Getting lessons at go2berg – Day 4
Today’s 93km ride (and race, for the speedy riders who are on a diet at the waterpoints) at the Old Mutual go2berg, from Sterkfontein Dam to the Em’seni Race Village just outside Winterton in KwaZulu-Natal, was all about lessons.
The first lesson came during the neutral start out of Sterkfontein Dam when a herd of buck started sprinting alongside the departing riders. ‘It’s springbok’ cried some. ‘No, it’s gemsbok’ said another. ‘Definitely blesbok’ added a budding wildlife expert. No consensus was reached before the ride started – the lesson being, mountain bikers know nothing about local wildlife.
Out on the trails, the lessons came thick and fast – though without the ability to search the actual information online, some of the learnings might not help one graduate from any form of official schooling. Riding alongside a lengthy concrete canal not long after leaving Sterkfontein, riders could be heard asking one another, “Who built this canal?”
Answers were wild and varied, with replies ranging from ‘a German guy built the canal, but on the wrong side of the mountain’ to ‘it’s an overflow canal for Sterkfontein Dam’ to ‘it was a Boer War trench that was ultimately filled in with concrete’. The lesson here – don’t ask questions while riding with a crowd, rather wait till you can Google the great know-it-all in the cloud.
Out on a sublime day 4 of trails, which took riders along fast district roads before heading up onto the Escarpment and then along singletrack that is quite frankly out of this world, the lesson was ‘don’t try and overtake on the right on narrow ascents’ or you might roll all the way down from the Free State and into KwaZulu-Natal.
In this instance, bold Brett was the pupil and cool Catherine was the teacher. With Catherine coming to a stop on a short, steep section of trail, Brett tried to work his way past, only for Catherine to administer a ferocious People’s Elbow of the likes last seen only when Dwayne ‘the Rock’ Johnson was the WWE’s World Champion.
(Catherine didn’t really whack Brett off the mountain, and ultimately, after grabbing onto his hydration pack, she did save his life). But the lesson is, rather ride over people than try and pass them on a tight cliff-face trail.
Further lessons came thick and fast, such as don’t try and ride like the professionals in the field just because you have a tailwind and a slight downhill to inspire you.
On a section of route between waterpoint 1 to waterpoint 2, the race leader Phil Buys and the chasing pack of Wessel Botha, Pieter du Toit, Gert Heyns, Keagan Bontekoning and others roared along at a blistering 60km/h for a time. The top four eventually all finished seconds apart, with Buys taking the 93km stage in a time of three hours and seven minutes. He leads overall by a mere six seconds, with Wessel Botha in second place.
This idiot rider-writer, attempting to emulate the stars in the field, cracked along on the same stretch at 40km/h, only to realise too late in the day that much climbing was still to come. Tongue lolling extravagantly from my mouth at the finish line, I learned that the ultimate lesson was don’t be a nincompoop and rather just cruise along.
Lessons in thatch grass (not so good at the top of the hill, much better along the Tugela River) and the thatch-roofing industry were also doled out, as was farming advice on the benefit of winter crops like oats to keep your cows well-fed and the ground full of necessary nutrients (clover adds nitrogen. I think. I was very tired).
But the real lesson of the go2berg is that riding from the Free State into KwaZulu-Natal, on trails that can’t be accessed at any other time of year, on singletrack that goes on for so long you think you’re in a World Championship-winning dream, is the most fun you can have on a mountain bike. And on day 5 tomorrow, with 68km of pure singletrack riding to come, it’s only going to get better.
More of today's photo's