They took most of us by surprise on the first day of the joBerg2c. Rolling in to the second water point, our attention was on the Vaal River to the left and the stretching, unstable-looking bridge that crossed it. Just then the veritable ambush came amid cries of “CHAIN LUBE!”
By the second stop of day two we knew it was coming. And for seven more days we were greeted by the very same burst of enthusiasm. Just as many of our treasured mountain bikes were beginning to squeak after river crossings and muddy traverses, the kids from St Laurence’s Children’s Haven appeared with their hearty offering (or was it a demand?): “CHAIN LUBE”.
With increasing efficiency as they practised their trade, one would hold the bike in place while his partner crouched down to the chain, spun the wheel backwards and squirted their magic bike-healing potion along the chain and onto the cogs.
During one of my long days in the saddle, I met the man largely responsible for bringing the ‘chain gang’ into being. Trevor Crowe is one of just a handful of people to have ridden all five joBerg2c events. Now an institution of this race, the St Laurence children are his reason for riding. “It’s amazing to see how they grow over the nine days,” he explains. “Last year we had a little guy who refused to speak. By the end he was chatting to everyone like they were old friends.”
That effect is obvious to anyone who rides. These nippers grow in confidence almost daily. As Crowe puts it, “It’s as simple as showing these kids that grown-ups can be nice. They come from such shocking backgrounds.”
The Haven is a registered NPO and runs purely on donations and fundraising by people like Trevor. He reckons connections made through the bike race have generated over R400 000 for the kids over the years. I was pleased to hear one of our #CountryCyclist sponsors Future Life (a key ingredient to any breakfast while out on the J2C) donates boxes of their products to the home every month.
As the days passed, I grew more impressed with the enthusiasm and manners of our sprightly crew of lube engineers. On the final day, one of them produced my moment of the week. After finally grinding my weary self over the finish line at Scottburgh, young Andre maneuvered my medal over my head and offered an unexpected arm of congratulation over the shoulders. I had come over the line among the stragglers, hours behind the winners, but I felt like a champion.