A once in a lifetime ride

2014-09-06 00:00

“PLEASE shoot me, preferably in the head, if I even think of doing that again.”

This was Pietermaritzburg cycling enthusiast Charles Hughes’s message to his wife after he and his son Bruce finished the gruelling Great Divide race — a cycle of close to 5 000 km that starts in Canada and finishes at the Mexican border with the United States.

Hughes (59) is a semi-retired chartered accountant, and Bruce (25) is a final-year law student at the University of Cape Town.

Writing in an article to be published in a cycling publication, Hughes said he has jokingly told his wife to shoot him after finishing two gruelling races.

“After finishing this race, I told my wife if I ever think of doing that again, she should shoot me. I do not think I will do that again; it is extremely difficult.”

He told his wife the same thing in 2013 after finishing the Freedom Challenge, which starts in Pietermaritzburg and wends its way to Cape Town.

Hughes, who lives on a farm near Midmar Dam, said the Freedom Challenge was more organised but more difficult, because the terrain is rougher.

The two events were once-in-a-lifetime events that he has no plans to do again, he said.

“The Great Divide is extremely difficult because from start to finish, you are on your own.

“You find your own food and your own place to sleep.

“It’s non-stop and totally unsupported, with zero outside assistance allowed.”

With only about 100 competitors this year, the race organisers had lost interest in recent years and now the riders organise it themselves.

“It’s physically, emotionally and mentally pretty tough. The distances between the bits of civilisation are daunting.

“There is much that can go wrong, and it gets increasingly difficult to munch through yet more pop tarts and Snickers bars, and to welcome those spiteful afternoon storms.

“But it’s an awesome ride though wonderful countryside, the Yanks are super friendly and helpful, and it’s an adventure that is not easily forgotten.”

Hughes said he had been attracted to the race, which he and his son finished number 19, by the sense of adventure and the thought of travelling through North America.

Bruce said the race was most of all an adventure. “it was extremely difficult, tiring … but finishing the race was a fantastic feeling”.

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