22 Jan, 2015

Struggling along the Amashova

By Jean Reynolds

It would appear that the seeds for my adventures/ challenges over the past couple of years have been sewn around a table with friends, food and wine. And I don’t even drink!

The Godfather decided that it was time us three “Non-clip-on’s” challenged ourselves a little and he thought the “Amashova” would be a good starter race for us. We could tie it in to the end of the “ELB Extreme Road Challenge”, a running/ cycling race from Johannesburg to Durban, and join the charity bunch at the start in our ELB jerseys. The seeds were sewn….. But a few things had to happen between then and race day.

We took another trip to the Garden Route (oh, such a hardship!), this time with a couple of men as part of our posse. Suzie brought her husband Rodger (the Godfather) along as well as some other friends, Hannes and Hermien were with us for the week and Brandon and Sandra joined us for the weekend. We did our first ride on the Saturday morning after the market.

Hannes and Hermien had barely turned off their car before we were unloading their bikes and chasing them into their riding clothes for a little warm-up ride on the back roads to Wilderness for cocktails! We found a snake on the road and gave it a wide birth!! I think Suzie rode over its tail but it caused a bit of consternation!! Poor thing was a bit dazed I’m sure with all the attention! The cocktails were great.

Riding home Marie-Anne discovered why she had been working so much harder than everyone else. Her brakes were binding terribly and it just made the uphill trip home much harder! The brakes were sorted out first thing the next morning before we set off to do the Harkerville red route.

We wanted to show everybody what it was all about and why we had been raving so much. Poor Hermien, talk about baptism by fire!! She was the least experienced of the bunch and this was her first off-road ride. As before, we had an amazing ride down to the sea for a snack and along the coast for a bit and back up the hill through the forests with a few incriminating pictures taken in between! Brandon and Sandra left us as they had to get home.

Our next ride was back at Barrington’s farm. The weather had been much dryer and we decided to explore the yellow “Forest Frenzy” trail. Once again we were not disappointed. The Godfather reckons that this route at Barrington’s is the best off-road route he has ever ridden. Thoughtfully planned and constructed.

We had a good 46 kilometre road ride between Sedgefield and Buffalo Bay. Some of us even rode back! No names no pack drill but suffice to say that we three “Non-clip-on’s”, we very happy that Hermien, with her car and a three-bike rack joined us for breakfast! Marie-Anne and I awarded Rodger and Hannes the inaugural “Help my Trap” award for their tireless coaching, amazing advice and help they gave us during this trip.

Both Suzie and I got new bikes. Old “Buns of steel” is getting soft! The Godfather treated her to a 27.5 inch dual suspension and she couldn’t believe what she had been missing out on! My purchase was prompted by discovering that my baby, which I had bought nearly a year ago, was actually too small for me. The “Boss” (my husband, Kenneth) and I had both bought our bikes from a reputable bike dealer who had “set us up”. We were clueless, being new to the cycling community and just paid and paid, took and did as we were told.

I had many lovely rides on my Lush 29 but suffered from continual backache and seemed to be working harder to keep up with my buddies. This prompted me to have my bike set up professionally which is when I discovered it was too small. I will just say that my new bike, a Giant Anthem 27.5 inch, is absolutely marvellous! It just goes and goes! I just love it and I thank the Godfather every time I see him for hooking me up with his bike mate on the East Rand.

I was also in a “cleat” dilemma! Finally I decided that I would use my cleats for road riding and off-road, on trails that I knew. Anything else and the 4X4 pedals would come out. I had some spectacular falls while learning to use my cleats. Suzie broke my fall a couple of times – payback for having to sort out her cramp! My chant as I rode uphill became “Don’t forget to unclip… don’t forget to unclip….”

And then there were two. Marie-Anne, wonderful daughter that she is, had to make a mercy dash to help her parents on their farm in France – a bit far away and she didn’t know when she’d be home and couldn’t take her bike with her.

During this time, the Boss and I were invited to ride the Grace to Grace race in the Magaliesberg at the end of September. Forty-eight kilometres of hell it looked like when we read the write up but we entered, deciding it would be good training. I was a bit concerned about the Boss having time to get enough training in. He had decided to give in to the pressure and join us on the Amashova.

The race was tough with tricky rocky downhills into the valley and some SERIOUS climbs out. We worked very hard and did some pushing out of the valley. It was very hot and the two water stations were most welcome. Kenneth’s legs weren’t listening to him at the end, but I think we did very well. We finished in just over four hours and weren’t last. We were, however, shattered and went to bed just after watching the Boks eventually beat the Aussies.

We have had some good training rides, the Boss and I. We have done some road rides at the Cradle and my Brother-in-law had taken us on a tough 48 kilometre off-road ride from Rietvlei in the south to the Block House on the road to the Vaal dam and back. Then there was the Grace to Grace. We have been spinning a couple of times a week. An hour and a half of abuse which reduced us to a puddle of sweat! We were just trying to spend as much time in the saddle as possible toughening up our butts for the many hours it was going to take us to do the Amashova.

And then there was one! Suzie got ill a couple of days before the Amashova and decided not to ride. I was in a state the night before worried that we weren’t going to wake up in time but I needn’t have been concerned, the howling wind saw to it that nobody got any sleep any way! The day started out really nicely and we were at the start in plenty of time. The climb to Thornville, the first of MANY, was long and we laboured along. The Boss and I were riding our mountain bikes with no slicks and I got many comments/ compliments on my stupidity.

We had a long hard ride – I can’t believe the climbing we had to do to get to the sea. A head-wind hit us at about Gillits and we really battled from there until the end. I even had to pedal down Fields Hill and anybody who has ridden this race before will know that the down-hills seem to fly by and no sooner have you started free-wheeling than another hill starts and you have to change down and start working hard again. We were very excited to see my sister at Cato Ridge and more family at Westville cheering us on!

Finally we made it to the finish line – I couldn’t believe that we had done it! My sister was waiting for us with a big smile and wildly waving arms! Kenneth’s bike computer had us at 4:55 riding time and we stopped for about half an hour along the way. We were so chuffed with ourselves, deservedly so I think! We never pushed once. We had a shower and started the long drive home through rain and storms back to Joeys. We are now deciding what our next challenge should be……. Watch this space.