What a way to end off nine days of traversing the country by bike. The neutral stage meant a leisurely roll off the start line anytime between 7 and 8am. With flights to catch and bikes to box we opted to head out at 7. Stage 9 was also a dress up stage- the theme being anything green, and I was over the moon with the neon green tutus the organisers had provided, amongst other options, to help with the dress up. Somehow riding in a tutu made every thing feel more fun.
The route itself is fairly flat and comfortable: there are no major climbs or challenges, and it made for a very social experience. It was a pleasure to be be able to enjoy the full extent of the water points without rushing, and to stop at the top of every hill to admire the view. I wasn’t expecting to feel this way: but I really think there is something great about a neutral stage: especially for races that are as long, and traverse as much varied terrain as joBerg2c. It lets riders race, but also forces even the racing snakes to take a sanity check and appreciate the experience.
Today we were into the vast sugar cane fields and lush tropical jungle of the KZN coastal region, with some spectacular views from the rolling hillsides. The route was predominately jeep track, linking a few flowing single track sections. We took our time, and ensured the Bar One and donut stocks at the water points were suitably depleted before moving on. My apologies to the riders that came through after us.
The sense of achievement I got from our first sight of the sea was immense: we really had ridden from Heidelberg all the way down to the coast.
Writing this, I am devastated that the adventure is over. Even the consolation of a real bed, clean clothes and no 5am wake up call are not enough to make me feel better. I can honestly say it has been one of the best experiences I could ever have hoped for, and has been a privilege to participate.