Archive for April 2010


                                        Richard learning a new skill

The CNN crew were an absolute pleasure to accommodate. They never shyed away from getting ‘down and dirty’, and made the Valleys boys feel at ease with their laid back attitude but very professional approach. They were taken by the beauty of Nagle Dam and the surrounding rural area. I thought one day of filming would be difficult to capture everything about my Academy, however viewing some of the footage that evening, they seemed to have captured it just right.

5am – An early Saturday morning start, we ventured over to Thomas’s home to wake him and get some raw footage of a day in the life of a’Change a life’ Academy athlete.

A very real and impromptu opening to the show, as Thomas scrabbles under his bed in the dark to find his training kit and Hi-Tecs. Heading to the dam, we shoot more of my guys strolling casually (as normal) to the dam, bantering and laughing all the way.

Some paddling and running shots, a few interviews and handing out of their monthly USN sports supplements and weekly foodpacks, then delivered to their families. A full days work, with a total of 3 1/2hrs of filming, which will be edited into a 7min show and broadcast around the World – Exciting stuff.

It is interesting that my three top ‘Change a Life’ guys – Lucas, Thomas and Erice, are uplifting their own lives and their families, by building houses in the valley. Eric brags that his house is the biggest and fanciest, “4 rooms Mart and it has a toilet inside”. These three youngsters have managed to afford these homes through their racing- winning prize money and getting incentives. One forgets the harsh living conditions these folk endure. I ask Thomas, “where is the basin”? He looks at me and frowns, “Mart, we have no running water in this whole area, the pipes have been broken for 6 years now”. His Mother and Sister cart a 25l drum of water on their heads from far down the hill with grace and ease – no complaints, because this is Life, deal with it .

                                         Thomas’s house -3 rooms, R35 000

There’s a big buzz at Nagle Dam as athletes are arriving in preparation for SA Sprint Champs this weekend. Many of the big guns will be racing as well as a large contingent of development paddlers from around the country.

      I delivered a trailer of Lotto boats to the Dihlabeng Slalom Club in Bethlehem

I went up to the Dilhabeng Canoe Club in Bethlehem last week to deliver some new Lotto boats and I am excited to the paddling potential of these athletes improve as they receive real support. This is where South Africa’s Olympians for Slalom, Master Cele and Cyprian Ngidi live and train. At the end of the month they are off to France for a 3 month training camp. For the last two months, “Change a Life” athlete Nkosi Cele has been shadowing these two paddlers, and now will take over coaching at this club. An exciting opportunity to earn a salary for the first time in his life.  

    “Change a Life” athlete, Nkosi (left), with Olympians, Master & Cyprian

         Kids giving their all – In Slalom you only use a one bladed paddle 

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                                 Time Trail – Lance Style

The professional start for the STAGE 5 TT made even the ‘fish ‘n chips’ cyclists exit the ramp in true Lance Armstrong fashion. The views we experieced on this day were some of the best we got to experience during the entire Epic, as the 27km snaked itself 860m upwards behind Worcester. Not having a seeding, I had been placed well at the front of the field for the reverse order start, and by 9:15am I was ready to put my feet up and enjoy a full days re-fuelling and relaxing.

Stage 6 was now the beginning of the count-down to the end, but this was the furthest I had ever ridden and 6h02, the longest day in the saddle. The undulating route from Worcester to Oak Valley in Elgin Apple country, as shown in the riders info booklet, was very deceiving as some of the climbs reached 26%- honest leg-burning efforts needed. 

                                      Local Apple Farm Labourers giving their all….

Waking up on day 7, the dust had been settled by some night-time showers and although the end was close, Dr Evil (the route master) had no intentions of easing up on the well-worked over 447 remaining official teams, (600 teams to start). 

Each day melted into the next, so much so, that this was life and the outside world didn’t exist.

Having travelled on the N2 highway past Botrivier a thousand times enroute to Plett, it was refreshing to arrive at this quaint little dorp via the ‘back roads’. The journey back was highlighted by the loose rock and sandy ascent up Dassenberg, where even the pros were downsized to portage.

The slower more rugged the going, somehow was to my advantage….

Finishing with awesome singletrack in Lebanon against the majestic Hottentots Holland mountains evaporated the ‘tired from the legs. I couldn’t complain having a ‘snake bite’ on my rear wheel, 3km’s from the end as this was my first bike admin of the entire race. All means of inflating the tyre failed ( later found out that the rear rim had split) and so continued on with a pap wheel. 

While resting up in my room at the Houw Hoek Inn, after 5h28 saddle time.I received an sms from good friend, Iain Don-Wauschope: “You buggers, you beat us by a minute today.”                                                 My reply- “1minute, 1second… A win’s a win. Make you a deal, winner takes all tomorrow.”                      Iain- “GAME ON”.

                                Finishing with Ferdi and Iain on Stage 3

With our ego at stake, Hennie and I charged off from the start of the final Stage 8, target locked on Iain and Ferdi, who had started a batch ahead of us. With having only 65km to work with, we were lucky to track them down early and scuttle past them on a big climb. A compulsory 2km portage up and over the ancient Voortrekker wagon track was to my liking, felt like the good ol’ adventure racing days. From there you could smell the stable doors. Our 46th place finish was the ‘cherry on top’, on what was an exceptional 8 day Mountain Biking experience.

                               Great experience – but happy its over.

52% of Cape Epic Riders voted Burry & Christoff to win – they settled for second.     Interesting fact – Bulls Team didn’t win a Stage but won overall, just shows in endurance racing – “Steady wins the Game”

 Winning Sisters from Denmark – dominated the Woman’s racing



This Saturday 10th the ‘Change a life’ athletes will be charging up ‘n down, in ‘n around the Valley of a Thousand Hills, showcasing their talents- cycling, paddling, running- to the rest of the world. CNN are coming to film “A Day in the Life of the ‘Change a life’ Athletes”. CNN crew will be staying two nights in the Valley proper, to experience the real thing. They are wanting to profile an individual:  from family, getting up in the morning, training, to going to bed at night.




Knowing during the easter weekend, my Academy training was in the capable hands of my wingman, Lucas, I disappeared to the Drakensberg to stay in a quaint cottage nestled in the mountains of the Umzinkulu river source. Couldn’t resist a trip into the mountains in Lesotho.  

                                       Callum and I doing some altitude training….

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