The 9th edition of the Southern Tropical Challenge differed from previous years in that it offered two options to competitors, each with its own name and identity. Both alternatives challenged riders with a prologue and 3 stages but the Sky2C presented the bigger challenge with longer distances and more climbing while the Sea2C lured riders with shorter stages and the promise of an ‘easier’ ride.
The ‘C’ in both names referred to the C Beach Club which hosted the event right on the beachfront where palm trees gently swayed in the sea breeze creating an atmosphere that can only be described as idyllic.
The prologue was a 10km dash in the shadow of Le Morne, a mountain made famous by runaway slaves who chose to jump off the precipitous cliffs rather than be recaptured. Fortunately there was no such drastic action required on our behalf as we rolled off the starting ramp in front of the vacant old restaurant to start our journey (as opposed to ending it!)
The downhill start was quite a novelty and the course didn’t disappoint with just enough of everything to be a good test of all-round ability and fitness. Yolandi was on fire setting a strong tempo on the climbs and descending with confidence and despite a short, unexpected detour we managed to win the stage in the Mixed category and take the leader’s jerseys.
From the sharp pain of the prologue we went into the 41km marathon effort required by stage 1. We started really well and stayed with the leading teams for most of the day, eventually finishing the stage as first Mixed team and 5th overall.
With overnight rain and intermittent showers on the day stage 2 was a muddy 43km affair. This did not deter Yolandi in the least and after flying up the opening 15km climb, she continued just as quick on the descent dragging me along for the ride. It was a lot of fun slipping and sliding our way to finish the day with another stage win.
The final stage was quite a tough, but beautiful 45km challenge with several valley crossings and views for days in many directions as we traversed the Black River and Savanne districts. Reality struck as we passed the overall race leaders stopped at waterpoint 1 after a seemingly innocuous crash forced Karl Platt to abandon with a fractured hip. It was a sober reminder that anything could happen and we had to stay focussed.
We continued safe in the knowledge that it was our final day of racing in 2017 and gave it our all making it four out of four stage wins and overall honours in the Mixed category with 5th place overall just for good measure!
Along with the race success, the hospitality offered to us by our friends and hosts before during and after the event gives this event a special place in our hearts. The Halbwachs and Lincoln families have become extended family in their own right and the end of season won’t be replete without visiting them and ‘their’ bike race is as good a reason as any to make this annual trip to Mauritius!
It was a perfect ending to our #AfricanMTBSeries, closing out a season littered with adventure, once in a lifetime opportunities and exotic travel!
It will be hard to #BeatYesterday!