Today I was reminded in no uncertain terms that there are no easy days in stage racing.
I was having a pretty good day out, enjoying the amazing single-tracks along the eastern escarpment of South Africa – the aptly named Great Wall My China (a reference that probably only South Africans will understand) and the wonderful descent down Solly’s Folly.
Then on a fairly innocuous section of downhill dirt road – hardly the most technical section we rode today – I suddenly found myself on the floor after a high-speed crash.
This was probably the biggest accident I’ve had in several years, and I’m certainly very grateful that I got off as lightly as I did – a badly swollen knee and quad muscle, some interesting grazes on the same knee and across my back as well as a sprained finger.
Over the years I’ve seen plenty of people have races ended by similar crashes, so I’m happy that I get to ride another day.
Unfortunately, my crash also meant we have fallen out of the top 10 in the Lanham-Love Attorneys mixed category – hopefully something we can rectify after a couple of days of recovery.
Apart from my eventful day, the race route was a really interesting one, with the above-mentioned single-tracks off the escarpment leading us into some real KwaZulu-Natal bushveld – the Free State maize fields giving way to rocky trails through grass plains dotted with plenty of acacia thorn trees.
Another striking element of this event, which I had the necessity of experiencing first-hand today, is the first-class medical support.
Out on the course there are the ambulance personnel and off-road rescue volunteers and, in the race village, there are doctors, physios, massage therapists and various other medical personnel. These guys really do work miracles to patch up bruised and battered riders.
Hopefully the panel-beating that they’ve done on me today will do the trick tomorrow.
Alistair Schorn has been racing bikes since the mid-80s – before most of today’s mountain bike pros were born. He bought his first mountain bike in 1992, but only took up stage racing after coming back from overseas in 2004. In early 2014, he was bitten by the singlespeed bug, which is still firmly entrenched in his system. His favourite places to ride include Mpumalanga and the Berg (definitely not on a singlespeed though!). As an escape from his day job as an economist, Alistair moonlights as a writer for publications such as In the Bunch.