Archive for April 2009
Having been the Spur ambassador for the exciting Spur Adventure Charity Challenge series, I was thrilled my athletes were going to experience the final event at Shongweni Dam just outside Durban. With four ‘Change a Life’ teams entered, there was sure to be loads of post-race war stories as all but two of the guys were riding a bike under race pressure for the first time in their lives.
The race started with a steep climb on the bike leg with the occasional soft sandy sections, which maxed the heart rate as we had to push our bikes.
Still novices on the single track, Nhlanhla, Thomas, Eric and Richard had classic wipeouts but fortunately were able to dust themselves off and continue with all cylinders firing. There after the run took us up a leg burning trail to the top of a koppie. It was here that Thomas and Nhlanhla made their move into first position- easy for them- like running Burma Hill without a canoe. After a rocky riverbed scramble nearing the finish, the leading ‘Change a Life’ team lost the trail, opening a window for the chasing team to take the lead.
With 500m to go and a 100m rope-assisted water crossing, it was too short a time for their costly mistake to be reversed and they graciously crossed the line in second place, followed closely by Lucas and Eric in third. Richard and Zonele finished fifth, with Kwanda and Mkhonzeni sneaking into the top ten just ahead of myself and my partner, ‘uber’ athlete, Jeremy Maarschalk, considering he is only U/13.
First, second and third teams approaching finish
Jeremy apologized repeatedly for holding me up on the trail run, but I insisted he please not say it again because in four years I am sure I will be bleating for him to slow down for me. We had a lot of fun.
RAIN DRENCHED MART & SONGO AT THE FINISH
It was lekker to team up with Songo once again in the Spur Adventure Charity Challenge at Lourensford Wine Estate this past weekend. Compared to last year, Songo is now an uber athlete- having conquered the Absa Cape Epic Mtb race and fresh from a sub 1hr 30min Two Oceans Half Marathon. Songo is of fame from “Team Songo Info”. The team that World Mtb Champion Christof Sauser and SA’s Burry Stander raced for in the Absa Cape Epic Cycle.
Songo does an incredible job running a development program in Kyamandi settlement on the outskirts of Stellenbosch. He says that most kids in Kyamandi get up to no good, doing drugs and thieving activities. However those exposed to his program have entered a whole new world. They have embraced the challenge of learning a new skill and are not afraid of hard training, plus they have come ‘clean’. I marvel at what he is doing, giving these disadvantaged kids a headstart in life – indirectly teaching life skills like goal setting, discipline, focus and showing that hard work pays off. Funds have built a BMX track to challenge the younger ones and he has Mtb’ing for the older children. Hats off to you Songo.
Also on the weekend, I witnessed the Xterra SA Champs at the Elgin Country club – Grabouw. A tough event consisting of a 1.5km swim, 26km technical mtb and a 12km trail run.
Lieuwe Boonstra, Felix Schumann and Kent Horner came out the swim in front; thereafter Boonstra went into the lead and was never overtaken but crossed the finish line in second position behind Schumann. The race organizers admitted an error on their part with regard to course markings on the run leg and so declared a tie for first and second place. Pre-race favourite Carla Germishuys (won the Albert falls Xterra 2 weeks ago) struggled on the technical course to finish a disappointing third. Jeannie Bomford was the first South African home but finished second to Austrian, Carina Wasle – previous European Xterra Champion. Olympian triathlete Marie Rabie only did the swim for a team as she is nursing a fracture in her foot.
Down in the Valley of a Thousand Hills, the Dusi Boys are gearing up for the next Spur Adventure Charity Challenge at Shongweni Dam – KZN this coming wekend. Then riding the Juicy Luicy Mtb race the following day. Their first race on two wheels.
Richard and Mkhonzeni exploring new track, on an early morning ride.
Well, one thing you can’t avoid while cycling in the Valley of a Thousand Hills is hills. Them bike chains leap from granny gear to the big ring and back as often as the second hand passes twelve. Watching them work their way along the horizontal part of the exponential learning curve is entertaining. Stiff bodied negotiating bumps and holes, standing far too much on the hills… Another week of ‘free riding’ then cycling lesson 101 begins.
Nhlanhla negotiating a mnt road (river left of the Umgeni River)
Crazy fast climb, 40seconds after start.
The UCI Mtb World Cup here in Maritzburg was quite the spectacle. In the 7 lap (4.8km) Cross Country event, Burry Stander had the race of his life when he tailed Olympic gold medalist, Julien Absalon (France) to finish third overall. Jose Hermida (Spain) took line honours. Christof Sauser (Swiss), last years world champion finished fourth. Seeing was believing in regard to their immense power on the climbs and technical skill on the downhill.
Julien Absalom-2nd, Jose Hermida-1st, Burry Stander-3rd
The 2.8km Mtb Downhill was a white knuckled adrenalin extravaganza, not for the faint hearted. These guys might as well not have brakes on their bikes with the breakneck speeds they negotiate the big-air jumps, tight corners and radical drop-offs. Maritzburg’s very own Greg Minaar smoked the highly competitive field, winning in a time of 3min 43sec. Yes I’m sure hometown advantage of the course played its part but Greg had to deal with immense pressure from the media and public beforehand. So much so, he went undercover, checking into a B&B and letting his Dad drive his branded vehicle.
Cape Point in the background
Elsie’s Peak at sunrise
pictures courtesy of www.jacquesmarais.co.za
Change of subject…
Training for multisport in the Valley of a Thousand Hills is still very much in its infancy stage. Five valley boys have received Mountain Bikes todate. Their next race is the Spur Adventure Race at Shongweni Dam on the 25th of this month. It includes a 5km trail run and then a 16km mtb. The following day will see them take on the Juicy Lucy mountain race. I took part in this magnificently scenic, well marked route last year. Traversing through the Gwahumbe Game Reserve was the highlight. When the farmers get involved, its always a success, nothing compares to their warm hospitality. I reckon it’s the perfect mtb race for these guys to take on as their first cycling challenge. Craig McKenzie has kindly offered to accommodate the boys the night before, close to the race venue.
As I did with the Dusi Program, equipment (bicycles) has to be earned and only once athletes have shown commitment and a willingness to work hard, will they be part of this next Challenge. Five more bikes are waiting for new owners…..