Stage 5 was all about character building, equipment durability testing and
some more valuable life lessons in mountain biking. I’ve always been a firm
believer that the one with the best legs gets to the top of the hill first,
but today I learned that in mountain biking, the one with the best brakes
gets to the bottom of the hill in one piece…
After flash flood warnings we started the day in pouring rain. It was like a
scene out of a Stephen King horror movie with all the special effects.
Thunder and lightening, accompanied the pouring rain and with all the
flashing around me I almost felt like a celebrity. Never in my life have I
ridden my bike and not be able to see where I am going. Well, today was
going to be JUST that. Not even my glasses that would survive a space
mission could keep the mud out my eyes. I should have opted for a snorkle
and goggles instead.
After the first hill of the day, which included a lot of sliding and
walking, we had a tricky descent waiting for us and I don’t know if it was
lack of knowledge or stupidity that got me to the bottom in one piece. At
some point, John Lee said to me: “I don’t think we’re gonna see the finish
today, my brakes are failing.” My brainless response was “Oh, why?” Little
did i know what was waiting for us.
Eight kilometres before Water Point 2 we hit the next descent which was
gradual but rocky and very slippery. Three kilometres down the hill my
brakes decided to take a holiday and failed me completely. I was rolling
down the hill on momentum and couldnt stop in time. The only way out was to
look for a soft landing and hope there wasnt a rock hidden behind the ferns
and bushes ready for a faceplant.
When I hit the bushes I heard something crack and, having broken my
collarbone before, the only thing my brain could come up with was “oooooh
sh*t”… I lay there for a while and my shoulder hurt like hell. I started
moving slowly fearing the worst, but once I got up and felt my shoulder,
everything seemed intact. It hurt quite a lot when I breathed, which was
often. So, completely out of brakes, we decided to walk the rest of the
descent, which was another fivw kilometres. Eventually we reached Water
Point 2 and I was hoping someone would have some spare brakepads. At this
point I was willing to do (almost) anything for new brake pads. No one was
able to assist us and after the doctor examined my shoulder, we had no
option but to quit the race…
I was devastated and relieved at the same time as I’ve never been so scared
on my bike. We got taken to the finish by bus, compliments of the race
organisers. A bus filled with steamy, smelly riders with muddy bums, so
close but so far. Our race was over… When I got to the finish and later
went to fetch my bike from the bike park I realised there was no way
possible I could have continued after I felt my brakes again. Nothing.
It was a sad reality for me and even though we came into this race without
expectations I was bitterly disappointed, not only in the situation but also
for everyone that put SO MUCH in to get myself and John Lee to be part of
this incredible adventure. I met the most wonderful people this week and the
race organisers made us feel special and welcome. One person that stood out
was Neels Grobler from Bridge. Even though he is one of the main guys at
Bridge, he was all over the place helping everyone during the week with the
same enthusiasm as the school kids at the waterpoints and the lovely pancake
ladies at lunch. No task was too big for him.
So, will I commit myself to this madness again? Hell yes! With the knowledge
I gained from this year, riding with a world class athlete and person, it
would be a crime to just do nothing with the free life lessons I got. So I
have to thank 32GI for all your incredible supplements and support and even
being travel agents sorting my imported partner’s flights out. Thank you
Sean from TREAD magazine for giving us this incredible opportunity, Tavcor
Volkswagen for taking us places and NEVER have I asked for a favour ever,
that you said no. Thank you SO much to Ronel from AFRICA SILKS for sorting
our massages out and to Alex for always being there and being the glue that
got everything together. Thank you to Ray and Les from Continental for
giving me proper tyres, which should have been my choice from Day 1.
And last but not least, thank you to John Lee Augustyn. This young man
inspires me every day with the gentle but efficient way he approaches life.
Thank you for agreeing to suffer with me and being so incredibly patient
with me, you are world class in every aspect of life. I look forward to
watching your comeback unfold!
So I hope to be back next year and have some more interesting stories to
tell. Be safe where ever you ride and appreciate every pedal stroke, because
it’s a blessing.
Blog: Anriette Schoeman