TRIPLE CHALLENGE – 21km Run/52km MTB/18km Paddle

…and the feeling just keeps getting better…another day to witness my guys exceeding my expectations and once again (as like Dusi finish), a ‘wild’ expression of total focus turned instantly into a look of absolute elation (and an enormous white-toothed smile) on Eric Zondi’s face as he crossed the finish line of the Triple Challenge, in an amazing second place, behind the winner Dan Hugo.


I really had no idea what to expect from my team of six ‘Change a life’ guys as they lined up at 5am for the start of the Triple Challenge. Four of the boys had never completed a ‘long run’ of 21km and only Lucas had ever had a taste for an endurance multipart event before.

Although the weather looked miserable, it was a blessing in disguise, keeping the racers cool as they made their way on foot over trails from Pietermaritzburg to Camperdown, 21km away. The leading three of Eric, Thomas and Dan left the run/bike transition together. The 52km bike leg to Inanda Dam was surely going to be the podium decider? I witnessed Eric riding like a demon out in front, the 4kg lighter bike (using my Carbon Zascar GT) was adding some magic to his maiden assault on this gruelling race.

Eric managed to stick with Dan for a fair distance on the mtb leg, which got Dan a little worried as he thought if they were to reach the paddle transition together, then the race was going to be a very different battle as Eric was a top 10 Dusi man. Dan’s biking experience allowed him to open a lead on Eric and I wondered if Cas Van Aardenne or any other experienced mtb’ers would catch and pass Eric. With relief, Eric made it into the transition, refuelled by gulping down a shaker of USN Muscle Fuel and headed off onto the water with only a 100m gap to third and fourth positioned, Cas and Craig Carter-Brown.

Eric looked like a man possessed on the paddle, but my heart sank as he made a very slow exit onto the second 2km portage and the gap he had on Cas and Craig seemed to close rapidly. It was clear that Cas had the strongest legs still as he dropped Craig and put in closer to Eric. But the thought of Cash prize money and being able to contribute to the building of a house for his Gran gave Eric the ‘Vooma’ to close 2min on Dan and to maintain his second place overall.

Halfway on the bike, Thomas was coming second out of my ‘Change a Life’ guys (5th overall). Unfortunately he suffered a broken chain which he battled to fix. He watched in despair as all his team-mates passed by unable to help him. There was nothing I could do, outside assistance from me would mean disqualification. Part time Anaesthetist and Ironman athlete, Bruce Piccard stopped and gave Thomas a special chain link to solve the problem. Thanks Bruce.

Nhlanhla and Kwanda raced in each others company, working beautifully together on the paddle leg, to overtake Trevor Hellens and Carel Esterhuizen. Posting the fastest paddle time, they crossed the finish line in a very creditable 5th and 6th place.

Lucas bravely fought his way into 10th position, completing our ‘Change a Life’ goal of getting 4 in the top 10. Zonele battled with stomach cramps early on in the run (was his choice of French Polony for breakfast?).

However he crept through the field to finish 12th. A disappointed Thomas claimed 15th. He could have easily quit when the odds were against him, but that’s not in his nature.

Actually, all these Valley boys are as resilient as hell. Not having running water or electricity at home what do you expect.

Their hunger to succeed separates them from the rest.




1 DAN HUGO 01:22:31 02:04:44 01:50:36 05:17:52
2 ERIC ZONDI 01:22:30 02:16:55 01:48:22 05:27:49
3 CAS VAN AARDENNE 01:27:18 02:12:12 01:51:02 05:30:33
4 CRAIG CARTER-BROWN 01:25:31 02:15:11 01:53:02 05:33:46
5 NHLANHLA CELE 01:26:13 02:31:07 01:44:19 05:41:40
6 KWANDA MHLOPE 01:27:17 02:30:01 01:44:22 05:41:42
7 CAREL ESTERHUIZEN 01:30:11 02:25:46 01:47:07 05:43:05
8 TREVOR HELLENS 01:32:19 02:22:36 01:48:46 05:43:42
9 RYAN HODIERNE 01:27:32 02:19:26 02:10:19 05:57:19
10 LUCAS MTHALANE 01:23:49 02:49:07 01:46:18 05:59:16
11 BRIAN KEELING 02:19:24 03:33:06 00:06:51 05:59:23
12 ZONELE NZUZA 01:27:52 02:45:26 01:50:59 06:04:18
13 BRUCE BICCARD 01:33:56 02:31:57 01:58:28 06:04:22
14 GREG CARTER-BROWN 01:34:58 02:33:53 01:58:51 06:07:43
15 THOMAS NGIDI 01:22:32 02:52:21 01:58:40 06:13:34

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