Geez. This year is flying … It’s already 2 August and only 2 days until what will be one of the most proudest races of my life as I get to ride with my dad and my oldest brother in the 3 day Glacier Storms River Traverse. It’s my second SRT; their first stage race; a celebration of my dad’s 70th birthday and more than likely 2 siblings trying to keep up with their old man. Three de Hutton’s cruising around Tsitsikamma while my mom supports along the way – more than likely with a glass of wine in hand (she is after all my mother.) Happy days.
August also marks the year anniversary of my falling in love with stage racing which can best be described as pure fun on and off the bike. My relationship with the Dryland family took a pivotal shift after last year’s SRT thanks to a fortuitous Mountain Bike Magazine review opportunity which put me on the start line of the iconic Cape Pioneer Trek in October 2016. Wide-eyed and wildly excited, it marked the start of a drastic bike-style shift for me. If Storms River Traverse can be compared to a first kiss then my subsequent leap to Cape Pioneer Trek could be likened to the honeymoon period of my bike romance. Intense love but still with butterflies. It’s the indulgence of extreme effort and the warm fuzzy glow while you wash greasy dishes. I should mention the honeymoon would come to an abrupt – but rewarding – end when I subsequently completely the grueling Tankwa Trek, in February, this year but that’s another story.)
For anyone who doesn’t know, the Pioneer is 7 days of mountain biking. 572kms with 10 650m of climbing. It’s 7 days of pushing your body till you think you’re done but after a few beers, the comfort of wholesome food, a massage and a good sleep you’re ready to tackle the next day’s trails. My friend Steve and I rode together last year and it was probably the best mountain bike race I’ve ever done. With varied terrain and views forever the routes offer something different every day. Lots of technical sections with flowing singletrack, fast jeep tracks and lung busting climbs. One of my favourite aspects was the people we met along the way and around the race village. Particularly memorable was meeting Nick and the Du Toit brothers who rode with us a large part of the way helping Steve look after me. It felt like we had a super team. Bearing in mind the race is immensely challenging it is designed not to break you and as one rider said “It’s tough enough”. It’s also kind of a choice of how hard you want to go. I reckon my sweet spot is too start day 1 with 80% riding effort and 20% post ride fun and work towards day 7 with a 70:40 ratio. Yes – if you counted that I can also add but somewhere it was said: “Always give more than 100%…. Unless you are giving blood.” Words to live by and a great race strategy. Bring on the underestimated magic of Mossel Bay, the magnificent mountains around George and ultimately the raw beauty of the Klein Karoo. My pinnacle point will be arriving on day 6 in Oudtshoorn to an ice cold beer and a cool pool knowing I’ve almost made it.
In the meantime I’ll kick-start my training program this weekend in Storms River and start cranking the length-less legs of mine. I’ll aim for 40% effort and 80% fun-factor and hopefully even embarrass my parents.