Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Lowveld Quest

This was the first year of the Lowveld Quest and I think its set to become a classic must do race. The organization, routes and fun was fantastic. Tim and Annette are riding the 361 race down South later this week so I got to ride the 4 day stage race on my own. It is a pairs race but they allowed solo entries due to demand. The race started in Lydenberg and finished in Hazyview in the Lowveld. The pre-race supper was held at the Lydenberg school where we were treated to a superb supper by the schools hotel school. One could have thought you were dining in a swanky hotel. The race briefing was conducted with a great sense of humor which would set the tone for the whole 4 days. The start was cold but we had about 400 school children cheering us off out of the school grounds that soon warmed everyone up, the day consisted of a very large climb through two game reserves that had a lot of animals in it, I am sure I would have seen some of them if I could have lifted my eyes up off the track and managed to breathe normally. The single track was great and the district roads were fast, and eventually we managed to find some downhill that led to Mankele where the first over night stop was being held. On arrival everyone was greeted by the organizers and we were sent of to clean bikes, eat and find our tents. The day was 81 Km in distance and the winning time was 3;15 and the last was about 7 hours. Everyone seemed to enjoy the day even as the clouds came in promisising rain. Day 2 was from Mankele to Sabie, the route followed the 3 Towers race route up to Misty Mountain, roughly 50 km of up hill, my legs blew within the first 10 km and it was a slow grind up hill in granny gear in the rain and mud. The route was slippery and wet and not that scenic as we could not see anything. As we came into Misty Mountain along the single track we were warned to walk as people had overshot the bridge and ended up in the dam at the bottom. The water point was fantastic and hosed off the mud from the bikes which helped us with the fast 20 Km downhill to Merry Pebbles at Sabie, although the day was a 69 Km day it was fun and the camaraderie at the back of the field was great with people falling off and cracking jokes. On arrival at Sabie we all washed our bikes off in the river, found the food and got warm and dry. The food again was great and you have to take your hats off to the organizers who moved the camps and got everything in place for the riders. Day 3 was from Sabie to Graskop, a monster up hill for 25 km and then back down to Sabie on some of the best single track I have ridden. The rain was out and the mud was flying, the course rode between single track and jeep track all the way to the overnight stop at Graskop. Most riders found the day a challenge but seemed to enjoy it and we got a surprise at Graskop as we were not in tents but in dorms belonging to an educational centre. The most popular person was the guy who set up selling chocolates, cokes and beers, he was doing a brisk trade in beer. The day was 56 Km and the race snakes were set for a really fast stage 4 which would sort out the placings. Day 4 arrived with all the riders lined up at the start about 20 minutes early, lots of laughter and jokes were flying around and the weather looked like it would play its part. We set of at a really fast pace, which came to an end when we got to the Three Pigs, I thought these hills would be rideable, but the compulsory portage signs gave an indication that they were not.Bike on the back Freedom Challenge style and a yomp up the first two Piggies. The girls were supposed to have their bikes carried up for them but in my group the girls did their own portaging, hats off to them, it was nasty. The third Piggie I road up and down and managed to go off the edge just in front of the cameraman, always the way. Then we had a blistering downhill section. Well thats until the 22 Km mark were I rounded a corner doing about 2 Km an hour and my front wheel hit a slippery hard packed section and I found myself staring at the sky trying to catch my breath. Now you don't mind falling at speed as you can appear a bit of a downhill racer but at walking pace you appear an idiot !!! I realized I had landed on my ribs and it was a bit sore. At the next water point I found out we still had 25km to go so carried on. The last section was fun and fast and the adrenalin kicked in and managed to get into the finish in a reasonable time. the distance was 49 Km. The race concluded and I was left with the impression that this race was well organised and really is a race for Mountain Bikers. There was not the well groomed single track that you get at other races, or the Woolworths food tent at the end but what they had achieved was a back to basic, good, hard, fun Mountain Bike stage race that was achievable for the riders yet challenging. Well done to the boys at Mankele and Induna.

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