Tenacious teen Bernice van Wyk overcame numerous obstacles due to puncture problems before ultimately carrying her bike across the finish line at the Lydenburg Heritage MTB Race last weekend.
Van Wyk, 15, taking part in the Lydenburg-based race for a fourth time, wanted to improve on her previous best time in the 40km race.
“Everything went well for the first 10km. I managed to ride the long uphill section comfortably to the top. With the descent close to the gate that exits the nature reserve, the side wall of my back wheel was cut by the sharp edge of a rock.
“Someone next to the track showed me in which direction the closest water point was. I ran 7km to it where a couple of people assisted me to find and fit a tube.
“After approximately an hour I was back on my bike, riding to the place where my tyre was cut. I continued my race from that point.”
She added that 10km further on her back tyre was flat again and someone helped her to try and fix it. But after riding a short distance it was flat again and would no longer inflate at all.
“I then decided to run with my bike and complete the race. About 5km before the end of the race my 11-year-old cousin met me and ran the last few kilometres with me to the finish.
“I thought everyone would be gone by the time I got to the finish, but I was relieved and thankful when a group of Lydenburg High School teammates and Glencore supporters met me before the finish and ran with me to complete my race.”
Van Wyk said when she realised she would be unable to improve her time she decided to complete the race anyway, no matter how long it took.
“I kept telling myself that I could do it and I kept on pushing through to the very end.
“At times I did get tired of running and then slowed down and walked a little, but I knew that every step I took was bringing me closer to the end. I was determined to finish my race and not give up.”
Van Wyk started mountain-biking in Grade 6 and the first race she participated in was the Sabie Classic. She said a friend of hers, Reinhart Viljoen, inspired her to start cycling and in Grade 8 she joined Deon Carstens at Training Point Cycling.
“I competed in a number of mountain-bike races last year. In September my sister and I won all three stages in the Three Towers Challenge and two months later I won the Alzu 35km.
She added that this year she also started participating in the SA Cup series, finishing second in Bloemendal and third in Bloemfontein.
“It’s my dream to have a cycling career and compete at UCI World Cup level some day. I also want to study engineering after finishing school.”
Van Wyk advised that if anyone encountered difficulties during a race and felt like giving up, they should know that it was impossible to always compete at your best or the way you planned to.
“By accepting this and not letting it affect you, the best effort for the day is still good enough to help you succeed. When you feel like quitting, think about why you started.
“I’m grateful for everyone who helped and supported me. Next year I’ll definitely do the 40km again, but this time with a spare tube or two.”