Tuesday 7 December 2010

Posted by Velouria Posted on 16:49 | 2 comments

Omni-Motion 24hr 2010

After the disaster that was 2009, I wanted one more go at this event. I was quite prepared for the challenges this time around, and had made plans accordingly. We flew up early, we got lots of sleep, the bike was actually ridden before the first lap, and we arrived at the venue early missing the worst of the Gauteng Saturday morning traffic jams.
The quiet before the storm
The highlight of this year's Omni-Motion 24hr event was that David "Tinker" Juarez was going to be riding. I had heard the name, but still didn't really know too much about him. After a bit of googling I realised that he could ride a bike, and that this was going to be a very interesting 24hr race. It's not everyday that you get to race a former 24hr Solo World Champion.

With the previous weekend's Double Century still in my legs, the plan was a simple one - ride my own race at my own pace, and don't get sucked into any racing early on. Hopefully there would be someone else who would be keen to race Tinker, and I could be left alone to do my own thing.
My leisurely Le Mans stroll (that's right, there is a lady dressed as a bee ahead of me!)
At registration I received my number, and a knee guard. I had heard that there were going to be goodie-bags, but this has to be the oddest goodie-item ever. Not even a sign of an expired energy bar, a 4 month old copy of Bicycling Magazine, pamphlets for races that don't interest me, or a sample of bum cream. Next, I needed to get a camp site, and was given a camp spot on the other side of the country. There was only one camp site further away from everything than ours! Hopefully one day I'll be given some inside info on how to go about organising one of those camp sites right near the action on the Start/Finish line.
A late afternoon snack
The start was quickly approaching, and at 12'o clock we got underway with a customary Le Mans start - with some rather eager cyclists sprinting for their bikes. I prefer the more relaxed approach of taking a leisurely stroll to my bike, letting the fuss around me die down, and then get on with riding - there is plenty of time to pass riders later on.
The route
Wendell (of the Cycle Hub at Rietvlei) had put together a good course - an 11.5km loop that was not too technical, but quite tight with lots of twists and turns in the first half, and a fast, flowing section in the second half. Lose concentration for a second, and you were going to come short. The course had a bit of everything for everyone, from a former World Champ, right down to the rest of us weekend warriors. 
I did have some fans (and some future 24hr riders) supporting me
As they say, ignorance is bliss, and the second part of my plan was to be kept in the dark about the progress of the competition. For the first six hours I didn't want to and didn't need to know who was leading, who was doing quick lap times, and where I was overall. It was all about getting into a rhythm, getting comfortable, learning the course, and managing my body. With temperatures up to 39C, fluid intake was going to be important, and I was going through a bottle and a half a lap. Luc the Belgian had brought some Frangipanes with him on his last visit, and told me that Tom Boonen swears by them for long races. I ate several during the event, and now Luc can tell Tom that I swear by them too!
Showing Tinker the way.
After about 4 hours of riding, I got the sensation that I was being followed. To my surprise, Tinker had decided to latch on to my back wheel and follow me around the course. For the next 5 laps or so he remained glued there. I took it as quite an honour that he felt he needed to mark me, and at the same time resisted the urge to get involved in a head to head race with him. It also gave me an opportunity to show Tinker some good lines through the technical stuff, and give him some tips and hints on how to ride a bike. I also suspect that I might have subliminally exposed him to 5339.co.uk for 4 hours, as it was written across my bum, and he'll be buying some bike stuff online shortly.
Still showing Tinker the way.
When the information blackout was finally lifted, I found out I was in second place, a lap down on Tinker, and two up on the guy in third. So far so good. Tinker and I continued our mating ritual of him following me around, and me claiming to have a headache and pretending to ignore him for another three laps, when I decided it was time for dinner. As I stopped, my mechanic whisked away my bike, my nutritionist gave me a plate of macaroni and cheese and some juice, my masseuse started massaging my neck and shoulders, while my manager tried to motivate me and keep me up to date with the race proceedings. Unlike Tinker and his crew, I only had a support crew of one - my wife, and she did a fantastic job of keeping me going.
And again, showing Tinker the way at sunset
With night fall the racing changes and the riders go into maintenance mode. The course gets quieter as people head off to bed. This is the best part about 24hr racing - you, alone on your bike in the darkness, focussed on only the small patch of light in front of you. Nothing else matters. Pure mountain biking heaven. I also got to see a fair amount of wild life - a hedgehog (which at first I thought was a rock until it moved), a rabbit, and a mongoose. These were all real, unlike the giant yellow chicken that I have seen in previous races. I did however see a guy in a blue top several times lurking in the trees. He is either a figment of my imagination, or a master of deception, because he would vanish in the blink of an eye. Also, under the cover of darkness, rocks seem to gain magnetic powers and trees start to move around and suddenly you find yourself riding into obstacles that weren't there in the daylight.
Toasted sandwich for breakfast
By midnight I had done 17 laps, and was 2 down on Tinker. There was very little chance that I could make up that time, so I settled on a target of 30 laps for the event, which would be around 350kms of riding. I could now take a bit of a rest between laps, ride as fast or as slow as I wanted, and just enjoy the event. I did however encounter a bit of a problem - Bennie's Bend was messing with my head, and in two consecutive laps I had ended up riding into the same tree in the same manner and have the grazes and bruises on my shoulder to prove it. This was a tree I had ridden past 24 times without incident, and now suddenly I was like a deer in the headlights, inexplicably drawn to it lap after lap. Nothing like a bit of a challenge when you are tired.
Finishing the last lap.

At 10h10 I set off on my 30th and final lap, with various parts of my body now no longer keen to endure the tortures being dished out. I finished shortly after Tinker who had completed 34 laps, but he looked absolutely knackered and as it turned out was unable to attend prize giving. I had hoped to shake his hand on the podium and thank him for a good race, but he was nowhere to be seen. All in all, that was a little bit of a let down.
Tinker did however agree to a reverse match this coming weekend. Since I had gone head to head with him at his job, he was going to go head to head with me in mine. I hope he has brushed up on his computer and electromagnetic skills! Winner takes all!
24hrs of dirt and grime.
A message for Tinker.
With the demons of 2009 laid to rest and my confidence restored, we got ready for the long trip back to Cape Town. Somehow, a 24hr up in Gauteng is never just 24hrs long - it's more like a 72hr endurance event.

Prepping Nelly for the trip back to Cape Town

Wednesday 1 December 2010

Posted by Velouria Posted on 08:42 | 3 comments

Double Century 2010

Once again, the ragtag collection of riders that form the basis of Team 5339.co.uk got together for the first time the night before the Coronation Double Century in an African themed guest house in Swellendam. There were computer nerds, cycle industry executives, UIF receivers, surf apparel consultants, and a soon to be pro triathlete. We had Poms, Saffers, a Swiss, and a guy from Nam. There were some tall cyclists, some tanned cyclists, some short cyclists, some pale cyclists, and pair of ginger cyclists. Anyway you look at it - we made for quite a random collection of people. But we all had one common goal - to finally go under 6 hours for the 202km.
Team 5339.co.uk
Marius, Russell, Dan, Sarel, Zayin, Pascal, Craig, Karel, Dane, Jarryd, Gavin, Hector
There was a very different vibe in the air on the evening before the race, compared to previous years. While everyone seemed nervous and a little introspective, there was a quiet confidence that we had finally assembled a team that would be good enough. The person most nervous was our backup driver - James. Twelve cyclists proceeded to give him often contradictory advice, and then let him know in no uncertain terms that the fate of the whole team rested in his hands. Possibly a little overwhelming for a guy who had never done backup before, let alone the DC. Rumour has it that he never slept that night, and spent the entire evening going over the race rules again and again, pacing up and down, while mumbling words like "pressure", "responsibility" and several other words not suitable for this blog.
Awaiting the start
After eating a surprising amount of pasta for dinner, and hashing out the plan for the next day several times, the riders slowly headed off to bed. Except Marius. He had been in bed since before the sun had even set (being newly wed, we forgave him just this once). I am not sure about the rest of the team, but I didn't sleep very well. I think I must have cycled the entire route at least three times in my mind, going over the smallest detail, running through checklists, and hoping that this wasn't going to be a repeat of the 2009 disaster. I, along with the rest of Team 5339.co.uk were put out of our sleep deprived misery when we were rudely awoken at around 4am by a stray herd of wildebeest that ran through the guest house several times, occasionally stopping to use the toilet.
One straight stripe
With everyone up and ready, and Hector being closely monitored by three assigned chaperones, we went over the plans one last time. The backup car was packed, the bikes were lubed and tyres were pumped. We were ready once again to tackle the DC. Our 7am start meant we had missed the worst of the weather, unlike the poor teams that had started at 5am. The light overnight rain had cleared, the wind had dropped and the clouds were lifting. A perfect day for bike racing. I was a little disappointed that our team captain didn't get us into a huddle and give us one last team talk, and when I saw the team behind us doing this I thought we might be doing something wrong. Although, with our fancy looking 5339 cycle kit, we didn't need a team huddle - we already looked like we knew what we were doing! As the start gun for Team 5339.co.uk went off, all thoughts left our heads, and we got on with the task of riding 202km as fast as we could.
Synchronised feeding under the watchful eye of the captain
There isn't much to report about from the actual race. I was either behind someone, focussed on his wheel and bum, or taking my 2 minute turn on the front. As we started catching people, the view from the front became quite unpleasant (much like the view of a certain Swiss bum in see through shorts) - there were riders spread out all over the road, backup vehicles squeezing into gaps that didn't exist, busses overtaking on blind rises. Often, we were left with little choice but to attempt to pass in the right hand lane. How no one got hurt, let alone killed, is amazing.

By the top of Op de Tradouw we were down to 11 riders, but still flying along under the steady, and often excruciatingly painful, pace set by Sarel the See Fiets Monster (for the youngsters on our team reading this, ask your parents about the Sarel the Seemonster reference) and Dan the Triathlete. Montague, Ashton, Robertson, Bonnivale all passed by in a blur of sweat and energy juice as we slowly started to lose riders. With 40kms to go, we were down to 9 riders, but more importantly, still had 1h30 to play with.
A friendly Dan the Triathlete, warmed up after 160km and ready to lead the way.
Then came The Incident that we'll debate for years come. Five of us were on the front of a rather big bunch of riders consisting of at least 2 other teams. We were setting a good pace, but somehow lost sight of the rest of the team, and proceeded to ride them off the back of the bunch. By the time we realised we were just 5 riders, it was too late - the damage had been done. We lost several minutes as two riders went back looking for a suitable number 6. Everything was eventually sorted out and we got going again - no one could drop off now as it was down to the 6 of us to get the sub 6 hour we had been aiming for.

Sarel on the front, dashing for home.
With great team work, determination, gritted teeth and aching legs we made our way over the last couple of hills which felt like mountains by now - all the while receiving encouragement from the backup vehicle. James had clearly found a manual or something on the internet the night before, and was putting his new found backup knowledge to great use. I almost felt like a pro. White line fever took over and with speeds well over 60km/h on the flats we steamed towards Swellendam, cresting the last climb and crossing the finish line in an unbelievable time of 5h47:10 and an average speed of 34.91km/h. It was surreal. In an instant, all the pain and suffering vanished and it had been worth it.
A rather chuffed looking Team 5339.co.uk
The customary post DC Team 5339.co.uk braai took place in the rain, again, and it wasn't long before we all drifted off to bed with full stomachs and big smiles. We awoke early the next morning to the news that we had finished 6th overall - not bad for a bunch of mountain bikers, triathletes and bit-part roadies.

After a breakfast of scrambled ostrich egg, bacon, mushrooms and toast we packed up and headed back to reality - already scheming about DC 2011 and how we could go even faster!

Watch the video 59 times for the full 5h47 DC experience

Thursday 18 November 2010

Posted by Velouria Posted on 13:38 | No comments

Wines2Whales 2010

For the first time since my second Argus way back in 1998, Yolanda and I were going to ride together, and this time it wasn't just going to be a little trip around the Cape Peninsula. It was going to be a 3 day stage race from Lourensford in Somerset West to Onrus. That's 230km of bonding. Craig and Bonte (Team Finding Vino) would be doing it as well, and the event promised to be a great weekend away. Wines2Whales, here we come.
A bunch start!
That was until we got word of some competition. Our spies had been busy monitoring the Western Cape cycling scene, and something big appeared on the wires. Another couple with high ambitions had entered, and neither Yolanda nor Bonte would tolerate losing to this couple. And so the intelligence work began. Many favours were called in, information was gathered, Facebook accounts were monitored, results were scrutinised, acquaintances were interrogated, and plans were formulated. We knew when and where the opposition would be riding, how far their training rides were, their mental state, their strengths and their weaknesses. All this was done in absolute secrecy - something any intelligence operative would have been proud of. After several refinements and iterations we had a plan to beat the Wakefields, aka Team Heading For A Divorce.
All smiles
With our Plan safely locked away behind triple reinforced stainless steel doors, and two killer guard dogs employed on 12 hour shifts, we set about getting fit for the challenge that lay ahead. For Yolanda, this generally included looking out of the window, seeing a threatening cloud in the distance, and going back to bed. With only a couple of weeks to go she upped the training, both quality and quantity, and actually got on a bicycle. This was all part of The Plan, in case the Wakefields had infiltrated our cycling group and had spies reporting on her progress. While Yolanda was busy training, I was frantically trying to discover the race commissar's weakness. While I am not at liberty to discuss these details, the results speak for themselves, as both Finding Vino and The Bizweni Benders managed to get an A seeding.
A hearty meal for a stage racer
Race day eventually arrived, along with some rather foul weather, but mountain bikers are a tough lot and welcomed the thick sticky mud and slippery conditions with open arms. After a hearty breakfast of chocolate Pronutro at the Bokomo Breakfast Zone, we headed off to the A bunch, hanging with the likes of Christoph Sauser, Burry Stander, Conrad Stoltz and Dan Hugo.
Stage One
Stage One was going to be a bit of a brute with lots of steep climbs, some technical descents, and some tight singletrack as we made our way from Lourensford to Grabouw Country Club, for a total of 70kms and just under 1500m of climbing. Yolanda rode like a star - fearless in the face of some rather slippery conditions and attempted everything. A couple earth shattering tumbles later (and some rather sore looking bruises) we rolled across the finish line narrowly beating Team Finding Vino in a time of 6h22. Our bodies had survived, and more importantly so had our marriage (even if there were parts where we weren't speaking to each other - because apparently it's my fault when Yolanda falls on a slippery root or rock). I had earned massive brownie points by carrying my bike up the wagon trail, and at the same time pushing Yo's bike - this single act possibly saved our marriage.The many months of hard training had paid off, as Team Heading For A Divorce finished in a whopping 7h11. Barring any major mechanical difficulties, the overall victory would be ours.
Chatting to the enemy (mind games at work!)
What a view (except for the half naked cyclist)
With the riding out of the way, Yolanda quickly settled into the chore routine - showering, snacking, getting a massage, mixing juice etc. She especially enjoyed setting up "The Nest" - the tent we would be sleeping in. We would use the other tent to store all our stuff.
Stage Two
Ready for Stage Two
Stage Two had us hooking up all the best singletrack mountain biking in the Western Cape - OakValley, Thandi and Lebanon, into a 75km loop. I was a little nervous because I wasn't sure I would be able to stay on Yolanda's wheel. It turns out that she is quite a downhill maniac, especially when it comes to technical singletrack. Not a single person caught or passed us when she was in full flight, and I had to work hard to keep up with her. We had a couple of issues - an inconveniently placed root resulted in Yolanda having a rather heavy crash (which again was my fault). That was shortly followed by the longest puncture repair ever as I tried to fit a tube. Team Finding Vino passed us after we had been stationary for about 20 minutes, and Team HFAD somehow also sneaked past us. I suspect they did so on their bellies, leopard crawling through the long grass to maintain the element of surprise. It was only much later when we caught them that we realised we'd been passed by them. 
Close to being finished
In the spirit of W2W, we had come up with a rule that said there was to be no pushing of the ladies by the guys. We were going to ride at their pace. However, there was a escape clause, affectionately known as the Nadine Clause - if Team HFAD happened to be challenging for position on a stage, then pushing would be allowed. And that was exactly the situation Yolanda and I found ourselves in. We had started 10 minutes before Team HFAD, and when we recaught them we still had to get a 10 minute gap on them to stand any chance of beating them on the stage. It was like old times again - instead of Russel, I now had Yolanda to push, and we made good progress in the final 18kms, but unfortunately only managed to make up 5 of the required 10 minutes and finished in 5h52. Well done Team HFAD. Team Finding Vino also had a last minute puncture and lost out on the stage victory by a mere 40 seconds. A cynic would suggest that the circumstances of Team HFAD's victory were a little suspicious - both the opposition teams suffering punctures. A complaint was lodged and the race commissar is still investigating.
Up bright and early, ready for Stage Three

Stage Three
Stage Three was the final push towards Onrus, an 85km route with some great downhill, and a bit of a sting in the tail. With Team Finding Vino leading on GC, our two teams stuck together to provide a mental deterrent to Team HFAD. We were a little shocked to see them at the first water point - once again they had ridden 10 minutes into us, and once again we had to invoke the Nadine Clause. That was the last we saw of them as the ladies rode like champs up the many climbs, spurred on by the desire to claim the bragging rights. I was also made to look like an amateur again by Yolanda on some fast singletrack as she raced away from me (Coach - if you're reading this - we need to work on my skills!). With Onrus in sight, Teams Finding Vino and The Bizweni Benders flew past some dedicated supporters , all smiles. It had been a perfect day's riding. Or so we thought. With a couple hundred meters to go, Bonte had an altercation with an unforgiving Milkwood tree, the Milkwood winning and Bonte adding to her collection of scrapes and bruises. We crossed the line in 5h44, and then had the agonising wait for Team HFAD. Ten minutes eventually passed, giving us another stage win, and Team Finding Vino the overall victory.
Team Heading for a Divorce - still together and smiling.
All in all, a very enjoyable event - well organised with a great route and fantastic vibe. This race is everything that the Epic is not, and I hope it stays this way. Plans are already underway on how to beat Team HFAD next year - our operatives are hard at work. Owning the Wakefields again will be a challenge, but we're more determined than ever.

The Bizweni Benders and Team Finding Vino - in matching 5339 kit

Tuesday 19 October 2010

Posted by Velouria Posted on 20:09 | 6 comments

Swazi Frontier 2010

In a small land locked country on the south eastern tip of Africa, roughly the size of Wales and better known for things like the Reed Dance and being the last absolute monarchy in Africa, is an event that captures the very essence of mountain biking. How this event hasn't received more publicity is a mystery. The country is Swaziland, and the event is The Swazi Frontier.

Swaziland, here we come

After hearing some fantastic stories from several sources, I composed the best suck up letter ever, promising the naming rights to my first born, and large sums of money and other favours, should I get an entry. (I have kept the letter, and will be using it as a template for similar events. I haven't yet told my wife that we'll be having a rugby team of children). I also bribed some past participants into putting a good word in for me. After several nervous weeks I finally got the email - I had cracked the nod.
Svalbaard in kit form
The next challenge was to find a partner. With Craig preferring the company of older men, I was left to either find someone of a similar level as me, or someone who was brave or mad (or both). After exhausting the former options, I had to resort to the latter, and thankfully I didn't have to look to far. Enter Tree John - best known for his lack of skill at avoiding trees. I made a couple promises, about riding sensibly blah blah blah, and suddenly, Team Goat and Guru was born (I am the goat, as I go uphill well, and John is the downhill guru, provided there aren't any trees).
The old movie house
After months of planning the logistics, Team Goat and Guru and Team 5339.co.uk (feel the creativity in the name) set off on a country crossing adventure. Hermans to Somerset West, Somerset West to Cape Town Airport, flights up to Johannesburg, hire car to Pretoria, sleep - the junior team got relegated to the caravan by a rather grumpy Little John (of Little John and his Merry Men fame, the other half of Team 40.is.old), road trip to Oshoek, fighting with obstinate customs officials, lost customs forms, missed turnoffs, before finally arriving Hawane Lodge in the pouring rain. Us Capies know all about the rain, and aren't scared of a bit of mud and gunk, but throw in a bit of lightening and thunder and we become quivering wrecks - looking for the nearest bed to hide under. The other concern was that the sum total of my wet weather gear consisted of a pair of arm warmers (once again, Team 666.be.evil providing us with bad advice, telling us how hot Swaziland always is).
The T-shirt doesn't lie
Team 443222.mtb.gears on the podium

Stage 1 was a "gentle 60km ride through some beautiful surroundings, with a bit of climbing near the end" - to quote Brett, the event organiser and finalist for The Most Understated Route Description award. Unlike the Epic where Dr Evil goes to great lengths to put the fear of God into you many months in advance, Brett just lets the trail do the talking - up, mist, long grass, wild animals, trees, dam wall, down, stile, down, river crossing, waterpoint, up, up, up, trees, down, down, down, river crossing, forest, up, up, mud, up, trees down, waterpoint, up, up, up, down, tar, finished. Something like 64kms with 2100m of climbing for a total riding time of 5h25 through some of the best riding I have ever done. Team 2236.co.uk came in second, losing some time on the last climb.
But is it art?
Derek and Cliff - all smiles after Stage 1
In an effort to try to be inclusive, and to stop being a control freak, I had delegated the role of navigator to Tree John - that way he had some control over where we went and how fast we did it, and I had to follow him. That was the idea anyway. It became quite apparent that Tree John wasn't happy with this designation, and did his best to sneakily dispose of our route maps when I least expected it. After having to ride back up the trail to hunt for our cards for the third time, Tree John finally made a plan and stuck them down with a mouth full of half chewed PVM Energy bar. I always knew those bars were good for something. Thankfully, we were able to navigate by following others most of the time, but this comes with its dangers - several times we followed teams off into the great unknown.
Little John hates a dirty pool
The rest of the afternoon was spent soaking up the atmosphere, chatting about the fantastic riding, gorging ourselves on the tasty food, fiddling with bikes, and napping - all in the old mining town of Bulembu, now an AIDS orphanage.

Stage 2 dawned with the rain pouring down. Resisting the urge to climb back into bed after a hearty breakfast I once again put on all my wet weather gear - a sole pair of arm warmers, and got ready for what promised to be a 60km mud bath. At the Swazi Time of 7am we set off, braving the elements, the mud, and Tree John's navigational skills (Swazi Time is very much like African Time - just a little more random and unpredictable). With the odd slip here and there, mud in the eyes, ears, nose and mouth, wet bum, caked bikes and big smiles we progressed along one of the best day's riding I have ever done, made even better by the weather. We climbed, we flew down hills, we got lost, Tree John staked a claim to a particularly slippery piece of land, we crossed rivers, we crossed rivers, we crossed rivers (something like 32 times), we got stuck in mud, Little John broke a chain, we raced pigs (the pigs won), we high fived kids, and eventually crossed the finish line at the Orion Piggs Peak Hotel in a little over 4 hours. Team 8008.dodgy.giant, and in particular Little John, lost time as the mud brought their race to a sudden stop, but managed to hang onto a third place.
Certainly beats an Epic tent!

We weren't the only ones to fall victim to the mud, with the truck carrying everyone's bags getting stuck. The result was that 180 cyclists walked about the hotel in nothing but towels. All in all, the Unofficial Piggs Peak Toga Party went down well, with no reports of wardrobe malfunctions. Several riders even achieved minor stardom as other hotel guests clamoured to take photos of people in towels with funny tan lines.
Bike wash geniuses.
The mud had been particularly brutal on the bikes, and for the first time I experienced what can only be called "Collective Bike Repair" - where a whole bunch of people work on a whole bunch of bikes - often not their own, for the general good of everyone. Karl Marx would have been proud.
The Collective at work

Stage 3 was to be a 60km affair with 3 major climbs. The weather was finally playing along, so the arm warmers weren't needed, and I swapped them for a pair of sunglasses. After a slightly relaxed start, we found ourselves in the lead bunch. Just as we were settling in, as happy as a Swazi pig in Swazi poo, Little John of Team 911.im.lost sent the entire lead bunch down the wrong road. We watched despondently as first the mixed teams, and then the baggy shorts clad mountain bikers whizzed past us. The only consolation being that now we had some targets up ahead of us, and there is nothing I like more than something to aim at.
The finishing venue - Maguga Lodge
I'd given up on Tree John's navigational skills, and had to find other reliable sources of navigational info. The obvious option was to follow the tracks ahead of us, but there was a certain risk in this. With people like Little John doing the navigation up front, who knows where we might end up. A far more reliable source is what I call SCPS - Swazi Children Positioning System, and involves scanning the route up ahead, and then heading off towards the largest group of Swazi children on the side of the road. I'm still working on a business plan to commercialise my new positioning system, so watch this space.
We came down that mountain
Tree John had finally found some legs, and was making me work hard. While not as technically challenging as the previous days, the riding was still top notch, and as an added bonus we got to see the scenery. We also got a hint of just how warm it can be, and were more than grateful for the cooler weather we had experienced. We enjoyed some steep climbs, sweeping descents, a swing bridge crossing, angry Swazi cows, emaciated Swazi dogs, friendly Swazi supporters, beautiful panoramas, swamp crossings, flowing cow tracks, and a fast tar descent to finish off at Maguga Lodge in a little over 4 hours, securing 7th place overall. As Ricky Bobby says - "If you ain't first, you're last", and the Kenyan team of David and Davidson (or Epic fame and good friends of Sarah and Benedikt) made sure they were first. Team 0002.isnt.bad secured a well deserved 2nd place with the defending champs - Bruce Turvey and Rob Dormehl of Osama B's - succumbing to mechanical issues and finishing in third.
A Kenyan showing off his technical skills during Stage 4
The rest of the day was spent packing, cleaning up, enjoying a few drinks overlooking the Maguga dam, and just chilling - we had Stage 4 to look forward to that evening, and a long trip back to reality the next day.
Little John working on his Captain pose.
It's not often that event organisers get everything just right, and yet some how, Brett and Lesley have managed this. Even when things go wrong, it just doesn't seem to matter. From the race briefings, to the route, to the food, to the accommodation - everything is just perfect. The Swazi Frontier isn't a race, it's a ride and an experience that is out of this world. Many thanks to Brett, Lesley and all the other unseen helpers that make the Swazi Frontier the event that it is.

Still no word on the name of my first born, but I expect a call any day now...