Friday, August 10, 2007

Singletrackminded

Having never seen a "North shore-bridge", I had no idea what the organiser (and everyone else) was on about at the Sudwala pre-ride briefing. The sparkle and excitement in my freerider-buddies' eyes hinted that it might be technical stuff far above my or my bike's ability. The promised "chicken-runs" didn't put me at ease in the slightest - I remembered only too well that the so-called "chicken runs" at the downhill-competition the day after the Induna were still very much higher-grade.
The organiser spoke about single track and drop-offs, downhills & obstacles & bridges, North shore-style.

Yeah right. We started on dirt-road, did a quick loop through a tunnel, and then onto a never-ending climb - on tar. At the top of the tar-hill, we at last left the tar and continued the climb up a rutted jeep-track. Finally there was a water point, an Argustour-vibe and a downhill. The downhill didn't last long, though. But the next hill was short, and finally we were in a forest. The single track twisted and turned and I missed it a few times DeeKay-style. Then there was a piece of single track that looked like it was made a few days before - which is likely, due to last minute route-changes because of the fires that raged the area. The path was against a steep slope and you had to tackle it fast so that, by the time the earth disappears beneath your back wheel, you'll be over that patch already. Unfortunately there was a bottleneck - like sometimes happen on these juicy bits. People haven't heard of the 'speed can cure almost any obstacle'-theory yet. Finally the newly created track sloped downwards, and then joined with something out of this world - we were inside a mini-canyon with a play park of bridges, twists, turns, and more bridges. Once or twice I accidentally took the chicken-run (I'm still learning to look further ahead) and had to turn back so that I could attempt the real thing. Once or twice I was in the real thing before realising it, and it was too late to stop so I just had to continue - wow!

The rest of the route followed the same pattern: climbing on (sometimes very steep) rutted jeep-tracks and bombing down deep kloofs with twists & turns & rocks & bridges & broken bridges (deliberately, I suspect, because the wood seemed quite new) and very narrow bridges and very long bridges and bridges that turned in mid-air and bridges built at strange angles and steep turns that would throw your bicycle up against the track-wall, and drop-offs with low tree-branches that would grab your camel-back just as you cleared the drop-off or the obstacle. There were a few hair raising moments when I overestimated the angle of a bridge over a fence, and caught some air right at the top of the upside-down V-bridge...I would have been out of the race if the mountain bike-goddess didn't show some mercy & guided my wheels to a soft landing straight back on the bridge. There was some more climbing, and more bombing down into some or other technical heaven, then some waiting for a chance to pass who-ever's in front of you, and then another climb, where the slow-single-track-people would outclimb you again, another downhill and sometimes another bottleneck.

Every few kilometers you would hear a big noise, and a few 100 meters later the water point would come into sight - with loudspeakers & pom-pom girls cheering you on - the vibe was great & I felt like a champion as they cheered me into & out of each water point.



It's almost a week after the race and I still walking around with this stupid grin.

There's just one thing that this race doesn't have: ski lifts to the top of the many climbs. I guess I'll just have to learn to climb, so that I can avoid the bottlenecks by reaching the single track first.

Note to free riders, duallie-riders, Dark & Dirty-riders and other Mountain Bikers:
A girl on a hard tail wrote this report, and 'technical' for her is nothing special for anyone else. Not worth going to Nelspruit for this ride.
Note to roadie riders:
This ride is far too technical and you won't like it one bit. Don't take your MTB there for it's annual getaway. You might fall and bruise yourself - and we don't want you to walk around with a grin for a week after the ride and then convert to MTB.
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