Mpumalanga XC Championships #3 – Sabie

First a note note from the blogger:
You know when you have the best of intentions to do something really awesome for someone (like loading race pics for a certain Lydenburger –  you know who you are) and then the normal hum-drum of life gets in the way. Yep, I had one of those weeks.

With the best of intentions I thought I would be able to do the photos of the race, and load the race blog all by Monday. But here we are…a whole 7 days later, another race and a month’s worth of work all done and dusted, and only now I’m getting to the good stuff.
So without further delay, I’ll hand you over to:

Guest blogger: Barry Wasserman

MTB in Champ Eden

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Panoramic view of the Sabie XC race course

When my Bike Guru brother Albert invited me to ride in the Mpumalanga Cross Country Championships in Sabie this past weekend (14 March 2015), I jumped at the chance to do my first XC event. After warm-up I realized that I was in trouble. I was exhausted after one relaxed lap of the highly technical course.

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Burms and bends

Jakes van Staden built a killer track on the York Timber grounds. We had to complete four laps during the race. I made peace with the fact that I will be lapped and only complete two or three laps. I also checked my life cover and got my will in order.

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Master builder: Jakes van Staden
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Jakes van Staden clearing the Bull run

At the starting line my neck and shoulder tension wasn’t eased by what I saw. Only thirty or so very experienced riders lined up to compete. No novice or fun-ride riders (other than me). You know how there is always at least one guy that you look at and know, I mean KNOW for a fact that at least I won’t be last. This time I experienced how that poor bugger feels when lining up.

So when they said CHAMPIONSHIP, they meant champ in every sense of the word. Not just like in, “thanks for taking out the trash champ.” You know, the champ that is synonymous with “buddy” or “pal”, which btw, is the only kind of champ I am. My “champ” is closer in meaning to “chimp” than the Husain Bolt kind of “champ” we’re referring to here.

The starting line banter made it very clear that I was joining a tight knit group of bike junkies. It was the perfect place to spend a relaxed Saturday. The first 100m after the start served to separate the riders to prevent bottlenecks on the pump-track.

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The Pine forest up ahead

The pump track was followed by a beautiful single-track climb through a typical Sabie pine forest with lots of technical twists and turns as well as a split that allowed just about every rider to pass me. This section also included a steep ascent that takes all your effort if you want to remain on your steed.

Entering a small section of jeep-track (uphill too), I started losing sight of the riders in front of me. The jeep-track ended with a steep and pesky little right turn into gentler climbing single-track in young growth forest.

The single track became jeep-track once more and we climbed even higher up to the highest point on the track. Here the track veered off on a sharp left and we had a chance to get up to speed for the jumps on the bull-run (bump on the chicken run if you are a chimp-champ like me).

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Chicken run

The last section of the track consisted of two sections of fast forest downhill with great burms, connected by a split track, switch-back climb with very, very tight turns and lots of magnetic rocks and roots and immovable pine trees as corner posts.

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Switch-back climb section
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Fast downhill section

The end of this section had a rock garden from hell. I only managed to do one complete run of this monster without dismounting. The fact that it had a gradient that would scare a gecko didn’t help. After this it was a grassy straight to the finish line, where an ever cheerful Brett Coates announced the “last rider on the course”….and three more rounds.

I completed all four rounds and managed to keep my vegetarian race fuel in my stomach (only just). My muscles felt like they were burning up (I only ever felt like this at a Dual-X event) but I pushed through it.

After completing another event and being able to tick another “been there, done that” box, I felt immensely grateful for having legs and an able body and mind and having family and friends that shout and support even though you look like a strategically shaven chimp on a bike.

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Valencia rider: Franco Pelser
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Liam de Klerk
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Reyno Beukes
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Regardt Wiehman
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Constant Furstenberg
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Kirsty Shuttleworth

Another perk is having talented young men competing,  some that were learners in my science class a few years back. It is a privilege to see them competing, thriving and supporting me (in front of me at least) and having them teach me about riding a track (physics can be cool).

The greatest privilege though is having a cool photographer/travel companion* wife that is willing to run, climb, shout and get really dirty, like stinky dirty, to get great shots and support me.
*Roamie – a term I coined to describe the amazing travelling companion that I have in my husband. A combination of roaming and Homie

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