Sometimes it really is important to spend some time out of your comfort zone. Not only is it exciting but it also brings new perspective to things. It is also very humbling in many ways. But the most important aspect of it is to witness others in a zone they love and are passionate and enthusiastic about it.
This is what I experienced on the https://www.facebook.com/Jozi2KoziCycleChallengeover the past 7 days. I am a sports crazy person but cycling has never been a sport that I have really embraced and tracked very closely. Of course I watch the TDF etc and a few other events but not with great gusto.
The #jozi2kozi is not a race; it’s a Mountain Bike adventure but let me tell you that the participants race against themselves as any competitor would do. This however is more about camaraderie and good memories. Every stage is very tough and not for the feint hearted. The climbs and decents are hectic to say the least. The living conditions are tents with portable toilets and showers which I must say was a massive treat for all of us. They could make it a lot tougher but they don’t. Phew, thank you.
I would suggest that you check out the www.jozi2kozi.co.za website to see the route and understand the terrain these cyclists have to tackle on a daily basis. It will also give you the venues we were privileged to stay at. We saw some of the most beautiful terrain and picturesque parts of our beautiful South Africa. I mean even a place like Standerton can be quite picturesque at -5 degrees.
As www.ballz.co.za , we were invited to be the media partner on jozi2kozi and I had agreed to go on the trip. After meeting with the Cerebra team and being well briefed I was quite excited. When I got my packing list I had a few second thoughts. Sleeping bag, torch, sun cream, all medicines etc. these were essentials. Oh and can you try organise a 4x4 as there are only a few rough areas, the rest is all easy I was told.
With my Mark White Motors Nissan Xtrail 4x4 I made my early journey to meet all the riders about 60 km outside JHB for the start. Had I not had the vehicle from Mark White, I would never have completed this journey. The little Xtrail handled terrain that most never thought she would. I popped one tyre but that was the only issue I had. Thank you Mark.
Andy Coetzee, the race organiser briefed the riders and they went on their way. Some had GPS, some had nothing but the whole course is marked with orange stickers placed on trees and gates and signs. But that is the route for the riders, for the rest of us; we have to find the next point via a much organised Garmin. I hardly got lost.
In freezing conditions I had the luxury of the car with the heater blaring and creature comforts we really take for granted. On each stage the riders had 2 water points along the route where the riders can enjoy some food and drinks and then fill up their racing suits and bottles with refreshments for the rest of the route.
When I arrived at Campsite No.1 I was amazed to see tents set up, a luxury seating area and fires and braai’s all on the go. I assumed that this would be for the first night and from the following days and nights we’d be left to our own devices. How wrong I was. At the end of every day we arrived at our pre-determined camping area and Jenna and her team from BLKops were already there setting up our bedding for the evening, making sure everyone could have a hot shower and relax in the Altech Autopage Luxury Lounge. Also Josh from cycleworks.co.za and his team were set-up to work on any mechanical problems the bikes might have or just clean them for the riders that requested it. It was a very impressive operation. Besides all that, there was a full ambulance on route with us as well as medics and route patrollers on off road motorcycles. And the riders had the luxury of 4 amazing masseuse specialists after every days ride. It really was precision. As each day went on, I gained more and more admiration for those who were stripping tents, eating areas, lounges as well as loading everyone’s luggage in the early morning and making their way to the next area to do it all again. A great team.
The riders did have moments. There were quite a few tumbles and crashes but nothing too serious. By serious I mean no-one died or broke anything. There were loads of scratches, a few tumbles into water, and a few rather nasty falls but overall these are pretty experienced riders and know this sport very well.
We experienced the friends of Standerton, the craziness of Country Trax with Jan the BMW off road trainer, the peculiar yet amazing German community of Luneburg, the beauty of the Ithala Game Reserve, the friendliness of a Zulu Kraal, The stunning Lake Sibaya and finally the beautiful Utshwayelo Lodge at Kozi bay.
This is a major event with an incredible Chutzpah about it. It might be relatively pedestrian for some of the pro riders but the way that I saw it was a physical and mental challenge to most of the rest. There was frustration, elation, pain, relief and joy everyday and besides one or two injuries which forced a few riders out for a few stages, everyone completed this very tough bicycle race. All of the riders were amazing and deserve a great pat on their backs for finishing the #jozi2kozi.
Without sponsors these kinds of events would never happen. Theunis Dippenaar is the CFO of Altech Autopage and besides ploughing a large amount of money into this event, he also sees fit to donate monies and supplies to various schools, who are incredibly appreciative of any contribution. He really gets involved and is very humble in his presentation.
To the organisers, crew, support people. Wow, what a team of people. To Andy Coetzee, a real man’s man, long beard, never wears closed shoes and chooses to ride a mountain bike with a single gear. He is hardcore. To GG and the medical support teams, thank you for always being there to assist anyone who needed it. To Simone from Cerebra and Carolyn from Altech; what wonderful young ladies doing an enormous job to ensure everything runs smoothly. Really special young women. To Jenna and her whole construction and de-construction team, an amazing effort to ensure that everything was up and running every day. To Simon and Dave, the cinematographers who shot about a million minutes of footage, nothing was an effort. To Dirk, shooting footage for the social media networks. Great young guy. To the rest who were part of the logistics team, thank you for inviting me to enjoy and celebrate a brilliant event.
To all the riders, pros and amateurs and novices, wow you are true inspirations to the simple people like me, thanks for your advice, your stories and well a few Jagermeisters as well.
I’m not committing to doing this event on a bicycle as you have to qualify for it, but I’m definitely inspired to get onto a mountain bike to feel the excitement you all feel.
Let 2015 jozi2kozi be bigger and better