Sani to Sea 2016 was definitely the hardest thing I have ever done. Having completed this race three times before, I knew what to expect but this year there were a few curve balls that made this race incredibly difficult. The omens were there even before we arrived at the start of the race when the car behind us rolled while trying to avoid riding into to us as we slowed down for massive rocks in the road left behind from an earlier protest action from the locals.
This year I was doing the race with a fellow Benoni Rough Rider - Wayne Korsman which I was looking forward to after doing the previous 3 Sani's with Greg.
|GlenCairn Camp sunset Day0|
|Bumped into some other Benoni riders the first night|
|Before the start of day 1|
Day1 started off ok, the route had changed from previous years, as they added more single track in the beginning instead of the customary district road. Unfortunately, I had a small tumble 20km in when we crossed a railway line. The stones were slippery and my bike shot out from underneath me and I fell on the hard railway stones (spraining my ribs in the process). A bit shaken, I got back on and caught up with Wayne. I had another silly fall after the floating bridge at 30km and this proved to be very costly. I fell sideways when my front wheel lifted while powering up a small climb. Unfortunately in the process my seat post snapped off where it attaches to the frame - taking the seat clamp and a few centimetres of my carbon frame with it. I was in a huge predicament now as I could not clamp my seat post onto my frame. Wayne and me tried a few things with no resolve. I really thought my Sani was over. Fortunately, I did not take my rear seat post's bottle cage holder off before the race (even though I was not using it as I use my Camelbak for stage races) and this would stop my seat from going all the way down. I thought, let me try and finish Day1 at least. The next 50km was tough. I couldn't put too much pressure on my seat as the bottle cage was cracking the carbon frame and I had to stand a lot (but the seat was not clamped so it would swivel around adding to my discomfort). It was really difficult to finish but I did and my body was extremely sore at the end from the falls and the discomfort of a different riding set up because of the broken seat. Wayne had to wait for me often, as I was slow and cautious - we finished in 6h01.
|Loads of great forest single track (note Wayne riding behind me)|
|Floating bridge was awesome|
After washing our bikes and grabbing a quick shower after finishing Day1 I went to Paul from Procycles, he had a stand and was servicing bikes for some of his clients. I gave Paul my bike and begged him to try and make a plan and do a temporary fix so I could at least finish the rest of Sani . Next was supper and then a late physio appointment to try and repair (and strap) my body for the next day's toil.
|Customary selfie at the start of Day2|
|Amazing views going down into the Umkomaas Valley|
Day2 - Bike had a temp fix and we started late because of out slow time the day before which turned out to be a disadvantage later in the day. Going down into the valley was awesome, easy and relaxed riding, getting a chance to look at the amazing scenery. But then the toil started at the bottom of the valley, there was plenty of mud as a result of the previous day's thunder storm. This proved very taxing, at one point we had to push our bikes and the wheels clogged up with mud and would turn not turn. After water point 1 I started to take strain and pushed up a few hills that I should have ridden. Wayne was ever patient and waited for me often to catch up.
|Spur (ex Nandos) stop at Water point 2|
After a few bites of a burger at Water Point 2 we pushed on to try and get to Water Point 3 before the cut off. This is where I really hit the wall - my body was exhausted from the day before and the exertion from pushing and riding through the mud. Wayne pushed on ahead riding at his own pace, I really struggled, still riding but ever so slow. My Garmin's battery died which made it even harder not knowing how far you had to go and also where to go, as the field was thinning out and there were not too many riders to follow who had GPS devices showing them the way (as the route was unmarked). I was not feeling well at all and at one stage had to sit under some trees for awhile to try and recover. I kept saying I have done this before and pain is temporary but failure is forever. It was starting to get dark when I rolled into High Flats Water Point 3 and there, they stopped me from going further because it would be too dangerous to finish in the dark (Wayne had waited for me but then left just before they closed the route so he could finish the day). Myself and a few other riders got a lift to Jollievet (the day2 camp), getting there after 6 o'clock in the pitch dark. After finding my bike (and Wayne) I took my broken body to find our tent and then off to the showers followed by a late lunch/supper. A long 9 hours of riding really punished my body and mind.
|Vernon Crookes Day3|
|Wayne having a wee with a view :-)|
Day3 - after a horrid two days all I wanted to do was finish. Somehow my body recovered and I felt relatively strong, as I warmed up I started to enjoy the ride and stormed up all the hills. Wow what an awesome day, I enjoyed every minute of it and had fun. We started in the last group because of our slow time the day before and this group was incredible. It consisted of people all riding to enjoy the route and not race to the end. There was never anyone breathing behind your back waiting to pass, everything was in good spirit and there were jokes a plenty. We rolled into the finish after the floating bridge (with some added bumps) relaxed and elated to have finished this extreme event. Thanks to my fantastic riding partner Wayne, he was incredible and it was an absolute pleasure sharing the experience with him.
|After 20 odd hours in the saddle we really got our moneys worth....|
|Well deserved finishes medal|