For the Mud and Glory
On 6 February 2010, after owning and riding a mountain bike for less than six months, I entered the Emperors Palace Classic MTB challenge, my first ever mountain bike race.
by Jeanette Hewitt
When I first entered the race online I believed that it would be a straight-forward, level race, which, as a beginner off-road cyclist, I imagined would be the perfect introduction into mountain biking.
I was only half right.
The day was perfect and sunny, and hot, so the hazards lying in wait ahead were a little unexpected. The race began soon after 8am and the first 1.5kms were easy. From the introductory beginning I expected only an easy, casual ride, and I know I wasn’t the only one.
We were disappointed almost as soon as we got off-road. We hit our first single track and all of us (over 350 cyclists from the 20km challenge) came to a complete standstill as we bottlenecked in true Johannesburg traffic-jam style. More than half-an-hour later, the last of us finally made it through, only to find ourselves trundling slowly on foot while the expeditious and pioneering cyclists from the 40km challenge made their way round the track for the second time.
However, sitting on your mountain bike, in the grounds of OR Tambo, watching planes skim overhead, definitely made up for the wait.
When we finally made it to more open ground the race was on, and even for the particularly cautious, like myself, it was thrilling! What I had not expected was the mud, and not just any mud. Gloopy mud that sucked at your tyres and, when forced to trudge through the sludge, kidnapped your shoes. And there was lots of it. So many of us found ourselves horizontal and even muddier at some point during the race.
At the finish line, if you weren’t covered in mud from head-to-toe, then you sadly had not truly enjoyed and experienced the race. I find myself admiring those who made it through the finish line at the top of the list for the sheer achievement and the unusual ability for outsmarting the mud!
All in all, I’d definitely enter this race again, and hope that it’s as muddy as it was this year, for where’s the fun without it? And quite frankly, it would just have been far too easy.