By Paul Cordes

Day 1


There was a threat of rain the day before but nothing really came of it. The conditions were perfect; cool and slightly overcast. Excitement and expectations were high all through the race field.


The action got off to a fast paced start once the gun went, and Yolande and I were in the mix with the front group. As everyone turned into the first of many single tracks there was a “left” or “right” option. Yolande took the left option which proved to be a lot slower than the right, and the by the time we emerged on the next gravel road we were trailing two of the other mixed teams by a little over a minute.


With the riders all split-up up the following climb we were free to make use of our technical skills to reel everyone back in on the next piece of single track we encountered. On the next twisty climb where the other teams we not able to help the weaker members by towing their team mates we went into the lead. We stretched our advantage on any sort of terrain that required a little skill and made them tow their way back up to us. Finally we got away in the last downhill single track and fast paced it to the finish.


There was never any chance of me towing Yolande. Both our riding styles involve body english that is just not conducive to towing, besides, with the tick-bite fever still fresh in my memory, it may well have been Yolande towing me this time.


Day 2


The day started at a breakneck pace on district roads and we found ourselves trailing the lead group with legs made of wood. We had a perfect veiw from behind of the leaders going into the big downhill single track section that may well have been the high point of the race for a pair of single track junkies like Yolande and I.


Team IMC tactics were for Yolande to pass as many riders as she could and don’t worry about me as I would make up any time – my HiFi is amazing in the tight stuff!


She did just that, passing some 13 teams on the single track. We were trying to make our technical skill advantage count.


Just when things seemed to be going our way Yolande under steered into a corner, drifted into some rocks and burped her front tyre. Not wanting to lose time, and with still a tiny bit of pressure,  she continued on.


This may not have been Team IMC’s best decision of the Sani this year.


On a single track section just a few km’s further along, with a nasty rocky area, Yolande lost the concentration levels required to ride technical terrain with a flat tyre , hit a rock at speed and the resulting unplanned direction change swung her into a rocky ledge where she split open her chin.


Never let it be said that Team IMC’s Yolande Speedy is a quitter or a sissy!


This bump on the chin later needed two layers of internal stitching, and she bled for another 80km till she could get whisked away to hospital for the entire afternoon. She never even mentioned abandoning.


At least she stopped long enough to re-inflate the wheel again.


We got passed on the open climbs by the competition but we had no answer for how well Johan was riding on the climbs dragging his team mate with him. We gave up an serious notion of a successful chase with some 30km to go, and so decided to ride our own pace and enjoy the fantastic course. We lost huge time


Day 3


Started the same as the last day ended with us having no legs and being blown off the group from the second kilometer.


We decided prior to the start that we were not going to stress or tow our way through this stage, and would rather just accept we had Pinochio’s legs, and rather just try to avoid getting splinters from scratching them.


With some 30km to go, and Team IMC sitting behind the leaders by just over a massive 10minute margin (we could have slept in!) we found our legs.


We started crawling back into the race, making no mistakes, turning pedals quickly and finding some fantastic rhythm – like what we and every one else expected from us before the start of Day Two.


With 7km to go we had closed the gap to around 2min, and whilst there was no possibility of closing it completely that close to home, things were looking a little less bleak.


I had no sooner thought this and fate decided to continue this race in the same theme for Team IMC.


Crossing over a wooden bridge onto a cement pipeline I lost pressure in my rear wheel (same place that cost MTN their stage win). I bombed the tire but it wouldn’t seal. Fighting rising panic, I  then used a tubeless plug and tried again.


We finally realized that whatever I hit went straight through a damaged the rim strip causing leakage through the spoke nipples. I


I resigned myself to removing the tyre and putting in a tube and the next mixed team caught us and lent me a CO2 bomb (many thanks guys) then we were back on our way.


We put foot and time trialed to the finish, and whilst our race was over, we managed to regain our second place. We were pleased with the way that we finished just wish we were able to have done that a little earlier in the race.


Yolande hung tough despite all odds. She is the toughest mountain biker I have ever shared a stretch of single track with, and I can’t wait to see her race for South Africa at the Olympic Games this year.


I was pleased with my ride considering I am still feeling the effects of tick bit fever and am still not quite where I should be from a training and fitness perspective.


The organization of the event was faultless as always. The course was stunning. Well done to Glen and his crew!