The Magalies Mountain range is soft-tail country. Don’t know how the likes of Shaun-Nick Bester and Henry Uys finish this race on a hard-tail (no rear suspension). I was looking forward to this event for most of the year. Last year I finished 2nd overall to Henry Uys. I was in very good form and did not suffer much last year except for the stress fracture in my patella that caused me a lot of pain. Therefor I believed that if I went into the race well prepared and injury free I can win the race. This might seem like a bit of over confidence but honestly if you can finish 2nd the year before, you have to believe and plan to go for the win.
The race was also my first real opportunity to test out my new racing bike – the Scott RC Spark 900 - similar racing bike that Nino Shurter used for the ABSA Cape Epic. This machine is truly right on top with the best MTB racing bikes in the world.
The race started at a frantic pace right from the end of the neutral section. Nick Porteous led the front group pedaling with all his might and power. By the 10 km mark Nick managed to break up the leading group from about 30 men down to 20. I was one of the lucky guys to make it to the front group when the split came. Just as I thought he will let down on his effort, I went down with a silly fall at the exact same spot I fell in the Xterra Buffelspoort earlier this year. I still don’t understand exactly what I do wrong on that corner but I think speed and hard breaking with to high tire pressure are the main factors. The surface is a hard packed soil covered with small loose stones, an ideal surface to slide and fall hard!
With my fall I lost valuable time and the leading pack. Luckily I did not hurt myself in the fall (except my ego) and I quickly went about catching up to the leading pack. It took me another 15 kilometers to catch up to the leading men, right at the start of the Mountain Sanctuary Climb. This climb is technical and rocky. When I started with the climb I was at the tail end of the 20 odd men in the lead group and far behind Nico Pfitzmeier.
He made his winning move on this climb by taking over the pace making from Nick Porteous. He completely destroyed the whole field by riding away from us all. I was the only person for the first half of the climb that managed to accent at a similar speed than Nico Pfitzmeier. I climbed my way through the shattering group into 4th/5th position and trailing the 3rd and 2nd athlete by 5 seconds. By the time we reached the top of the climb I was in my red zone.I was hoping that the descent will give me some recovery time and lower my heart rate but unfortunately this did not materialize as the descents shake your whole body loose from its joints and bones...
After the Mountain Sanctuary section the route lead its way to the MONSTER Climb. By now I was in 5th position and 10 seconds behind the leading group who was chasing down Nico Pfitzmeier. The group contained Shaun Nick Bester (4th last year) and Henry Uys (last year's winner) two marathon racing specialists. Starting with the MONSTER I realized that I would have to settle into a realistic pace. That meant I slowly lost time to the group in front of me with every pedal stroke. By the time I reached the end of the MONSTER high on top of the Magalies Mountain range I was trailing the group in front of me with 1 min. The last time I saw them was at the King of the Mountain water point just before we descent down Breedt's Nek Pas.
With the speeds going down Breeds Nek Pass I soon found myself in no man’s land. I then realized I had to settle into finishing the race without a podium position. This was the first race since 2012 (except my epic fail at Tri Rock) in South Africa where I did not finish on the podium. That shows you the level of cycling in South Africa.
The rest of my race included three more minor crashes, a lot of suffering and losing a handful of positions in the overall standings. I mainly rode on my own for the last 30 kilometers. Looking back at the event, it is funny how a person changes their perception and feeling towards things in life. I had a long day on the 24th of May racing the Magalies Monster. I suffered a lot. I fell 4 times and ate dirt a few times but still I think back and I loved it.
This is a mutual feeling most of us share after races of this magnitude and length. We all suffer a lot in the race. But looking back there is so much to be proud of and happy for. Just the fact that I managed a top 10 as an Xterra athlete I believe is amazing. Just to have good health and the ability to finishing these sort of challenges remain special. Not just for me. But for all of us doing these crazy things. Regardless whether it is MTB or any other endurance race. We all have so many stories to tell and bad experiences after most of our races. Yet we all love to accept the challenge, suffer and race and after wards celebrate. It is truly magical.
The race will always remain brutal doesn’t matter who you are. The MONSTER Climb in isolation is not that bad. But taking in all the rocks, frantic pace and roughness of the terrain the name does live up to its reputation.
The Scott RC Spark 900 worked perfectly I could not fault the bike. Ruan Deyzel and his team prepared the bike for me and tailored the suspension for my weight and riding style. The bike did offer me a legal unfair advantage against everyone else. Especially on the descents the bike flies with smoothness and confidence over rocks and technical surfaces.
• 1st - Nico Pfitzmeier
• 2nd - Shaun Nick Bester (last year 4th)
• 3rd - Henry Uys (last year 1st)