We lined up with the intention to sprint to the first single track descent into Pitseng Gorge. This is the only time during the whole race where congestion on the single track is an issue. There is only 600 metres of road in which to jostle for position before an incredible trail along the ridge of the valley, with a spectacular gorge drop to the right, before it bombs down to the valley floor. The push to the front end of the field meant we were in the red zone all the way down but it was worth it to enjoy a clean run on some of the best trails Lesotho has to offer.
After the rowdy descent, we were greeted by the first water point and technical support zone of the day. We then crossed the Makhaleng River (the same river we followed yesterday) and headed up the Ribaneng climb. This was hard going for tired legs but thankfully on a well-maintained dirt road. Once again, the climb was rewarded with a fantastic descent: a fast rolling pump track like section, followed by some wild rocky switchbacks which had us riding on the limit all the way back down to the river.
We then looped back to the water point which acts as both water points for the day. Here we took refuelling seriously as we were going straight into the Malealea Monster climb, which includes the Strava segment for the day. The climb ascends 370 metres over 7 kilometres.
We got so distracted by the chocolate brownies at the water point that we left our bottles behind and had to make a U-turn after a few minutes to retrieve them. With this hiccup behind us we tackled the climb, trying to keep it slow and steady. A new steep singletrack climb right at the end kept things spicy and brought us up to the Frazer’s Store.
Then we were back on a very welcome downhill trail full of fun rollers and cheeky rock gardens, where our suspension got a great workout. Another cruel climb took us part of the way up the Gates of Paradise pass before we turned off onto yet another indescribably fun donkey trail.
After crossing the road, we were onto the last hurrah: carving through magical green grass fields before tackling a few more jarring loose climbs. By this stage we were starting to hurt and very ready for the sight of the Malealea Lodge gates in the distance and the cooler box full of ice cold drinks and Maluti Lager at the finish.
Tomorrow we face the longest stage of the race: 87 kilometres from Malealea to Roma.