Boet Werrie June 25 Day 15: Anysberg to Trouthaven
This was going to be my toughest day on a bike ever, not that I knew it at the begining. It’s about 230km to Trouthaven, with over 2,000m ascent. A long day in normal circumstances, starting it with sleep deprived and tired bodies, it’s going to be even more challenging. But we were up for it.
We started off a bit later than we wanted, due to the self-catering issue. Luckily the normal early morning banter got us quickly thru to a cold & misty Montagu. The support station was at a new venue called De Bos where we got breakfast. Leon and JT dropped a lot of kit there to lighten their bikes for the Stettynskloof portage. It is allowed by the race office. But Scotty and I stubbornly chose not to – call me old fashion.
The punishment of the Freedom route has started to take its toll on my bike. The big chainring was worn to a stage where I could no longer put any pressure whilst pedalling. I had to either resort to spinning in the small ring or pedalling very lightly in the big ring. This meant that I was mostly moving a lot slower than the others. They waited a lot for me, where after I changed my strategy to just keep pedalling non-stop, even when they had snack stops. This helped us all moving at a better pace.
We got to Pony’s Cottage in Mcgregor in good time, our 2nd last support station. Scotty promptly made us an awesome salad whilst we heated some Bobotie. Scotty’s other responsibility was to make us sandwiches at every interim stop, preferably with either cheese (rocket fuel) or peanut butter and jam – the joys of being the youngest! Just before we got rolling the mother of all storms kicked up, blowing all our bikes over. We nervously looked at each other, we still had some 110km to go in the day.
At the start the storm winds were manageable and it was strangely warm. I was riding only in my short sleeve cycling shirt. Not having the big blade to my disposal was detriment to fighting this wind. I had to resort to only the small blade and the 10 gears at the back. This obviously put a lot of strain on the chain and smaller cassettes. Leon put together a strategy of riding for 14km and then taking a break of 5min – this worked well.
As the fight went on during the afternoon, the wind just got stronger and stronger. At some stage as we climbed up Gannaberg pass, I was surprised to see that the others have fallen way behind. Watching them whilst taking a quick break, it dawned on me that they’re taking much more strain than me. Being over 90kg I kept my bike mostly on the road, only every now and then I got blown off the road. The light weights on the other hand were having a torrid time at it. They didn’t just get blown off the road, they got completely flattened a few times!
At the top of Gannaberg we took a break at the Amathunzi Lodge entrance to wait for our Scotty. As he neared we got onto our bikes and immediately something snapped on my frame. I couldn’t pedal at all, with the down pipe chaffing against the rear tyre. My top tube broke thru completely. I calmly informed Leon and JT about this and again said my good byes (Scotty only found out later). They had a storm to fight and I did not want to be the reason for them being out in the storm for any longer than needed – the last day is tremendously tough, they’re going to need all the energy they can spare.
When they rode off into the distance, I lost it a bit. I had my moment of propped up anger. I couldn’t believe it, didn’t want to believe it. Just like the previous brake, the area that surrounded me, was devoid of trees. This is fynbos country, nothing higher than hip height grows here. My map indicated a farm house about 14km in front of me, and another about 9km behind me.
The lodge was out of bounds. Then I had my 2nd tiff…
I decided to walk back to the lodge entrance. There at least was a wall where I could hide from the wind and there was cell phone reception. I had to inform the race office and needed to eat something. I also informed Elitza about it. She and the kids had already booked the flights for the next day, to be at the finish. I assured her, that it doesn’t matter what it takes, I’ll be at the finish the next day.
Whilst having something to eat, I asked Marnitz what the weather forecast was going to be like for the next 2 days. His response: ”It’s going to blow for the next 2 days and rain is on the way. JJJ”. At the time he obviously did not know in what predicament I was, and did not understand the ferociousness of the storm. This however did not cross my mind, and his enjoyment about the storm really pissed me off. I was 70km away from Trouthaven, 120km from Diemersfontein – I would have walked the last bloody bit. But I did not want to do it that way, I wanted to enjoy the final moments of the race.
After the phone formalities, it was getting a bit cooler. So I fished my waterproof jacket out of the saddlebag, and discovered the forgotten Wrap-Tech packet. With a smile on my face about my good luck, I feverishly read through the instructions. Without being able to stuff something inside the top tube to keep it in place, I carefully lined the top tube up and then wrapped the Pratley Putty around the break. I poured my last water into the foil packet with the bandage inside. After a minute I started wrapping the bandage around the top tube and worked it as per the instructions.
The Wrap-Tech instructions say that the bandage fix should be done after 20min. Not wanting to loose time I got back onto the road pushing my bike. After 30min, I decided that I’ll give it some more time. I did not want to take any chances messing up the fix. I decided to walk for another 20min. I eventually found a sizable stick that I broke in 2 and duck taped it around the break. Just before I decided to get onto the bike, I prayed. Then started pedalling. It was nerve wracking! After a couple of meters I checked the fix. It held! I immediately send Leon an sms: “Please keep some dinner for me aside, I’m on my way, I’ll get there very late”
I was going downhill into the wind of Gannaberg. I was flying at 20 km/h and as I rode around a corner, I was presented with the most beautiful sunset I’ve witnessed during the race. To me it was the Lord letting me know that He’s looking after me, that He’ll carry me over the finish line. I must just stop worrying about it.
Earlier in the evening I got sand blasted a few times, but the sand storm at the Brandvlei kloof was just murderess. I had to pull my buff over my eyes and walked as fast as I could on this section. Whilst walking, I got almost blown over a couple of times. It was insane not being able to even walk the bike. I got really angry the last time it happened, something snapped. I screamed to no one in particular:
“IS THIS ALL YOU GOT? IS THIS YOUR BEST? F*** YOU! F*** YOU!” And I promptly got blown over the road into a ditch next to the road. I was lying there with my bike on top of me and started giggling. Well that showed me who’s the boss.
The giggle turned into an uncontrollable laugh, with tears rolling down my cheeks. I so much needed that. That laugh released the much needed feel good endorphins to get me thru to Trouthaven.
I continued thru to the Brandvlei prison where I got water. About 20min later when I got to the prison gate, I queried from the guards if the water is safe to drink. He told me that if it’s got a funny taste it’s no good. To a parched throat any water tastes awesome! Luckily it didn’t affect my stomach.
I dreaded the last 12km climb up the kloof to Trouthaven, because that was the direction the wind was blowing from. As I truned into the kloof, much to my relief the wind was blowing more over the right shoulder from behind. I literally flew up the climb. On this last climb it’s the last time that you have reception until you get to the finish.
My phone rang, it was Marnitz. He followed my slow progress during the evening – it was close to 11pm. He said: “Bliksem Boetie, I am so proud of you, well done” and then went on to discuss other details and what we had to do the next day. He is my older brother, watching out for me – he’s been there; stuck in snow storms, he understood the battle I was fighting. That was a very special moment.
When I eventually got into Trouthaven rain was bucketing down. I sent the following check-in message to the race office: “In Trouthaven 11pm Werner, horribly, horribly beaten, but not yet broken”. The race office only received the message when I dropped down to Diemersfontein the next day.
When I walked into the house, everybody just fell silent. There were 3 other riders as well, and they knew about my adventures with the frames. The stares on their face were of pure amazement. Leon called me to the table and put his dinner (that he just warmed up) in front of me, what a friend! He said that he just knew I was going to get it fixed. The riders just shook their heads when they saw the frame. JT was having a shower when he heard me speaking. He couldn’t believe that it was me, so he stopped mid shower to get out seeing if his ears were betraying him or not. The entire moment was priceless. After all the excitement of making it to Trouthaven and passing war stories, we all got to bed after midnight. I slept on a couch under a blanket. It was probably the happiest I slept all trip – I felt invincible.