Bill Jooste is determined to finish the 369km Desert Dash in Namibia in less than 24 hours this week ‒ at the age of 79.
The veteran, who lives in Walvis Bay, will take a third consecutive shot at breaking the 24-hour mark in the race from Windhoek to Swakopmund.
The event starts on Friday and takes the riders through the world’s oldest desert, the Namib.
“In 2015, I finished outside the 24-hour mark by 13 minutes. Last year, it was seven minutes. It was close, but close is not good enough,” Jooste said this week.
“This year I want to finish in under 24 hours; maybe under 23,” said Jooste, who hails from Johannesburg, ran the Comrades Marathon 11 times, retired in Mossel Bay and has been a resident of Walvis Bay for seven years.
“It’s a difficult race with different challenges, but I’m optimistic,” he said.
Jooste knows what to expect. “It’s fairly flat here at the coast. There are no big hills like you’ll find around Windhoek.
“Down here we get really strong south-westerly and northerly winds, so the conditions make it hard to train.
“But I’m looking forward to it. It’s quite interesting riding through the changing landscapes. The scenery can be extraordinary,” he said.
The race begins at 3pm on Friday and Jooste expects the first half will be the hardest. “That’s where most of the climbs are.
“It gets extremely dark in the Namib and that can be tough for me because my eyesight isn’t so good. I depend on very strong lights on my bike.”
The conditions can be unpredictable, he added. “Anything can happen; you never know what to expect.
“I’m a bit nervous because there’s some rough terrain and the roads aren’t always good.
“I have to pace myself carefully; it’s obviously not about speed for me. But I’m also excited. I’m doing it because I want to enjoy it,” the former tri-athlete said.
Jooste, who turns 80 in May 2018, said he would still carry on cycling next year; but would still decide closer to the time whether he’ll take part in the next Desert Dash.