Magoebaskloof is in South-Africa. Drifter Magoebaskloof MTB Challenge 2003 - Terry the Spinman The Magoebaskloof MTB Challenge has to be one of the most exciting races on the MTB calendar. Call me sentimental, but Magoebaskloof was my first ever Mountain Bike race back in 1999 so it holds a special place in my heart. My friends Astrid and Fino Rech called one day to say they had entered me for this Mountain Bike race, the fact that I didn't even own a mountain bike didn't deter them, they had that all organised and I would ride a borrowed bike. In those days we used to start from the Hotel and I remember how indignant I felt being referred to as a "Wossie" as I lined up for the 35km ride. My first experience of off road riding, as we hit the first forest road with all its corrugations, was one I will always remember. "This is horrible" I thought as I was shaken about and choked on the dust. I had no idea how to change gears so rode the whole race in the middle cog. I fell badly on one downhill skidding a few meters on the slippery surface, got up quickly, embarrassed in case anyone witnessed it, ah the road riding mentality of if you fall you're an idiot with no riding skills. My friends seeing the tell tail mud smears down my side laughed hysterically, "You only fell once" they joked "welcome to Mountain Biking". By the end of that race I was hooked and immediately purchased my first MTB on returning to Joberg, the rest is history This years event had 800 entrants. Again there were the thrill seeking dirt warriors all set and ready for the 75km extreme challenge, and the "Wossies" for the 35km shorter route. I am very pleased to hear from Drifter organisers that there will be more emphasis placed on the middle distance at races in the series next year to get rid of this Wossie stigma and give the shorter distance more credibility. I think this is great for the growth of the sport An early 06h30 start saw the 75km riders going out in blazing sunshine and race director, Rudi Viljoen, warned of temperatures rising to 40 degrees and no chance of rain. This is the driest I have ever seen Magoebas and I knocked a full hour off my time from last year in these fast rolling conditions. It also had it's down side though as there was little traction on the extreme downhill's on the first part of the course. Lose rock and dirt made riding hair raising descents difficult and I was among many who took a tumble on the "Bum Slide" 3km from the start. The rider in front of me came down and I followed leaving my bike and rolling about 5mts down the slope. No harm done I took the opportunity to take a few photos of other unfortunates negotiating this tricky descent The two logs across the river created a bit of a bottle neck but riders were still cheerful and not too perturbed by the slow progress. A bit of advice if you ever ride this race, the right hand log has a flatter top due to decay and is easier to balance on. A second stop at the embankment leading up to the tar road crossing saw the rider behind nearly rear ending me, not realizing we were stopping again he slammed on brakes so violently he went straight over his handle bars, getting a huge cheer from the crowd From the tar road to the tea plantations the route took us high along a ridge on jeep tracks and mountain paths. There were spectacular views across the mountains towards Zaneen and some hectic climbs and downhill's. I loved the signs that accompanied the directional arrows along the route. "NO! This hill never ends!!" "Getting dirty for charity" and "We appreciate your sweat" were but a few. Others were informative like "Did you know originally Coke-a-Cola was green in colour" and something about men's eyesight and women's hearing, cant remember or choose not to The one downhill at this stage I actually had to pitch my bike into the ditch as I went totally out of control and it was the only way of stopping and preventing a huge tumble. There was little or no traction on the lose dirt and most riders negotiated these sharp declines with extreme caution. Some of the top riders also came off worse for wear on these perilous downhill's, Koos Groenewald having to have his knee stitched at the finish and Shan Wilson dislocating his shoulder as the result of a fall. Both these athletes still managed top positions amazingly. Once into the tea plantations it was fast riding on wide dirt roads down into the valley below and the lowest point on the course. This is always one of my favorite sections with the tea bushes perfectly manicured resembling bright green rugs draped over the landscape cut through by the access dirt roads. From the top you can see riders below enjoying the swift descent It was back across the tar road and a stunning ride along the edge of the Magoebaskloof dam. Last year this was a ride through a muddy swamp but this year riders were able to relax and enjoy the reflections of mountain and sky in a totally calm surface. Bark stripping and the odd log and tree branch gave riders some interesting obstacles to negotiate on this flat section before starting the climb up through the forest. The two river crossings were great fun, slipping and sliding on mossy rocks and then up the muddy embankment. It was cool in the forest but the day was rapidly heating up. There were a few pushes up steep embankments that were made easier by the dry conditions, I remember last year slipping down more than progressing up The big climb up Wood Bush Drive is always hard and this year was no exception. Hot and humid conditions with not a breeze (unlike last weekend's gale at Rhodes) saw many riders struggle up to the highest point on the course. The road winds up through luscious indigenous forests and the bird life in this area is awesome. The hill just seems to go on and on and the top eventually cant come soon enough. There is a 1km to go sign just when you feel like you cant pedal another centimeter. "1km to go signs should be banned" said John Paul Pearton, winner of this years race, "course designers just cant measure 1 km correctly" he said, always laughing and joking after a race. I was pleased to see the water point was at the top this year, psychologically this worked better for me. While on this subject the water points were more than enough and manned by enthusiastic volunteers with Coke, water and bananas galore - well done! Once at the top it was undulating terrain all the way home but there were still some mean hills to climb before the finish back at Stanford Lake College. Spectacular rides through pine forests with carpets of ferns and open grasslands with giant tree ferns kept riders enthralled and riders agreed this race is one of the most varied when it comes to terrain. There were a few crossings on wooden bridges and it was on one of these that a wooden strut broke under my foot and I went crashing through the bridge leaving a beautiful bloodied graze up my shin to impress my friends with. The rider behind me had to help me out as I was truly stuck, ah the perils of mountain biking The atmosphere at the finish was electric as riders relayed experiences of the ride to their fellow "mud buddies" and loved ones. The promised beer (yes another of the signs "Cold beer waiting for you at the finish") had riders jovial and celebrating their achievement on the ride and the Boks win over Samoa at the Rugby World Cup At the beginning of 2003 I set myself the goal of completing 8 of the 10 Drifter Classic Races and Magoebaskloof saw that goal accomplished, who would have thought that my first mountain bike race, here in the Magoebas mountains, back in 1999 would ignite such a passion for the sport Well done to every rider who completed this event you are all Champions! Terry the Spinman -- QUIPd 1.02: (292 of 671) -> `Given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow. Linus's -> Law' ##2673 #'Mandrake Linux.'