HIS & HERS KAP SANI2C DIARY: THE MUDDY, SLIDEY, DIRTY FINALE
“We didn’t come this far to only come this far,” I reminded Joanne as we woke up to rain falling on our tent. The rain hadn’t stopped all night and fell most of the previous day. Ahead of us lay 86km of muddy trails on the way to completion of the 2020 KAP sani2c. I didn’t need to worry. She was up for it. She loves a challenge. But the conditions were worse than we both expected.
His & Hers Diary: Day 3 review of Sean and Joanne Badenhorst’s 2020 KAP sani2c experience.
On our detour ride on Day 2, the bike I was riding developed a loose crank. It wasn’t something we could fix. Nor could anyone else for that matter because it’s internal. I couldn’t ride the bike on Day 3 like that for fear of damaging it, or worse, the crank possibly breaking off…
Thankfully Cannondale, the bicycle partner of the KAP sani2c, has a fleet of Scalpel 5 bikes at the event for those who experience bike problems, allowing them to complete a stage or more. Cannondale’s man at the race, Dean van Dyk, was superb, going the extra mile to ensure I had a bike ready for the start of Day 3. And the bike was super reliable in the most testing conditions.
Joanne was still on the Cannondale Habit Neo eBike. She’d been a bit nervous of riding it in some sections of mud on Day 1. At 22kg, it’s double the weight of her regular bike, and has a longer wheel base, wider bars, more suspension and, well, it’s quite different to what she’s used to.
And within minutes of the stage start she was put to the test in the most challenging conditions she’s ever ridden. Actually, they were the most challenging wet conditions I’ve ever ridden too. We found ourselves riding behind other competitors who were clearly very nervous. They were sitting on descents, unclipping a foot when they felt like the bike was sliding, and, probably the most dangerous, braking on descents!
With mud you generally need more momentum, not less and to be able to choose firmer lines, which comes from experience. So it was stressful at times, watching strong, fit looking men going down in front of us like skittles. Fortunately, I was choosing decent lines and Joanne was following me, mostly. Day 3 is a fun stage. Lots of flowing singletrack to be enjoyed, even in the wet. What a blast!
“When I was sliding around were you also sliding around,” I asked her afterwards. “Just as much, she confirmed, sometimes more. My back wheel felt like it might overtake me at times,” she said.
We also hit some huge puddles. In fact, about 5km from the finish we hit the biggest puddle I have ever ridden through. Luckily Greg Minnaar and his mates had just passed us on their eBikes and I saw how massive the splash was they made about 10 seconds before us. So I told Joanne to just power through it and I followed. Seriously, this puddle must have been full-wheel depth. I only just made it through. Thanks to the additional power of the eBike Joanne was grinning at the other side.
We crossed the finish line a short while later with all the usual senses of relief, accomplishment, camaraderie. But we also had an overwhelming sense of feeling free in a year that saw government lockdowns make us feel like prisoners.
To be able to ride mountain bikes with my favourite human through the hills of southern KZN for three days with a few hundred other healthy, strong, positive humans, was truly magical and confirmation that nothing can crush the human spirit. No virus, no government controls, no extreme weather… Nothing.
In the brief build up to our 2020 KAP sani2c, the two things I feared the most, and had zero control over were: extreme heat and extreme wet. I knew it was either going to be extremely hot conditions, and the Cannondale Habit Neo only has space for one bottle cage. Obviously a worry in hot weather, so we packed a hydration pack. We didn’t need it because we got the other extreme conditions: lots of consistent rain.
I’ve never been fond of riding in the mud because it is so unpredictable. One minute you are facing forward and the next second you are lying down. I did not want to crash with a 22kg bike, that would be sore.
Stage 3 arrived. There had been steady rain for over 24hours. There was going to be mud. I couldn’t change it, so we packed and loaded our boxes, had breakfast and headed to the start line in the rain. “Lets just take it easy”, said Sean. We have a very different idea of what “easy” is. Sean doesn’t like getting stuck behind lesser skilled riders, so zooms past at every opportunity, leaving me to take many unwanted risks.
All I can say is the eBike was a dream machine in these conditions. It gave me the extra power to get through, up or down, all the mud and obstacles. Through the thick sticky mud, it was like a hot knife through butter, and the puddles were such fun. The heavier bike was a strain on my upper arms and shoulders, just from manoeuvring it in some nervous moments and keeping in on track on the twisty trails, but after three days of tough conditions, I feel like I took control of it.
Sani2c is an iconic event, which should be an event on every mountain biker’s to-do list. Yes, it is tough. But you leave with a feeling of accomplishment and lots of stories to tell.
HIS & HERS KAP SANI2C DIARY: DETOUR STAGE, TOUR MODE
One of the best things about mountain biking is that it’s an outdoor sports/activity. This comes with weather challenges and Stage 2 of the 2020 KAP sani2c was changed because of the weather. Instead of charging down the world-famous Umkomaas Valley singletrack, we rode on a detour that included more than 30km of tar. But it wasn’t all terrible for us.
His & Hers Diary: Day 2 review of Sean and Joanne Badenhorst’s 2020 KAP sani2c experience.
Joanne and I were both ready to ride the stage in the rain. Only problem was that there wasn’t enough overnight rain and the organisers decided that in the interests of safety, the 500 participants should skip the race’s most iconic feature.
In certain parts of the country the soil makes runny mud when it’s wet. Properly wet. Which is rideable. But when it’s not wet enough it becomes like clay and it sticks to your tyres and frame makes it almost impossible to pedal. Like syrup, only gritty… That type of soil is here.
So the stage was neutralised and almost 500 riders set off in one bunch, in steady rain, to cover the 71km to Jolivet Farm. We rode the first 20-odd kilometres on gravel roads before turning onto a tar road for about 30km. We then covered the last bit on gravel road and singletrack.
It was a good opportunity for Joanne to try the different modes on the Cannondale Habit Neo eBike. After riding most of Stage 1 in the least-assistance mode – Eco – she used Tour the second of the four modes quite a bit today.
“This really does feel like cheating,” she told me. “In Eco, I still have to put in a decent effort, but in Tour, I really don’t need to push hard at all.”
It’s important to remember that she is riding my pace and I’m on a regular bike. If she was riding her own race, she likely would be well ahead of me on the climbs using all four modes when necessary. The higher two modes are eMTB and Turbo.
Usually when we do stage races, I push Joanne when the route allows. Usually on wide-road climbs. This allows us to go a couple of kilometres an hour faster for a bit. Today, we reversed the roles. Because it was a neutral stage, she pushed me a few times on some gradual climbs. I saw my speed increase by around 2-3 kph and felt really good. Briefly.
The good news is that my brake issues from Stage 1 were a thing of the past. My 15 minutes of attention to the brake last night did the trick. My quads are still pretty sore though. Not that common for me riding at a steady pace.
A friend of ours pointed out this morning that while Joanne was riding with pedal assistance on Stage 1, I was riding with pedal resistance. Groan. At least today we were more in tune and we are hoping that Stage 3 is our best yet.
HIS & HERS KAP SANI2C DIARY: DAY ONE DIDN’T GO TOO WELL…
As far as the first day of a stage race goes, this wasn’t a great one for Team TREAD. With Joanne on an eBike (Cannondale Habit Neo) we knew it would be something different. And different it most certainly was!
His & Hers Diary: Day 1 review of Sean and Joanne Badenhorst’s 2020 KAP sani2c experience.
The Habit Neo demo bike we have has a maximum speed of 25 kph before the pedal assist stops assisting. So, we needed to manage that. The first 20km of the 84km stage are along rolling gravel roads so I had to tap off from time to time so that I didn’t ride too far ahead of Jo.
More climbing than you expect, but the views are terrific!
I had changed my brake pads the night before we left Joburg. The back wheel was fine but the front was binding a bit. I figured the first couple of long descents with some braking would get the pads a little ‘skimmed’ and the squeak would stop. But it didn’t. So, I ended up riding the whole stage with some resistance on the front wheel. Groan I really should have stopped and realigned the brake caliper but I was in ‘race mode’ and I just didn’t think clearly.
Anyway, we rode some superb singletrack and took in some beautiful views as we made our way to Mackenzie Club. The 1200m-plus climbing and the fact that most of the stage is above 1500m above sea level, make this a highly underrated stage in terms of difficulty. And my now-aching quads keeps reminding me each time I move…
Joanne used only Eco and Tour, the two lowest assist options. She probably would have put at least 30 minutes into me if she had ridden to the eBike’s potential, but she rode my pace throughout and ended up using 61% of the battery. She still pedalled the whole way and says her shoulders are a bit tight (not used to the position on this bike) and her left knee started to hurt near the end.
Joanne says she wants an eBike for Christmas now…
With Friday’s Stage 2 over 97km we are expecting to take around 6 hours (an hour or so longer than today). We are going to put our trust in the Habit Neo battery lasting that distance as most of the climbing only comes in the second half and that’s where the 650W eBike motor does most of its work.
If the battery does run out of charge, we will switch bikes. I’ll ride the 22kg eBike and Joanne will ride the 10.5kg Norco Revolver to the finish line. I have now sorted out my brakes so at least my wheels will be spinning freely. Let’s hope my quads join the Stage 2 party…
There was a torrential downpour at Mackenzie club for about 90 minutes this afternoon with more rain forecast tonight. So we aren’t sure if we will be going doing the Umkomaas Valley drop tomorrow. It may be deemed too dangerous. But hey, this is 2020. Everyone at this race has managed to survive Covid-19 so we’re up for anything dangerous…