Monthly Archives: December 2015

My race report of the Desert Dash. @NedbankDD @GarminSA

I have never visited Namibia nor raced my bike at night. When the opportunity arose to do both, I couldn’t help but to squeeze one final event into an already full racing calendar for this year.

The Nedbank Desert Dash is a 369km event stretching from the Namibian capital of Windhoek to the coastal town of Swakopmund. Participants have the options to enter in the solo category, a two man team or a 4 man team but regardless of their decision everyone had only 24 hours to complete the race.  How it works for the teams is that the first 32km and the last 45km you and your teammate(s) have to ride together. The rest of the distance is then divided into 4 sections of roughly 70-75km each which you and your teammates take turns to complete. If you opt to ride solo it’s obviously one long pull all the way to the Atlantic Ocean.

One of Namibia’s top female cyclists, Irene Steyn asked me to join her for this year’s edition.  On Friday the 11th of December at 3pm, Irene and I left the start line in Windhoek together and rode consistently to the first change over point 32km into the race. Here I continued racing on while Irene got into the back up vehicle only to meet me again after a further 67km at the 2nd change over point on the Kuiseb River. Around 7pm I made my way to this changeover point where Irene took over from me riding into the sunset on her 76km leg while I was transported to the 3rd change over point in the comfort of a minibus.

At 11:20pm Irene and I swopped roles again and I set off into the dark on my 74km leg through the Namib Naukluft Park. I rode 85% of this stage on my own and if this experience wasn’t unique enough in itself, I was so fortunate as to see a leopard en route. At first I couldn’t believe my eyes as it walked into the road right in front of me! It started trotting ahead of me, running in my little bike light’s beam. The only problem was that I started catching up to the cat and I had NO intention of catching it, so I hit the brakes. The leopard then decided to make a left turn off the road and into the grass, turning around to stare at me as I passed. Then it lowered itself into the grass and disappeared… I got the fright of my life and in ostrich-head-in-the-sand mode just kept on pedalling past it. Who needs an energy gel when you have that much adrenaline coursing through your veins! After a few minutes there was no cat on my back and I realized it was an unforgettable encounter with an extraordinary cat.

When “what the hell just happened” finally sank in, I decided to keep the sighting to myself because who on earth would believe me? I could just hear all the stories of Yolandi hallucinating about seeing leopards in the desert due to sleep deprivation. As I arrived at the 3rd change over point, it was a relief to hear that the 3 guys in front of me also had an encounter with the Leopard. Yes! I had evidence.

Irene left at 2:20 am on the 5th stage to cover the 74km to the final changeover at Goanikontes. I managed to get a valuable one hour nap while being transported to the next stop. At dawn Irene and I left the 4th changeover point together to cover the last 46km stretch through the beautiful ‘Moon Landscape’ to Swakopmund.

Around 7am Irene and I crossed the finish line in Swakopmund to claim victory in the ladies 2-man category in a combined time of 16 hours and 41 minutes. The pairing of Adele De La Rey and Johanita de Waal finished in 2nd place with Maike Bochert and Anneke Steenkamp in 3rd place.

The Desert Dash was truly an unbelievable experience and I honestly couldn’t have asked to be in better hands during the dash weekend. Before and after the race I was warmly hosted by the de Lange family who started this event in 2005 and organised it until 2014. As you can imagine with all their experience of the event the de Lange family briefed me and helped me to get ready for the event to the point where I only had to show up on the day and pedal my bike. The Namibians’ kindness didn’t stop there as Irene’s father in-law chauffeured us from one station to the next in a luxurious minibus equipped with a comfy mattress in the back.

A big thanks to the de Lange family and the Steyn family for making my stay so comfortable and my experience of the Dash (and of Namibia) remarkable.

Looking back on 2015 I can only say thank you to all my sponsors, supporters, family and friends for all that they contribute to my cycling career. All my results and the experiences that I have had wouldn’t be possible without you. I would love to thank you all in person but you will get bored 1/3 through the list.

May you all have a wonderful Festive Season and a prosperous New Year.Desert Dash

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My race report of the LUX Resorts Southern Tropical Challenge @GarminSA

My penultimate race of 2015 took me to the Tropical Island of Mauritius to participate in the 7th edition of the Southern Tropical Challenge.

Breaking with tradition, the event was staged from a central point at the Tamassa Hotel in Bel’Ombre on the south coast of the island. Participants could choose to either make use of the hotel’s accommodation or the (cheaper) tented facilities with both options having full access to Tamassa’s facilities. This included daily meals along with tea-time snacks, clean ablution facilities and the luxurious swimming pools which were a hit.

As always the event was held over 4 days, consisting of a 15km prologue followed by 3 stages. The total 187 km route included a whopping 4745m of climbing which wound through private properties, nature reserves and alongside the coast making for a picturesque tour of the Bel’Ombre region.

Say Tropical Island and thoughts turn to white sandy beaches, crystal clear water and swimming with reef fish but that image was abruptly recessed by the sensation of burning legs and lungs once the racing commenced.  The hilly course on rocky volcanic terrain made for a tough challenge, but at the same time very rewarding as it only took a slight glance at the spectacular scenery to make you appreciate the backdrop to your suffering.

With my usual STC teammate (Aurelie Halbwachs Lincoln) being on motherly duties since September, I partnered with Squirtlube’s Ben Melt Swanepoel for the event. We rode/ (portaged) the Transalp together and combine well to race strongly in the mixed category.

In 2013 and 2014 I didn’t finish the STC due to crashes and injury, so this year it was a relief to reach the finish line in one piece. Winning all 4 stages and the overall title in the mixed category was truly the cherry on the cake.

I’ve been fortunate to be part of this race since 2011 and it’s great to see the event improving every year. This year’s central hosting at Tamassa hotel was a favourite amongst participants and even those of us that stayed in the tents couldn’t agree more. The Southern Tropical Challenge is a bucket list event and with the race now welcoming family and friends to stay with participants at the hotel throughout the duration of the event, it’s an event not to be missed in 2016.

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