GUEST BLOG: Barry Wasserman
Ever wondered how to make yourself pay for a December holiday filled with lazy days and eating enough to feed a province in Somalia? Well you might consider making your way to Barberton to compete in the Barberton XCM.
This event, hosted by the Barberton Rotary Club has become well known for its gruelling routes and each year hundreds of Mountain Bikers from who knows where converge on this little historic town to earn the title of Daisy Warrior (like MTB Top Gun).
You can choose between the 20km, 30km, 48km, 77km and 110km routes. The 20km and the 30km sticks to the relatively flat agricultural farmland while the 48km and up climbs the mountains to halfway between Swaziland and the heavens.
Being an unfit novice, I opted for the delicate 30km option with a total ascent of between 300- and 400m. My sister joined me on her second last race before leaving the clear Mpumalanga mountain air (Ngodwana excluded) for the Chow Mein smelling smog of Beijing.
All the riders lined up at the start (we were way at the back) at 7:45 (30km starting time) in what appeared to be the largest group of the day, proving that most of the MTB society is sane in at least one way. The megaphone voice yelled, “GO, GO, GO!” , and we were off.
The first 800m on tar road helped to spread out the mass of spokes and helmets and give the faster riders a chance to work their way to the front. It is in this section that the two people behind us also passed us and we saw the first puncture or valve malfunction victim having some words with the back wheel of his up-turned ride.
We made a right turn onto the farm track but had to get off and push up a small but steep little incline because of a bottleneck caused by riders struggling to cross the train tracks (daisies!). From here on the first 15km descended at a steady rate and it was easy to laze-along at 25kph. We followed the well marked track through sugarcane plantations and bushveld.
The signs were unnecessary for us because we just followed the great cloud of dust in front of us like two MTB Israelites. We passed a breakdown here and a puncture there, some begging for bommetjies (gas cartridges). The water point offered refreshment at the 10km mark but it being downhill almost all the way there, we kept going with smug smiles.
At the 15km mark the climb back to the start/finish began and the smug smiles changed into sweaty grimaces. The sun showed up too and boy did he give us a warm welcome. My sister started using water like something with a cracked radiator.
At the 20km mark, just after the black mamba almost slithered into my front wheel, she convinced me to part with my Camelbak and remaining litre of water. Her rear tyre also started to deflate for no apparent reason about 3km before the ⅔ mark, causing us to throw bommetjies at it like it was Baghdad.
We crossed the train track again and were back on the tar. Here my sister fell, trying to cross a storm water ditch. Her back tyre lost its last breath of air and we used our last cartridge to semi inflate it. We made it to the finish line with her bouncing along as she pedalled. They scanned us, medalled us and coked us (as in Coca-Cola) and hooked us for next year.
Two new Daisy Warriors left Barberton feeling like champs. This event will see me next year.