FACING THE TEST OF GRIT AND GUTS IN UMZUMBE
The South Coast’s technical terrain and tight forest trails were always going to be a challenge – but when heavier rainfall than expected was added to the mix, riders were suddenly in for an extreme weekend of racing…
The double-header round of the National Enduro series took place in Umzumbe from 10-11 August. An exciting 28 km route was in store, of which 5 km’s were a mostly dried up river bed.
Instead of the predicted light showers in the Oribi Gorge region on Thursday night, a heavy downpour brought close to 70 mm of rain instead! The ‘dry’ river bed suddenly became a deep river crossing, and a large contingent of riders drowned their bikes on the first day of the event as a result.
For the Brother Leader Tread KTM team, the weekend kicked off with a streak of bad luck.
Despite being fresh off some extreme Red Bull Romaniacs training in wet conditions, Kirsten Landman could do little about the state of her drowned bike on Friday.
“Everything was going so well… and I drowned my bike in the final 2 km’s of my last lap! Before that I honestly felt the best I have all year – I was even heading for a top ten finish,” said the disappointed rider.
Teammate Scott Bouverie was kind enough to lend his training bike to Landman, who was then able to take on a more successful round five.
The 28 km route was now done in reverse, and while there were no longer deep waters to navigate through, the unrelenting terrain by no means gave riders a chance to catch their breath.
For Landman, one of the greatest challenges was handling the bigger, heavier KTM 300 EXC TPI instead of her familiar 250 EXC TPI. After completing four of the required five laps, she commented:
“It was a lot of bike to handle, and I felt the extra effort shooting through my arms. I was out there for over 6 hours, and I couldn’t have pushed any harder or ridden any better. I’m completely exhausted, but happy with how the day went!”
After four months off due to injury, Bouverie made his long-awaited return to racing this weekend. He unfortunately joined the ‘Did Not Finish’ list after round four, but for more than just a drowned bike.
The rider had also cut his arm open on a tree branch, and tried to get as far as he could before encountering the same water issue as everyone else.
“It was crazy – after I drowned my bike I went straight to the hospital to get stitched up. My first day back racing definitely didn’t go according to plan!” he said
The fifth round of the series brought a sigh of relief as Bouverie showed a glimpse of the competitive spirit that fans had been waiting for.
He stormed to a third place overall, a mere two minutes behind South Africa’s leading enduro rider Wade Young.
“I had to dig really deep to get to the finish. I pushed hard and every time I moved I could feel the pain from the cut on my arm. It’s days like this that make you a champion though – nothing is ever easy in racing, there’s always going to be injuries and deep river beds to conquer! Hoping to get another solid round of racing in before the season ends,” said a satisfied Bouverie.