Friday, 11 December 2015
Racing The Munga - Ceres to Wellington
Amy was busy getting herself ready for the final push. I had a good dinner and chatted to Amy's mom. I met her back in 1981 and hadn't seen her since. She had seen my name on the rider list and wondered if it could have been the same person. Well it was. We caught up with each other's lives as I had dinner. What an amazing coincidence.
With Amy headed out and my batteries charging slowly I took a quick shower and lay down for 30 minutes. As the only rider in the support station I got to watch the support staff going about the business of waiting for the next rider. Apart from the support station lead who did an amazing job of pampering me there were the massage team, bike mechanics as well as the medical team. These guys do an incredible job. When you arrive at a station anytime night or day they are waiting and ready to assist. I have huge respect for them.
At 10 pm I had signed out and had readied my bike. It was a beautiful night. With just 70 km's to the finish I was feeling good. A few of us chatted on for another 10 minutes before I saddled up and left. Apart from a few kilometres of gravel at the start the rest was all tar. There was the small matter of Bainskloof Pass but I knew it wasn't that difficult from the Ceres side. I had camped there many times when I lived in Cape Town and was looking forward to revisiting that special place.
The night was cool, the wind had abated and the tar was smooth and fast. I dropped onto the aero bars and treated this last section as a time trial. After all the riding, including a few grubby efforts, I wanted to finish this race at least feeling like a half decent cyclist.
Powering through the night was a surreal experience. You exist in a light bubble — it becomes everything you are and everything that matters. Getting to the start of the climb I kept up the effort. It was a cool evening but the effort had me soaked in sweat. I felt invincible.
Soon the road flattened and the lights of Wellington shone bright in the valley below. In no time at all the GPS had me wiggling through the suburbs of the town. Popping into the main road I saw the sign for Diemersfontein up ahead. This is a special place in my life. It has been the finish for the Freedom Challenge Race Across South Africa since 2009. A quick dash up the driveway, a loop around the dam, I found Alex, the number 9 finishers medal in hand, standing next to a small gazebo.
It was 1:30 am Sunday 6th December. 3h20 after leaving Ceres the race for me was over. I had prevailed. I had covered the 1091 km's from Bloemfontein to Wellington in 85 hours 30 minutes.
The finish was as low-key as you can get — two race representatives and the three members of my family. It was apt. This is not a look-at-me race. It's a personal journey.