Having mostly taken part in “mainstream” multi-day events with 400 or more teams coming to an event with just 40 registered teams was a new experience. And a strangely daunting prospect at first. Though the more intimate and less anonymous aspect was something that made the event all the more enjoyable.

Over the six days you begin to know the various characters, other riders’ stories and their backgrounds. You hear of other teams challenges and experiences each day becoming more invested in their experience through the event. Not just your own.

10660247_989959257686645_2739488648356734303_n.jpgPhoto: Cherie Vale / Lesotho Sky

10340154_989959291019975_8446960810560750860_n.jpgPhoto: Cherie Vale / Lesotho Sky
1511909_989959284353309_4008749249853205699_n.jpgPhoto: Cherie Vale / Lesotho Sky

10625012_989961307686440_7808321217260329401_n.jpgPhoto: Cherie Vale / Lesotho Sky

On the start line in Roma for the final 55km stage there was an excited yet relaxed atmosphere. While we still had a tough stage ahead there was already a feeling of accomplishment. We were almost there.

The day earlier we’d already (accidentally) scoped out the first 2km of the route so we new we started climbing early. A short downhill took us to a river crossing and up a steep bank where the climbing began. The route would take us along a ridgeline which formed the Roma amphitheatre.

After a leg testing initial climb towards yet another cell tower, we seemed to have reached the top of the ridgeline. We’d been promised a day for the single track rider and from atop the first climb we could see the paths snaking along the ridge. We swept through the winding and gently undulating trails. Down grassy embankments and up some short, but steep climbs. The grass soon faded and the rocky dirt trails began.

What must be footpaths and cattle trails could have easily been mistaken for purpose built mountain bike trails. Smooth and flowy with natural lines, perfect cambers and a sprinkling of loose rocky sections and rocky outcrops to keep you on your toes.

So enjoying the trails we were very soon at the halfway point. Where was the time going?! Up ahead I could see the chopper parked on the hillside. Knowing race photographer Cherie’s plans for the day there must be some kind of feature up ahead. And sure enough we were greeted by a tire-grabbing sweeping rocky corner followed by a steep rocky, sandy downhill. Making it down smoothly I could hear the cheers from the chopper team and some local spectators.

10378190_989961407686430_4005287689964718412_n.jpgPhoto: Cherie Vale / Lesotho Sky
10395834_989959777686593_7768029123652305580_n.jpgPhoto: Cherie Vale / Lesotho Sky
1385497_989961447686426_9062411855765846357_n.jpgPhoto: Cherie Vale / Lesotho Sky
10641145_989959447686626_3549988069921949985_n.jpgPhoto: Cherie Vale / Lesotho Sky

From there we began a gradual downhill towards the final climb of the day. More technical rocky trails tested fatigued muscles and minds. Off the ridge into valleys and farmlands more flowy hard-packed trails began. Pushing faster and on the edge of control I very nearly lost the front wheel on a sweeping but flat corner. Thanks to the surrounding grass I was saved. Phew! Okay, time to calm down a notch. Just 15km to go now lets not make a silly mistake so close to the end.

Heading down another sharp rocky dip and up the other side I hear a call from Dane behind me. Looking back I see him attending to his wheel. “Puncture!”, he shouts. Not immediately seeing any damage we try to inflate it. A mixture of stans and air spews out the one sidewall. It’s grazed just enough that the Stans struggles to seal it. Not wasting time we pull out the valve, pop in a tube and are soon rolling again.

10479714_989959831019921_7413368051839203894_n.jpgPhoto: Cherie Vale / Lesotho Sky
1546285_989959997686571_5176991374600789269_n.jpgPhoto: Cherie Vale / Lesotho Sky

Up ahead we can see the final tar road climb which takes us over to the finish in Ramabanta. Riding beside the road and through villages we slowly begin climbing, passing a few teams who’d passed due to the puncture. Hitting the tar road the gradient kicks up though we're assisted by a welcomed steady tail wind up the climb.

Over the top it’s all downhill to the finish and a speedy one at that! Without any effort we’re touching 70 km/h. With the odd donkey and many pedestrians walking up the road we’re not taking chances. Staying on the brakes we wind down towards the tradepost dodging unaware pedestrians strewn across the road. A final off-road section we’d ridden on day 2 brings us out onto the grass in front of the lodge and across the finish line.

With only a few cuts and scrapes, tumbles, mechanicals and a cracked chainstay we’ve done it. What an amazing week on and off the bike. A truly unique event powered by an incredibly passionate team.

68948_989960554353182_8730671571912866414_n.jpgPhoto: Cherie Vale / Lesotho Sky
1378260_989960941019810_2390023988345936819_n.jpgPhoto: Cherie Vale / Lesotho Sky

Day 6 Highlights Clip