Alistair Schorn, riding in the colours of Avis Van Rental, is starting to wonder whether the parrots that supposedly live on the Old Mutual joBerg2c route do exist. Here is the next chapter of his Confessions of a Weekend Warrior.
Day seven of the Old Mutual joBerg2c was billed by the race organisers as a rest day, particularly in light of the two really tough days that preceded this stage.
In reality, however, the day proved to be no easy one, with riders having to work pretty hard on a few stiff climbs for the pleasure of some wonderful forest downhills and single-tracks.
The departure from Glencairn farm, close to Underberg, was a fast and cold one, first on the tar and then on district roads.
This led us to the first of the forest trails and the unique PG Bison floating bridge, where for the first time in the history of the event not a single rider ended up in the drink.
The stage follows the same route as day one of the famed sani2c, and throughout the day it was apparent why it is so popular.
There is flowing single-track, including some new downhill sections through pine and eucalyptus plantations, stiff forest climbs and eventually (signalling that the end of the stage was approaching) some sections meandering though beautifully maintained dairy farms.
There is also a lush indigenous forest section, that is supposedly home to the rare Cape Parrot.
This is always mentioned during race briefings, but having ridden through this forest several times over a period of more than 10 years, and never having seen even a single specimen, I’m wondering whether they do in fact exist.
Michelle and I had a good day out, especially in the context of our last few days of crashes, recovery and mechanical issues.
We were relieved to arrive at the finish without any major mishaps or issues to deal with.
Day eight of course includes the much-anticipated drop into the Umkomaas valley and the evening briefing included some footage of the trails that riders will be following on this famous section of single-track.
For those of us who have made it this far despite illness, accidents, mechanicals and plenty of suffering, the anticipation of getting to the finish is starting to build.
We see more riders’ families at the stage finishes and in the race villages, so we know that the end is almost in sight.
Definitely a good feeling after seven long days in the saddle.
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.