Weather conditions were perfect in the aftermath of a cold front with bright blue skies, cool temperatures and a light tailwind blowing us steadily South East towards the coast.
Learning from the mistakes they made last year Yolandi and her dad rode conservatively in the flat, opening 100km saving energy for the second half of the event. Unfortunately luck wasn’t on their side and barely halfway into the race an injury her dad sustained in a crash the week prior to the event started flaring up forcing him to pedal with just one leg. To add insult to injury the pain medication he took had an adverse effect on his stomach making him extremely nauseous. Luckily blood is thicker than water (and everything else he couldn’t keep down) and Yolandi nursed him home in 12 hours 30 minutes. In my opinion stories of camaraderie like this embody an ultra-marathon event and are the main reason why people keep coming back to tackle this iconic event.
Talking of teamwork, Tim and I were forced on the back foot when Arno and Gert launched a surprise attack very early on in the race taking one other team with them. The four riders worked well together building up a solid advantage while we sat patiently in the chasing group of about 6 teams. As we entered Checkpoint 2 (km 104), we saw Team DSV depart and knew we were still in with a chance.
I can go into a lot more detail (with expletives) but suffice to say that for the next 100km a VERY painful pursuit ensued with the gap between us always staying within 30seconds to 1min30seconds. Tim was a beast pacing most of the way with me hanging on as we did all we could to stay in touch. Tim’s folks were our back up team and they did a perfect job of keeping us motivated and fed at the checkpoints. At the final checkpoint with only 25km left to race the first few teams were misdirected by barriers which were erected for another race held the week before. Even after 200km of racing Tim was calm as a cucumber and his experience at the event helped us find our way back to the correct route reasonably quickly.
We saw tracks on the road and assumed team DSV were still ahead so we emptied the tank in pursuit of them but they were out of sight. After 7 hours and 51 minutes we rolled into the finish at Jeffrey’s Bay with the announcer saying we had won. We were surprised and then only realised that we weren’t the only ones to have been misdirected. Gert, Arno, Mike and Derrin came in a few minutes later and despite all 3 teams riding a few extra kilometres we all dipped under the 8 hour mark and well within the old record.