Last week we finally embarked on our African MTB Series where we will be taking part in 5 mountain bike stage races across Sub-Saharan Africa, but outside of our South African borders. After a busy few months on home soil we were excited to finally get the ball rolling on our ‘international’ campaign.
The Namib Quest is a 6 day mountain bike stage race which starts in the Namibian capital, Windhoek, and finishes 480km later at the coastal town of Swakopmund. It would serve as the first step of our journey and what a step it was!
Our largely westward route meant we would be traversing the semi desert Komas Hochland by loosely following the C28 dirt road but frequently diverting on to adjacent farms for some proper mountain biking. Eventually we dropped down through the transitional plateau and into the Namib Desert, crossing the Namib Naukluft Park and finally popping out on to the Atlantic coast at Swakopmund.
The route itself offered a fascinating balance of loose rocky sections and sandy stretches, which got quite technical when the terrain was uneven, connected by open district roads.
This unique course combined with the unfamiliar terrain proved to be extremely challenging but very rewarding once conquered. Although we started at 1700m above sea level and finished at the coast, there was the small matter of conquering 5,296 meters of ascent along the way with most of that climbing (and descending) to be done on some of Namibia’s harshest terrain.
Obviously nothing new to Namibians, but camping was also taken to a whole new level for us South Africans. The camping equipment was proper gear and campsites were erected in beautiful, remote places where phone signal was as scarce as water! This meant the day post stage was spent in the company of nature, fellow riders and race staff rather than staring at our mobile devices. It was refreshing to spend time watching the sun set while sharing war stories about the day’s stage. The race atmosphere is peaceful and to keep it this way the race organisers limit the event to 75 entrants which meant we all knew each other by the time we rolled into Swakopmund.
The only part of the day which had some intensity was the racing as we all battled away to reach the best possible result. We had a fantastic run with no mechanical or other issues allowing us to concentrate on the job at hand.We managed to win 4 stages, the mixed category as well as the overall title ahead of Irene Steyn and Xavier Papo (Mannie’s Bike Mecca) in 2nd and ON Travel Services’ Pedro Campos and Jorge Padrones in 3rd. For us the most striking thing amongst competitors was the camaraderie with Irene often sharing her local knowledge and experience with us despite us being the closest of competitors. It was refreshing and indicative of the ethos of the event.
Although it is billed as a ‘Boutique event’ and riders’ needs are all catered for, the Namib Quest is a challenge not to be underestimated. You still have to pedal your own bike and look after it to make sure it survives all that the desert can through at it, but few journeys will be as rewarding as conquering this quest!