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Cycling the JoBerg2C with Terra Nova pack on your back

Posted on May 30th, 2019

One of Terra Nova Equipment’s good friends, Nigel Vardy (aka. Mr Frostbite) is a proud ambassador of both Terra Nova and Extremities. He recently took some Terra Nova backpacks and cycling packs with him during the popular JoBerg2C mountain bike race in South Africa.  Now back in the UK, Nigel has taken over our blog to share with you his experience of this epic race!

The JoBerg2C mountain bike race in South Africa is a legendary event.  In nine days, you ride 900km of off-road tracks and trails, cross the Drakensberg Mountains and descent the hair raising Umko Drop.  I completed this year’s race, with support from Terra Nova Equipment.

Seven hundred and fifty riders left the small town of Heidelberg on the morning of Friday 26th April.  The weather had been wet with flooding, washing streets away near the races end.  Mud was going to play its part, but mud is part of the fun on a mountain bike.  A short, sharp hill soon strung the race out and from then onwards there was a long procession of bikes hammering down dirt and farm roads.  We crossed the Vaal River via boat and continued to the town of Frankfort.  Here the race organisation really began to show, as a huge camp had been built for the night.  Tents, marquees, showers and the all-important recovery zone were ready to ease our aches and fill our stomachs.  This was to be the norm for the next eight days.

 

Every morning the PA system boomed out at 05:30am, but many of us were already up and about.  A sharp 07:00am start in the saddle called and we were away again.  It felt good to be riding in the cool dawn air, but the sun was soon up with a vengeance.  Hydration is an enormous task as temperatures regularly top 30°C and trail dust fills your lungs.  The Laser 10 Backpack fitted snugly on my back and held my hydration pack with ease.  The netting side pockets were filled with sun cream and chain lube and the shoulder pockets with energy bars.  I’m a great believer in kit that works and the Laser 10 did just that.  It is extremely lightweight and I hardly noticed it on my back.  The shoulder and chest straps held the pack firmly in place.  It packs down to nothing and survived thorns, trees and mud.  That afternoon I entered the town of Reitz with aching legs, but a happy heart.

 

Day three is where it all went wrong for me.  I started well enough and after re-fuelling at a water point, I set off down a long grassy field towards more mud.  The bike piled into the morass and as I pushed my left foot down to drag myself through, I felt my knee go.  A burning pain shot through my leg and I was forced off the bike.  I hobbled to dry ground and tried to ride, but something was badly wrong.  I managed to ride to a medical point where strapping was applied, but my day was done.  Thankfully the race support is excellently organised and I was transferred to the evenings camp, where I sat with a physio.  I’d strained my anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and had strapping applied as well as acupuncture.  My race wasn’t over, but I’d have to take it steady.  I decided to take the next two stages off, before returning on day six.

 

It soon became apparent that my knee wasn’t doing well, but I continued to ride where I could.  Dropping off an escarpment on the Drakensburg was as scary as it was beautiful. You need a so called ‘death grip’ on large descents, but only having part fingers makes that impossible.  I could only hold on as best as I could and point the bike downhill…!  The Umko Drop on day eight was similarly fearsome with its 18km of downhill, but I held on long enough before both of my arms went numb.  Nerve response has been an ongoing issue with my arms and the consistent pounding of the bars didn’t help.

Congratulations to Nigel on completing the race!

 

 

I completed the final stage, filled with painkillers, but in the saddle.  I’d sailed over the bars on a descent earlier and scraped both my knees and shins.  You need to carry a select few spare parts (and plasters) and the Laser Velo Handlebar bag fitted the bill.  It easily straps onto any set of handlebars and balances well on the bike.  The zips can be opened at speed, even when racing and the bag takes only seconds to fit and remove.  It is extremely lightweight and again, does the job.  I entered Scottborough and climbed the last hill to the finish line.  The race was done and so was I.  Covered in mud and blood I climbed from the saddle for the last time.  All along the race I’d met wonderful people from all over the world and received a huge round of applause as I crossed the line.  I was exhausted, but happy and ready to celebrate.

 

As I looked across the Indian Ocean that evening, I thought about the race.  Injury had dogged me, but I’d not given in.  I’d not set any records, but I’d met and cycled with wonderful people from around the globe.  Surely that’s what travel and adventure is all about…?

 

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