- By Oli Munnik
The 3rd leg of the SA National XCO Series took place in Addo, just outside PE, this past weekend. Jetting up last Thursday meant that the adventure kicked off only 4 days after arriving back in Cape Town from the Sani2c the previous weekend. The tight schedule only gave me a few precious days to recover from my clinically diagnosed condition of post pinning it depression! No rest for the wicked!
With quite a few things to get sorted, last week flew by. So much so that my bike didn’t even make it out of its box! Instead of unpacking it for 3 rides and then boxing it again, my GT road bike was a much better option. I hooked it around Cape Town doing a few tweaking rides before making the trip to Addo with my Zaskar still safely boxed.
I spent Thursday evening in PE with Charles Keey’s parents, Walter and Terry. The trip out to Addo at dusk is not really my cup of tea – dodging stray farm animals, adventurous kudus and pedestrians is a bit dicey, so I was grateful to the Keeys for their hospitality.
Friday morning dawned and I was excited to get out and onto the track. With my caffeine fix sorted, I was on the road pinning it to the “blink and you’ll miss it” town of Addo, made famous of course by the National Elephant Park. When I say blink and you’ll miss it, Addo really is tiny. This strikes me as ironic because eli’s are massive! Anyway I was there to ride and ride I did. The grapevine had been buzzing with tales of a brand new course that was recently completed on the lower slopes of the Zuurberg Mountains. All reports heaped praise on the effort that the team had put in. And, as I was to find to out, the rumours were true. The track is rad!
Friday saw most riders practicing, doing their usual few laps in prep for Saturday’s race. The flow of riders did wonders to settle the track. Our wheels firmed up the newly gravelled sections, carving out clearly defined grippy lines. I managed to overcook a few turns and met some of the local thorns! Luckily for me, they were only superficial wounds and had stopped bleeding by the time I had completed my first recce lap. This is exactly why we do practice laps!
Friday night was spent with other cousins, the Marais, who are dairy farmers outside Addo. After completing my 4 laps I was off to find the farm and settle down for the afternoon. Or so I thought… After tracking down the dairy I made it just in time to witness the Marais’ newly installed ‘milking carousel’. This contraption is flippen cool! Cows laden with the freshest milk, are herded onto a rotating platform (40 cows at a time) from where a worker attaches the suction cups. With every single cow simultaneously mooing and defecating, a lot, it is certainly quite an interesting sight! There must be something said for having tea in a dairy, with milk straight from a cow! Although this might not be everyone’s cup of tea!
In no time at all, it was 10am on Saturday and time to head to the track. The race kicked off at 12pm sharp with the usual sprint-till-you-die effort. Renay Groustra (RSA Web) Luke Roberts (RE:CM) and Jason Meaton (Coaches Corner) pushed the paced on the first lap. I was able to hang in for most of the 1st lap but then was forced to settle into my own rhythm. It was slightly frustrating as I had the power on the steeper sections but just didn’t have the leg speed. After the 6 laps I finished in 2nd elite behind Renay Groustra. Overall, the young gun, Luke Roberts took 1st, Jason Meaton 2nd, and Renay was 3rd.
With prize giving sorted, it was time to head back to PE for the night. Good friends from Cape Town, William and Lisa Simpson were also in town and I had the good fortune of staying with them at friends of theirs, the Harveys. Before I knew it, I was standing at a braai, post-race beer in hand looking down at a stuk of meat the size and length of my forearm. Greeeeaaat move!
With only my flight home to go, I had thought my Eastern Cape adventure was pretty much done, however, more was in store. Having booked my return flight with SAA I rolled in to the airport like a boss. It’s not every day that I get to fly with the national carrier. As I walked out of the terminal building onto the tarmac, and saw what was awaiting me, it suddenly all made sense. SAA was the cheapest because the plane I was flying on had propellers!! O my incredible greatness. It looked better suited to being part of an historic exhibition.
I climbed the 4 stairs onto the plane and immediately asked for a crash helmet. The flight attendant looked puzzled. I found my seat and pretended to look brave. Evidence of this article means that the dinky plane stayed in the air long enough to land safely, albeit bumpily, in Cape Town. What a relief, for me anyway.
With the past month having been full-gas, my racing schedule is somewhat less busy in the coming weeks. I’ll most likely be racing a few local events until heading up to PMB for the 4th National XC in late June. Hope winter is not getting you down … with the right frame of mind, the fresh weather can be surprisingly invigorating.
Keep it pinned!
Oli is currently living the dream as a professional mountain biker, racing for the GT squad based out of Cape Town. Keep up with Oli on his blog http://olivermunnik.wordpress.com