Cape Town - We’re all thinking it, but no one says anything. Who will bail? Last Friday, the Legends of Plum Pudding (Lopp) made our way to Langebaan to take part in the Ride the Rhino – a three-day mountain bike race that crisscrosses the West Coast.
The four hairy-legged Lopp members – Moose, IceMan, Whit and me, Goose – usually meet in the morning to ride the slopes of Table Mountain. This is our first official race together.
But who will complete all three days, and who will bail?
There’s no question that IceMan, the doyen of the group, will finish. This is light training for IceMan, who is the coolest member of the pack. Moose and Whit are no donkeys on a bike, but they have a bad reputation for not finishing stage races.
By the time we pull into Langebaan for the 80km first stage to Darling I have a hammering twitch in my left eye, and although it’s raining and colder than a wizard’s mooseknuckle, I’m hot and flushed. I’m a nervous wreck as I realise that I will spend the next three days bouncing up and down on a saddle.
“Why am I doing this again?” I ask.
“For the rhinos,” says Whit.
“For the renosterveld,” says IceMan.
“For three days of rugged mountain biking,” says Moose.
Yes, ja, and yebo.
Four years ago, Justin Basson had an idea to link the remaining fragments of renosterveld by using mountain bike rides as awareness campaigns, and to generate funds to achieve the goal.
One of these initiatives was Ride the Rhino, which is now sponsored by Resolution Health. In addition to helping to rescue the endangered renosterveld – only 4 percent of this habitat is left in the Western Cape – the bikers also ride to highlight the slaughter of our rhinos, and raise funds for anti-poaching initiatives.
Lopp members mount our steeds. We’re joined by about 650 other riders, including celebs Liezel “Giraffe” van der Westhuizen, Steve “Naked Rhino Dude” Newman, and Joel “That Kick” Stransky.
The ride begins. The first 60km is fairly flat and mostly on jeep track and tar, but there’s a twist as the final 20km turns into a dirt fest. We make our way through thick boggy mud, climbing up and up hills. Lopp members survive the first day – saddle-sore, but in good spirits.
However, at the start line on the second day, which is an 84km loop around Darling, our group is looking worse for wear. Moose is not feeling well and Whit’s bike has given up in protest against the mudbath. The two sad mountain bikers shake their heads and wave goodbye to me and IceMan, who has a mean glint in his eye.
IceMan, I sense, is about to embark on a wild Goose chase.
We ride through carpets of purple flowers and fields of ostriches. Leopard tortoises play Frogger with riders. It’s at the halfway point on the day’s stage, when I think I have this race in the bag, that my bike’s freewheel hub starts to play up. If the freewheel hub fails, your ride is over. It’s a long walk to Darling. My bike is a ticking time bomb.
I count down the kilometres. 49km. 56km. 72km. 76km. At 82km, with just two kilometres to go, I breathe a sigh of relief. And then, with 100m to the finishing line on Day 2, my freewheel hub packs up. I make it across the line and take my bike to the mechanic.
He shakes his head. He can’t fix it and my only option is to buy new wheels which, at R3 300, is not really an option. My ride is over.
I join Moose and Whit on the bench.
IceMan, the only Lopp member riding, completes the final day from Darling to Durbanville – and makes it across a sinking bridge to collect his medal.
With the race getting the better of Goose, Moose and Whit, the legends were battered and bruised, but the attrition rate was nothing like that of the rhinos, for whom we were riding. - Weekend Argus