The three day Nedbank Sani2C stage race celebrated its 10’th birthday this year. This event needs no introduction in the mountain biking scene in South Africa, as the race has been completed; or is on the bucket list; of every mountain biker in this country and for good reason!
Over the period of ten years the event has grown from a “one race and one event” to today’s “three races and one event”. The three races are known as Trail, Adventure and Race. Each of these start a day apart with the Race version being the last to start it’s journey from Underberg to Scottburgh.
For this year’s event, I teamed up with someone who also doesn’t require any introduction as she has added almost every title there is to her palmarès in South Africa. I’ve always wanted to partner up with Yolande Speedy and was very happy when the opportunity presented itself.
The event started in the dairy and cattle community of Underberg situated at the foothills of the Southern Drakensberg in Kwazulu-Natal.
Stage one,82 km and 1230m of climbing
This year the weather was in our favour and we set off in very bearable winter weather conditions from Underberg Primary School. The first day’s 82km stage took us through the grassy hills of the Midlands area to our overnight camping village at MacKenzie Club in Ixopo.
The club saw a few new wonderful upgrades in the shower facilities and coffee “barn” area making our camping experience all the more pleasant.
In the race Yolande and I had a great and problem-free day and finished in 2nd place. We were both very happy with the result as we were aiming to make the podium but placing 2nd in the ladies category was a great bonus.
Stage two, 99km and 1600m of climbing
Day two was the queen stage of this year’s edition as it was the longest in distance and included the most climbing. The early 6:15 am start at dawn also made for an interesting start given the minimum light we had to navigate by for the first few kilometres.
En route riders we were treated with spectacular views of the country side especially as we made our way down into the legendary Umkomaas Valley. The day’s scenic route led us through the Ixopo region to our race village for the night at Jolivet Farm in the Highflats.
It seemed Yolande and my luck ran out on the second day. Our racing rhythm got broken by a quick mechanical stop followed by Yolande crashing on a slippery wooden bridge. I gained so much respect and admiration for Yolande that day: we were approximately 50km into the race when she fell and received quite a deep cut on her chin. She stood up and gathered herself quickly, got back onto the bike and kept on riding. By the time we reached the water aid station at 68km into the event the cut had stopped bleeding as it dried up from the wind. At the station Yolande made the call to keep on riding and keep on racing hard! She decided her chin could be attended to at the finish. For safety’s sake I decided to ride behind Yolande and keep an eye on her in case she started feeling dizzy again. I needed have worried. To my astonishment Yolande often turned around to ask me if I was okay!? Not only did she not once shed a tear; she was completely selfless when she had all the right to pity herself. I learned a lot from her that day and hope to apply it in my own life going forward.
Back to the race, Yolande and I played yo-yo with the 3rd ladies team as they passed us while we were sorting out the mechanical hick-up and then again during the crash. Each time we caught up to them and pushed open a slight time gap over them to finish in 2nd place on the stage.
Stage 3,84km and 910m of climbing
Yolande started the day with a double row of stitches (inside and outside) and once again proved how tough she is and was ready to race on the 3rd and final stage.
The 84km rolling course was very fast as it gradually descended to the finish line on the beach front at the resort town of Scottburgh on the south coast of Kwazulu-Natal.
Yolande and I (both Garmin) were very happy with our results at the end of the race as we managed to place 2nd on all of the stages; and so secured us an overall 2nd place finish in the ladies category. The pairing of SA national champion Robyn de Groot (Biogen CycleLab) and Swedish national champion Jennie Stenerhag (Cape Brewing Company) proved to be very successful as they took the overall win with the pairing of veteran world cross country champion Natalie Bergstrom and Tammy Visagie (both Coffeeberry Cafe/ Momsen Bikes) rounding out the podium in 3rd place.
Sani2C is a unique event; apart from the riding being spectacular, it’s the team behind it (farmer Glen, his family and friends) that makes the event. These people do all the “behind the scenes” planning and organisation of putting on a world class event. Added to that – you’ll find them supporting riders out on the course during the stages and mingling with the riders in the evening. They are truly passionate about the sport and are set on making a positive difference to both the communities they touch and the participants whose lives are that much enriched. Long may Farmer Glen’s legend continue.I really enjoyed riding with Yolande. Not only is she the toughest chick in mountain biking but also one of the most thoughtful ones. Thanks so much to my title sponsor, Garmin for giving us the opportunity to race together and thanks Yolande for being who you are.