Landscapes that stop your thoughts, roads that go whizzing by, more singletrack than I expected, floating bridges, pumped riders, infrastructure of a size and scale I’ve never seen before at a mountain bike race… There were so many things that made the 2013 Nedbank Sani2c stage race an unforgettable experience. One of the biggest was riding as part of a team.
Most riders complete this race in a pair. Together you pace each other down the fire roads, stick tight through the singletrack, motivate each other to the next feed zone, and share a sense of achievement at the finish line having spent three days enjoying the journey toward a goal.
My teammate for this race was Dave Youl. Youly had been looking forward to this trip for a long time. Me, I was a recent add-on, living the biking journalist’s dream and still running on the adrenaline of disbelief that I was actually in South Africa by the time we arrived at the start line.
The Youl and I met about a week before we left Australia. Given the potential of stage races to make or break a friendship, a week isn’t long to work out how to operate as a tight and excited unit throughout the three days of the event. Fortunately we had a few aces up our sleeves: We’d smashed out almost identical lap times throughout the Mont 24 Hour a couple of months earlier. Youly can pace himself to perfection from his heart rate and – unless the top of a hill was in sight – that pace felt really comfortable for me as well. And I got to ride this – a bike so quick and racy that it quelled any worries I had about training for the Sani by soft-pedaling my way through man-flu.
Shared goals and attitude are important too. We agreed that if we were only at this event once, stopping now and then to take photos and absorb the everything-ness was how we’d set the tone for the pedaling. It sounded perfect. And it was.
The highs of riding with a teammate were amplified by sharing the event with six other Aussie duos as well. The Sani2c Oz Tour group also included John Bonnett, Andre Botes, Martin Duplessis, Tim Evans, Paul Hardwick, Fiona Harper, Stuart Holman, Josie Leutton, Rod and Vanessa Post, Paul Reid and Rory Wheatley. I want to say that a more supportive, compassionate, encouraging, gentle and generous pack of riders would be a rare find, but at the same time I love that mountain biking brings out these qualities in so many other people as well. Still, to share the riding, debriefing, anticipation-ing and all the pre- post- and mid-race eating with this group simply added to the highs generated by such an impressively large event.
Thank you to the Sani2c Oz Tour for having me along for the journey and for reminding me of the joy in discovering so many elements of riding for the very first time. And thank you to the Sani2c events team and communities along the route – you set a very high standard for other events to aspire to. It was such a pleasure and a privilege to pedal along each day and share stories and laughter with so many others enjoying the event in similar ways. A special mention to Youly, too – not just for the support as a teammate, but for helping me to manage media duties alongside the riding, and for having a roll of electrical tape at the ready to tie my fingers together after I rode into a tree. (The bike is fine.)
Images: Kath Bicknell