The Isuzu Trucks PE PLETT is a 4-day mountain bike stage race from the beautiful shores of Port Elizabeth to Plettenberg Bay which falls in the Garden Route. The race started at Wedgewood Country Estate just outside of Port Elizabeth and along the way we camped at Gamtoos Ferry, Soloko Village and finally at Tsitsikama Falls Village before finishing at Forever Resort in Plettenberg Bay.
For the 3rd edition of the event I partnered with good friend and PE local Anriette Schoeman. We teamed up for the first time at last years’ Wine2Whales stage race and after an enjoyable and successful initial partnership, I was really looking forward to racing by her side again.
Port Elizabeth is best known for hosting IronMan South Africa and it was silly of me to think I would visit PE without a swim or run somewhere along the line J. In the week prior to the start of the event the area received continues rain and this made conditions for organisers and participants quite challenging during the race.
Riders had to deal with a wet and muddy course every day. To put things into perspective – If you ‘only’ had to replace your bike’s brake pads after the stage, it was considered a good day out for you and your bike. Still, we riders had it easy as all of us made it to the finish line (eventually) while the event’s transport vehicles got stuck in mud so deep they never made it to some race villages.
The weather conditions certainly made the racing extra tough and at times it was more a mental battle than a physical one, but we tried to keep the team spirit high at all times. Not a day passed where Anriette and I didn’t have a laugh together – even if it meant laughing at ourselves. For example my “Mini Me”, aka Anriette, had to swim several times through the river crossings while I was tall enough to wade through. She didn’t know it, but I was laughing during the race and Anriette understandably afterwardsJ.
In the challenging circumstances we paid extra attention to team work and it truly contributed to our successful run at the event. Our trusty steeds (Merida Big Nine Team Full suspension bikes) were bulletproof and another reason for our success as we never had technical issues despite all the mud.
We prevailed in all 4 stages and with that also took the overall victory in the ladies category. Sanet Small and Dalene Van Der Leek (Sasol Racing ) finished in 2nd place with Sarah van Heerden & Cindy Theunissen (Valley Girls )rounding out the podium in 3rd place.
Despite the muddy conditions I really enjoyed the race route and can just imagine how incredible it must be to have a dry run at the event. Along with the enjoyable atmosphere that the organisers of Red Cherry Adventures created at the race villages, it made for a truly memorable event.