intently let me know that I should start regardless of my health so I could get a taste of my money’s worth , convincing me like she always does I agreed to be at the starting line. Sleep , goodnight it went and so The Sandman took me to the land of no pain at all. 

I remember chime by chime as my alarm went off at 04:45 with my arm reaching for it to turn the bloody thing off. After I had turned the alarm off I knew what I had in store for me on that fateful Saturday morning. I , quarterly asleep , walked towards the balcony to check on how my 26 inch hardtail Bianchi bike slept outside in the super cold weather. She was indeed cold and shivering , so I wrapped her up with a blanket and lubed her chain hoping she would warm up and deliver good results for me as I had bestowed all my trust and faith on her. After that was done , I walked back in and took a shower and got myself dressed in full amour and steadily walked to the restaurant to have what some may call “the last meal” before a giant leap. After breakfast was had , I steadily walked back to my room and started to have a word with my bike letting her know she shouldn’t let me down and carry me across the line of the first day. She gladly sailed with me back to the car , onto the back carrier and off we went to AllOut Adventures …
Cold breeze had me looking for warmth , lots of people on bikes warming up , sounds of derreileurs shifting up and down , the click of cleats onto pedals , the smell of brewing coffee , the screams of children from the zip lines , the warm smiles of the officials , the sound of cable ties locking the boards on the frames … oh I felt like I was in Heaven as I walked to the race desk to collect my number board. There it was , 511 , the magic five eleven , my virginity of stage racing was about to be broken , and happy I was. Went back to the bike and mounted my number 511 onto my handlebars , shaking and nervous , batched in C , the social bunch. 

I undressed to my lycra and wore my Ride The Berg shirt that I had bought and clipped on my helmet as I rode to the starting bunch to say but hello to fellow riders. As I pushed into my batch , I was purely welcomed with nothing but smiles , as if they could tell I was nervous and panicking to the core. Chris gave a quick speech without me hearing a single word he mumbled out his mouth , and all of a sudden a gun went off and the A Batch snakes went off with their full might! Again , Chris uttered some words , well apparently jokes which everyone giggled and laughed at and I never did and again the gun went off and the B Batch goats went off … now as we sailed to the starting line , Chris looked at me and again mumbled some words which I agreed to without knowing what he had said to me and laughed. I could clearly remember the countdown from 3 , with some few jokes in between , 2 and then 1 poof!! Myself and other bikers were off and there it was , my virginity of stage racing was broken. With little to nothing knowledge of the trail I set out with the front pack to be ahead and show everyone that I too am part of the pack. Crossed the tar onto the lekker downhill that set ahead and pinned it very beautifully before the Tugela River. Sweet berms , beautifully trimmed and manicured trails … awesome smiles all around … well , such fun I am having , not as much of a challenge this would be I thought to myself.

The long and straight and flat route made me think of pushing up a tempo and so I did but without knowledge of the trail I was murdering myself and depleting myself before the halfway point. Came the first climb … blonkers! Cramp! Ouch! Ouch! Ouch! I stopped with solid as rock legs , unable to turn my cranks no more! Rider by rider passing me as I tried to unwork the cramps. Slowly I climbed up , riders which I passed passing me as if I was standing still , until an old toppie with an orange reflective jacket stopped behind me. We uttered a few words , but I recall telling him I was suffering and cramping 20kilos into the race and being the great sweeper he was he cheered me on and boosted my confidence to carry on without abandoning the race midway. I suddenly carried myself and miraculously my cramps had disappeared into obscurity and my spitfire legs were firing! Charging I was , until again … boom!! Cramps! Ouch! Ouch! Ouch! Took it slowly again and once again the sweeper caught up … with smiles on his face. Telling me he will stay with me all the way to the finish line or where I choose to abandon whichever came first. I remember very well starting not to focus on my state of health and legs and now looking around me at the breathtaking scenery and mountain side and the overhead view of the Tugela River. Majestic as the river sounded under complete silence and birds chirping ahead , brilliant conversations with the sweeper also. Riding at my pace , not rushing me into anything nor rushing me to kick up the tempo. We rode , commenting on such breathtaking view and the type of trails were going on. We formerly stopped and introduced each other , a friendly old man reached his right hand to me and politely said “Hi , my name is Johan” and I politely returned “Hi Johan , name is Malose and it is a pleasure to meet you and I hope to ride with you all the way to the finish , if you’re okay with it” . He politely agreed noting to me that there was no rush to the finish line and he would stay on course with me as long as I finish. 

We rode , steady and gentle pace absorbing the mountains and tranquility from the surrounding. With the first water station passed and climbing passed the school children cheering at us. We still chatted and I continued cramping all the way to the second water station where I decided to forfeit the race after not overcoming my cramping issue. Johan shook my hand with tons of respect as this being my first stage race ever! The kind ladies on the mountain at the water station offered me some anti cramping dissolvable pills to eliminate the pain and attempt to finish the race. Her remedy had worked as I was able to continue the beautiful downhill that continued , again catching up to Johan only to overtake him on the downhill and like always … cheering me on. Navigating the downhill through its rocks and tricky berms I was dropping down like a descendant of Greg Minnaar until a loose rock decided to take my downhill glory and throw it down the drain. Just to note , it was the most slowest 15 – 20 seconds in my life , rolling , dust , rocks flying all over and blood. 

Dusted myself and noticed I had gashed myself on the right leg and was kinda bleeding , not bleeding bleeding , but okay bleeding with a very painful hip. I stood up and went to my bike and straightened up my handle bars waited for the hot dust to clear. Johan eventually caught up and asked if all was well and I noted to him that I’m bleeding and was in pain. He made a call to race station alerting them of my situation ; because of where we were only the medic bike could reach me to apply some bandage and plasters and had to descend some more to atleast he shuttled out to get help. I fought as hard as I could descending to a point where I could be picked up. Soon as I got to the main road … a black Nissan Navara came to me and assisted me inside back to the medical station to get some medical help. Then I knew that my dreams of conquering this Berg was all but history , getting out the car and limping to the medics I then realized that I couldn’t make it to the start on Sunday and it had come to my attention that I didn’t finish on Saturday. A teardrop suddenly turned to waterfalls knowing I didn’t finish what I had started. My heart wanted to get to the start on Sunday but my hip and leg wound wouldn’t allow me to and I left the AllOut Adventures with nothing but sadness in my heart but with a sense of knowing I had experienced opulent scenes and remarkable people , with lots of smiles and a very kind and humble Johan who had said he came from the same hometown as me , Pretoria. I limped back to my car while pushing my also crippled bike in defeat and made a promise to come back the year after , better , stronger and fit! And not to ride with the backmarkers again! 

To summarize , it was a shi**y day on the saddle but the breathtaking views made it all worthwhile. The weekend away was one I was gonna make the year after. I still have the number board framed in my bedroom to remind me of a memorable time in 2016 and a goal I had set myself to achieve. A beer in pain also eased the pain a bit hahahahaha. 

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