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The stage started off with a quick descent on signature Lesotho flowing donkey trails - fast, fun and full of hidden surprises - down to the Makhaleng River crossing. After following undulating rural roads for several kilometres, we drop into the first really technical section - a rocky switchback descent into the valley of Ha Api. The trail then meanders along exquisite river banks, navigating beautiful sandstone slabs and muddy river crossings.

The fun comes to an abrupt end with a steep, rocky hike-a-bike out of the valley. A few more winding roads and we reached the first water point, which is well stocked with sublime chocolate brownies, and other treats to refuel our empty legs. We then faced the first long climb of the day, Tsukusoana’s Pass, which fortunately has a gradient that allows you to suffer quietly and get it done, so it was all business from here to the second and final water point, 33 kilometres from our destination Malealea Lodge.

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The remainder of the ride followed a popular 4x4 route with panoramic views of the mountains, until we plummeted down to Botsuela Falls. From here we had to deal with the ensuing climb which forms the Strava segment of the day, climbing a leg-crunching 226m in 2.5km at an average gradient of 9 percent. The ride to the lodge from the top of the climb is agonising- rolling hills and false flats, followed by a new single track detour down to the lodge.

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The race is navigated fully by GPS rather than route markers this year in an effort to reduce the impact of the route marker arrows on the mountains (they are numerous and unsightly). This added a new challenge for those whose devices were not quite up to the task. Luckily for us Darol (Event Director) and crew had still added arrows at critical points in the route.

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After losing our way a couple of times in the fields around the Malealea Lodge, we arrived tired, and wearing the silly smiles that only Lesotho donkey trails can put on your face after 70 km in the saddle.

*The vertical ascent in Lesotho should not be compared to that measured anywhere else: these are hard earned metres. Loose, rocky, and slippery, they quickly force the heart rate up and will have you gasping for breath.

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