The MTN/NISSAN Sabie Half Marathon, so far the biggest and most important race I’ve decided to ride and for the first time in a very long time I was standing on the start line not feeling stressed at all. I came well prepared having finished up with the athletics season that Friday and had studied the Route profile thoroughly late the evening before, knowing exactly then I was going to use my High5 Gels. As unusual the rain caught us unexpectedly on the morning of the 38km’s start.
Quite a way into the Neutral Zone I felt the stiffness in my legs from the previous evening’s tubing-experience running up river, river rafting and being knocked around between the rocks :-D. It caught up to me shortly, within the first 2km up our ±12km climb I fell off the pace… dropped. Slowly the leading group disappeared into the misty mountains of Sabie, not long after the chasing group also passed me… Legs still flat! To me the race felt wasted, all over. But NO! The Badger bites back! Sabie destroyed all tactics and in desperation I used two High5 gels at once. 10 Minutes later I was flying, caught up to the chasing group and just went right past. The leaders were out of sight, but definitely not out of mind!
Grinding it along in the big ring and pushing the pace harder and harder, feeling stronger and stronger. Everything was covered in mud! Never the less the Shimano XTR group set on my Monster Truck DogmaXC gave no hassles at all, as if it had been engineered for the mud. She was climbing effortlessly while fed with High5 Extreme 2:1. I’m glad to have had Continental X-Kings on the front AND rear wheel. Traction was the key to a slippery race like this.
Reaching halfway I noticed my team mate Joel Hieber’s Neon Yellow helmet through the mist and the Namibian Youth boy. I was gaining ground on the leaders! I have been riding alone, chasing alone for many km’s and after seeing them my adrenaline started pumping and I pushed harder. Caught up and went past… Now on a mission to haul in the third position.
The mist had cleared up a little and vision wasn’t as impaired as earlier with mud and mist both on my Rudy Projects. The decent was one of a kind. Fast single track, rocky sections, slippery clay and wide gravel roads! Far ahead I could see the red in Raymond Wagenaar’s jersey which made me stoke it even harder saying to myself: The Badger bites back, Badger bites back, Badger bites back!! Unlucky for Raymond he crashed. I just needed to keep my third position. What was left of the race was far too short to be able to catch Dylan and Patrick.
The last 8km of single track became havoc. The slippery clay flung me down three times but I was back up within split seconds and had my SIDI’s back into the CrankBrothers in no time. I was chuffed with the end result, a third overall and the second junior. J
It was a weekend to remember! Thanks to all the team mates, friends and family who made it so enjoyable. A big thank you to a[s]g and Paul Cordes for making it all possible and Epic Sports for their excellent mechanic skills and washing every ones bikes afterwards.
Now.. A week of recoveryNicholas Popich