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.