I’ve been living quite a nomadic life since the beginning of September, trekking from one event to the next, and this time around I travelled from the Isuzu 3 Towers stage race in the Lowveld to Kwazulu-Natal for the Berg and Bush Descent.
Berg and Bush is a 3 day stage race taking place in the area surrounding Winterton. The first stage is a point to point affair with the start situated at the top of Oliviershoek pass in the Drakensberg Mountains and the finish at Emseni campground just outside of Winterton. Stages two and three both start and finish at Emseni camp, which serves as the home base for the Berg and Bush event.
Following stage one the event presented a short hill climb race at the historic Spioenkop Mountain. This is a separate race to the actual 3 day event with substantial prize money up for grabs.
The Berg and Bush trails are unique as we cycled along the Drakensberg escarpment, crossed the Tugela River, ascended the historic Spioenkop Mountain and descended several handmade sections of incredible downhill single trails to name but a few highlights en route.
These days a lot of emphasis is placed on race villages and event organisers do their best to make the riders’ stay as comfortable and enjoyable as they can. Berg and Bush did a good job by treating us to good food, clean ablutions and a beautiful tent village on the banks of the Tugela River.
For the 10th edition of the event I teamed up with my coaching mentor, Mike Posthumus, and it would be a first Berg and Bush for both of us. Mike’s knowledge and background of professional sport makes him an absolute pleasure to race with. He knows what it takes to get the best out of our partnership and I’m always richer from the racing experience thanks to Mike.
We had quite an eventful run at Berg and Bush. On stage one I wrapped a piece of wire around my cassette which required a quick stop to untangle and remove it. The slight hiccup saw us slipping from 2nd to 3rd mixed team out on course. Eager to make up the lost time we ended up missing a turn somewhere forcing us on a minor detour. The detour included running through a dry river bed and climbing over a fence to get back on course. We lost more time and poor Mike was left to do all the pacing on the flat stretches of district roads while others could hide and worked together in small groups to fight the wind. We finished in a satisfying 3rd place considering our adventurous outing and the strong mixed field we competed against.
That evening I decided to put my climbing ability to the test and entered the Spioenkop Mountain Sprint. The 1.3km long hill climb race was super hard but very rewarding as we got cheered on by fellow participants lining most of the mountain. I was very happy to finish in 2nd place behind an on-form Candice Neethling with Lise Olivier finishing in 3rd.
On stage two I paid dearly for my effort on the hill climb race the previous evening. I suffered the entire stage and couldn’t help but be disappointment in myself for what felt like letting our partnership down. Fortunately Mike was very understanding and did his best to lighten my mood so we could still enjoy the experience no matter the outcome. We finished in 4th position and moved down to 4th place in the overall mixed standings.
We lost too much time the previous day to improve our overall placing on the 3rd and final stage but we still wanted to race hard for stage honours on the day. The stage didn’t go as planned and around halfway into the race whilst tucked into a nice little group fighting for 3rd spot on the stage, my rear tire started to lose air. This forced us to stop and inflate the tire. By the time we got going again 2 groups had made their way past us, straight into the following single track. This left Mike and me to struggle our way through the traffic only to make contact with our competitors AFTER having crossed the finish line in 4th place on the stage.
Having had really good luck at the last couple of races, it will be unfair to complain about small hiccups here and there.Obviously it would have been nice to see where we would have finished if I raced the hill climb a bit more conservatively and if we had slightly better luck. The good thing though is that we’ll have to be back next year to give it another shot 🙂