joBerg2c: Crash. Lost. Lost again. Broken cleat.

I’m fairly confident I suffered the first crash of the 2014 joBerg2c. Just a silly one when the bunch was grinding up a hill too slowly about 10 minutes into day 1. It’ll be my only first of the tour, I suspect.

Floating bridge success!
Floating bridge success!

The opening stage was 116km, from Heidelberg to Frankfort. Perhaps the highlight of the day was meeting fascinating people from around the globe. One couple, whom I’ve taken calling ‘The Scotties’, are from Aberdeen. That made me feel foolish for complaining about the odd cold training ride in Joburg. Aussies are also in plentiful supply, and you won’t struggle to find an American or Kiwi.

My major mistake thus far has been losing concentration at the moment I passed a marshal who happened (apparently) to be on a comfort break. That resulted in a good 5km off course. I’ve paid better attention to my Garmin since then. This entire race is unmarked, and following a course on a GPS is the name of the game. Good idea, though. More on that later.

Homemade mielie brood at waterpoints is pure magic.
Homemade mielie brood at waterpoints is pure magic.

I’ve been inspired by the spirit of the local communities who get involved with this race. Every water stop is a smorgasbord of farm treats: koeksisters, mielie brood and, most important for the cyclist diet, boiled potatoes. Kiddies, oupa’s and tannies come out in force and make us all feel like we’re leading the Tour de France.

The camp sites are a similar tale. A local high school hosts us everywhere we stop. Last night was in Frankfort, where the families of Hoerskool Wilge Rivier came out to braai, bake, serve and wash – our own weary bodies unable to do it!

Ashok, top dog at the wolf sanctuary outside Reitz.
Ashok, top dog at the wolf sanctuary outside Reitz.

One lesson is that one cannot underestimate the Free State winter mornings. It’s hot during the day, by departing at 7am is painfully icey. We awake to frosted tents and that cold is trebled when we start flying through the biting air. I’m told it dipped under freezing at one stage. By my back-of-envelope calculations, the wind chill would have made it close to minus 40 – at least my toes suspect so. Plans needed for tomorrow.

Tonight we’re in Reitz. Elevated above the town, I’m anticipating an even more severe dip in temperature. Super Rugby is on the big screens, banter in full flight and limping riders are enjoying the recovery.

For #CountryCyclist, things are looking solid. No major mechanical issues. Just the problematic cleat which fell off yesterday and twisted for part of today’s ride. My mechanical team should have a brand new one by this evening.

So, it’s onward towards Scottburgh tomorrow. Two days down, seven to go.

I am #CountryCyclist, for Country Life, in Reitz, deep in the Free State!

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