Riding the beloved country

David Moseley (Twitter)
David Moseley (Twitter)
Cape Town - The organisers of the joBerg2c bill the event as 'riding the beloved country'. So far, they are on the money. Right now were in Kamberg, having left Winterton at the start of Day 5 of the race.

Riders have been treated to nature reserves, rural villages, the edge of the escarpment and fast-flowing rivers. I'm sure there's been more to see, but in the last two days my eyes have been focused on the bouncy single track in front of me.

Day 4 was a mountain biker's paradise, with single track sections so smooth, manicured and free-flowing, it could make you weep (tears of joy, of course). Day 5 featured bumpier riding across farms that could also make you weep, but not in a way that could be mistaken for happiness.

But back back to Day 4 briefly. The ride started at the Sterkfontein Dam in the Free State and ended on the plush fields of the Winterton Country Club. For mountain biking enthusiasts an interesting aside is that this is the area where the late Burry Stander won the Single Speed World Champ a few years ago.

He arrived the night before the event with nowhere to stay, slept in his car, and then swept to victory while taking part in the festive spirit of the event - at water tables participants have to down beer.  
He also broke his saddle and cycled the last 18km of the event standing up.

The prize for winning the event is also unique - trophies are out, while tattoos are in. In the true spirit of single speed mountain biking, Stander accepted his prize of a tattoo. Inside the bar of the Country Club a white 'ghost bike' remembers South Africa's favourite cyclist.

Day 4 was around 125km long, and felt like it. After eight hours on the bike my race partner Jonathan looked like he'd been put in the washing machine with his clothes. I barely fared much better, starting the day with the 'runs', but rallying to finish two hours inside the cut-off.

Day 5, which was a shorter 98km, took us up some steep climbs towards the Drakensberg. We dipped in and out of the Bushman's River Valley and then snuck in and out of a private game reserve called Zulu Waters. From there we climbed into a forestry plantation and then across some farmland.

While many stage races stay in one area (understandably so), this event truly does ride the beloved country. I think we've seen enough mielies to last us a lifetime, but also green river valleys, dry highveld, farms, mountains, game, cows and a not so chuffed bull early today who looked like he was ready to 'charge' cyclists for the use of his land.

It's obviously an experience that appeals because amongst the riders there are Belgians, Australians, Dutch, French, New Zealanders and a plucky German who ripped off a saddle sore bandage in his moment of need when he took an emergency toilet stop in the bush only to realise he was without toilet paper.

While the banter has been good for four days, there was little or no chit-chat today. Two monster climbs towards the end of the day ensured that we kept our thoughts to ourselves.

The finish line, which at this race never seems to arrive when you want it, was a welcome relief as we cycled into Glengarry Country Club in Kamberg and along a pleasing river towards our tents. Polite school kids from the nearby Clifton Prep school offered us chocolate milkshakes, which only started the waterworks again.

Tomorrow (Day 6) we tackle 89km to Hazeldean Farm in the Underberg.  

After that it's just three days to go. Which probably doesn't sound that bad to you, but then you're not the one in a tent three centimetres away from your cycling partner who's groaning joyously as he applies fragrant chamois cream to his buttocks.

When he's not riding his bike, David Moseley is a columnist for News24...
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