Stuttgart to Cradock (71km, 1340m ascent).
We woke up at 4h00 for our final 5h00 start. Amanda was already up, busy with breakfast preparations. We ended up tearing ourselves from her shackles of hospitality by 5h30. She sent us on our way with some amazing sandwiches made of cold meat from the previous evening, cheese, gherkins and even more. We spared those for a special moment.
It was quite a relief to know we only had 70 odd kms remaining, kind of felt like we had a day off and we were on cruise mode. Fortunately the big storm the previous evening had absorbed into the ground and riding conditions were great. We cruised up the start of the Schurfteberg, the last big portage of the race and ran into Oom Gawie Combrink, the last farmer up the valley. Coen had taken shelter here a few years back and Oom Gawie still remembered, had that look on his face of “these guys really are crazy heading up into a misty Shurfteberg “. Navigation was relatively simple with a slog up the mountain to the neck. Once at the bottom we stopped to enjoy the gourmet sandwiches, a real treat.
The Swaershoek Pass is the final sting in the tail and I said to Coen I’m riding it to the top, no mountain is going to get the better of me so near the end. My granny gear made the challenge unfair and before we knew it we were at the neck on top.
From the top of the Swaershoek Pass one can see Cradock. It’s so close you can touch it, yet it’s still 20km away. We enjoyed the fast downhill and the sweeping bends along the valley as we rode into town at 11h30 with Glenn and Meryl waiting in the street. They had followed us on the tracker as we approached the finish at De Oude Pastorie.
What an honor to be first riders home and open up the finish, it made us feel like rock stars but in this race it’s not always about the time you take or the position you achieve, it really is much more personal. For some it’s about pushing personal boundaries, for others it’s about the journey and for others it’s a riding holiday. Whatever the reason, we all had an amazing time and a week later I am still battling to get my mind off the trail. For me this is the real measure of an incredible experience, when you just cannot wait to get back on the trail. I am honored and privileged to be able to share my story, it is very special to me and I hope it means something to you too.
A special word about Coen. Coen and I rode together from Chesneywold on day 1, we did not know one another from a bar of soap. We formed a special bond over 4 days through sharing our experiences on and off the bike. We rode a very similar style, sometimes I noticed we even changed gears at the same time, at times I knew Coen was going to stand out the saddle so I held back my own stand a few seconds just so we did’t do the exact same moves at the same time. Going up Kappokkraal the riding speed dropped below 5.0km/h, that’s when I get off the bike and push, Coen almost immediately said “now that’s a plan”, we were in sync. We never had a word, we never had an issue, we allowed one another space when required and we worked together when needed. Neither of us are the complaining or “feel sorry for myself” types and afterwards we reflected how we had both gone through dark patches without making the other person aware of without the other person knowing. My race turned out so much the better for having had Coen as company. Thanks Coen, we made a frigging awesome team!