Needless to say aside from a few members of the SADC observer mission staying at the hotel we’ve been none the wiser. In fact the only impact so far was due to the hotel being overbooked as a result and our room lacking a few essentials. Like a bed. It had been converted into a meeting room and converting it back proved to be a challenge.

It’s it strange change taking part in an event with a contingent of just 40 teams. You’re suddenly not just a number and feel a sort of added pressure having the privilege of taking part in something so unique and so intimate.

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Photo: Cherie Vale / Lesotho Sky

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Photo: Cherie Vale / Lesotho Sky

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Photo: Cherie Vale / Lesotho Sky

Day 1 - The TOTAL Time trial

Starting in reverse number order we were all set for our 10:28 start time. Ahead of us is rally driving ace Gugu Zulu. Behind us some Swiss nationals and one crazy singlespeeder, rigid fork and all.

Mission of the day: Don't get caught by the singlespeeder. Surely with gears and shocks he won't catch us?!

The prologue starts and we shoot up a steep tar road towards Parliament. And just like that the tar ends and we're thrown into a rocky trail that’s possibly more suited to goats than mountain bikes. Welcome to Lesotho mountain biking. We had been advised at dinner the night before that this was “real mountain biking”. If the first 3km were anything to go by we were in for a challenging, but incredible week.

The course took us on a tour of the Mountain Kingdom’s capital. Mazes of roads through houses, rocky divergent single track and dongas for Africa left us wishing we’d taken the chance to recce the route beforehand.

Although overshooting a few turns here and there we were moving along well. Up ahead I could see the winding climbs in between houses perched on the hillside. Time to start reeling in a few of our minute (and a half) men. While not long, the climbs we were presented with were loose, twisty and rocky. At times opting to carry was not a question of willpower, leg power or skill, but the only viable option.

With just 4km and a little climbing to go our mission for the day had fallen apart. The singlespeeder had caught us. Not only that, but he was making the technical rocky trails look easy while he pulled ahead.

The last few kilometers took us through some more flowy trails and some short sharp descents. A final sharp climb brought us to the top of the hill and into a short section of singletrack before the finish.

Crossing the line in 01:26:12 we ended up 16th overall and 8th in the open category. Not too shabby considering we didn’t go “full gas”. Singlespeeders aside being in the top half is good for us, now to maintain and improve on that.

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Photo: Cherie Vale / Lesotho Sky

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Photo: Cherie Vale / Lesotho Sky

Looking ahead

Day 2 takes us into the mountains with a 52km loop from Rambanta tallying up 1580m of climbing. We’ll be greeted almost immediately by the first brutal ascent of the Tar Nkesi Pass to wake the legs up and spread things out.

Having seen the view from our camp at the Rambanta Tradepost we’re in for some spectacular climbs over the next week. Bring it on Lesotho Sky.

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The view from our camp in Rambanta