Kamberg to Hazeldean Farm: 89km
So something happened in Glengarry. I woke up 10 times during the night to discharge lumpy chunks of phlegm. At our 5am wake up call I was barely able to talk. I think the clouds of dust Raoul and I chased through the day before, were now wreaking havoc with my throat. If Day 5 was a blur, Day 6 was a black hole of suffering…
Thankfully, it was also a day of open trails and lots of climbing. Open trails meant we could maintain a consistent tempo. Raoul was a metronome all day, climbing at a slow but even pace. I just hung onto his wheel. Not talking, just tapping it out as fast as my tight lungs would allow. Occasionally I’d raise my head from the handlebars to appreciate the expansive Drakensberg scenery on offer all around us, or to let Raoul know I was still alive.
It’s said that the most important part of any stage race is your choice of partner. Over the 90-odd kilometres we crawled through today, Raoul earned his stripes. It’s not often I need a push up a hill, but Raoul could see I was on the edge, and his support came at all the right times.
Despite being in a very dark place most of the day, I was still well enough to appreciate some of the noises that define mountain biking for me. These are my happy noises, and no matter how sorry for myself I feel, these moments remind me that all is good in the world.
The sound of singletrack. There are two distinct sounds here. First, in tight descending singletrack, if you follow someone well-matched to your pace, you can almost ride it blind. The mechanical whirring noise of a spinning freewheel, followed by sliding tyres, being buried into a hairpin turn, lets you know exactly what’s coming. The other noise is equally rewarding for me. Pinning singletrack ahead of your partner and losing traction in a tight corner, only to hear the exact same noise two seconds later. This means he’s seen your line, and is also on the edge, but trusting your judgment on line choice.
The sound of silence. Sometimes, the perfect conditions arise. A slight tail wind. A well-oiled chain. A hard pack trail surface. Boom. You are riding in silence. The wind not blowing past your ears. The bike not making a peep. The terrain free of rocks, gravel and leaves. It doesn’t happen often on a mountain bike, but when it does, it’s a certain kind of nirvana.
The sound of being beaten. This is only a pleasant sound when it’s your partner who is owning the descent! But when you are really pushing it as fast as possible, the crunchy noise of someone gaining on you in a descent, overtaking you, and continuing to blast away from you is a truly awesome sensation.
At the joBerg2C, I have had plenty of all of these sensations, and I am deeply grateful, even if I am in a world of pain and can only acknowledge the moment with a throaty grunt.