About 90 brave souls started the 4th edition of the 1Zambia last week Friday, setting off on a true African adventure. The event was hosted at Lilayi Lodge just outside Lusaka, spending 2 days at the stunning venue before the final stage took riders to Kiambi Lodge on the banks of the mighty Zambesi River.
This event was the 2nd in our Team Garmin #AfricanMTBSeries, coming a week after our exploits at the Namib Quest. With six days of racing in our legs and quite a bit of travel we were apprehensive of our form come race day, but a pre race spin around Lilayi Lodge soon pushed thoughts of racing back as we totally immersed ourselves in Bushveld camping life amongst the Giraffe, Eland, Waterbuck and other wildlife that roamed the game park.
Reality struck soon enough as people filtered into the race village on Thursday to complete registration and race briefing made it clear we were in for a challenge. Two stages of 70km dropping down the adjacent escarpment and back up followed by a final monster 108km transition stage down to Lower Zambesi would have to be self navigated in order to conquer the 1Zambia.
The terrain was exactly as we had pictured Africa with animal and man-made trails criss-crossing some harsh but beautiful lush savannah, expertly connected by race director Owen Green. Where no trails were available, singletrack was hand cut and built to make sure riders had the best experience possible getting from A to B.
With a trail network spread out like the Okavango delta, it was inevitable to take the incorrect option here and there, especially while trying to go at race speed, but each time our Garmin Edge 1000 devices had us back on track in no time. We raced as smart as we could often backing off the pace in order to focus on navigation and helping each other to negotiate the tough terrain while keeping track of the course. This netted us 3 stage wins and the overall title in the Mixed category, and a whole lot of fun along the way!
The scenery, extensive trails and African experience at the event were all highlights which would bring any mountain biker back, but the most significant feature of the event was the organizers commitment to their undertaking. Owen, Ilke and their team of committed volunteers left no stone unturned to make everyone feel welcome and get the most from their participation at the event. That alone is enough reason to put the 1 Zambia on your Bike-it list.