A cold but exhilarating dusi2c

So when the CEO of mass manufacturing group, Storequip, offered Scott Craig-Mackie an entry to this year’s BSi Steel dusi2c he couldn’t say no. The only problem was that he’d been teamed up with a 51 year old former Semi-Pro road rider, Gerhard Harmse. While his riding accolades are far less glamorous than Gerhard’s he was hoping that his 20 year age advantage would help him survive.

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Up until a few months ago I was still smoking, combine that with the fact that this is my first season of riding, oh and don’t forget the small incident that had left my arm in a cast thanks to a broken elbow all make for an interesting couple of months of training leading up to my first ever stage race.

The evening before the race, while we sat outside on the deck at the Natal Canoe Club waiting for the race briefing, it quickly become evident as the sun was setting and the temperature plummeted that we were in for a cold weekend ahead. The next morning while standing at the starting line, with minimal clothing on, I thought to myself there is no way it can get colder than this… oh how little did I know what was in store for us.

As the siren sounded the commencement of our adventure we quickly got into the swing of things as everyone jostled for places going through the single track. Leaving Pietermaritzburg we crossed the Msunduzi River via a scaffolding bridge that had been erected especially for us. Didn’t we just feel special!

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The dusi2c is GPS navigated and it didn’t take long for us to realise that blindly following the rider in front of you will take you off the course.

While battling down the most technical descent I have ever ridden, my mind quickly flashed back to what Farmer Glen said at the race briefing: “People complain that the sani2C is too groomed so we have tried to keep the dusi2c as raw as possible.” In trying to keep with the tradition of the Dusi Canoe Marathon there were only  three bridges and for the rest of the crossings we had to get off the bike and portage across the rivers. This was quite tricky as the current was strong enough to sweep your bike away if you weren’t careful.

My nightmare started just after the second water point as my cleats were clogged with mud from the river crossing. We went over what seemed to be a 5km long dried up waterfall as it was just rocks everywhere, I quickly ran out of talent, I couldn’t even uncleat in time and hit the deck eight times in that  rock garden…

Jetline Action Photo
Jetline Action Photo

The Valley of a Thousand Hills lived up to its name with the numerous amount of climbing we had to endeavour. I must have been one of the most ecstatic people to see base camp at Mfula Store that afternoon. First order of the day was a shower then the medical tent to get patched up. The kind folk at BSi Steel donated a half ton bakkie load of Zamalek quarts. Luckily for me there were non-alcoholic drinks too, as the thought of having a Black Label was enough to give me a headache for the next day’s ride…

After the evening’s prize giving and watching the video footage of the race leaders making it look so easy, we retreated to our tents which were erected along the uMngeni river bank. Man oh man, was that mattress a godsend.

The roosters woke us at four am and with breakfast being served at five, we got up and got ready. As the temperature dropped to zero during the night our wet shoes had frozen overnight. That was unpleasant to say the least.

Unfortunately just as we thought we were warming up after a few kays of riding, we had two more river crossings. These took almost 20 minutes as the queue was snaking through the waste deep freezing water.

The singletrack riding along the banks of the Inanda Dam was the best I have ever ridden. The soft river sand made it challenging and even more rewarding. It was here were I met the only tandem team in the race. What made this team even more spectacular was that the rear rider is blind. I must take my hat off to both of them. Guys you were amazing and absolutely inspiring.

Jetline Action Photo
Jetline Action Photo

Once we got into Durban we crossed two bridges the organisers made for us. The first was a pallet bridge which I quickly found out had to be crossed with speed.  If you went slowly you would sink. My partner nearly fell in as he went too far to the side and the pallets started tipping. The second was the infamous PG Bison floating bridge. This was a lot more secure and after it there was only a short grass paving section left before the cycle-lane lead us down to the Blue Lagoon, across the river via the M4 Bridge and back up to the Durban Canoe Club, where the finish was eagerly awaiting us.

All in all the Dusi is a race not to be underestimated, especially as the cold made things a lot tougher, but the riding is world class and the organisation is impeccable as befits Farmer Glen’s reputation.

Bio:

Scott Craig-Mackie has only been riding seriously for less than a year. He’s a father of three and a huge sport’s fan – supporting the Sharks and Arsenal (there’s no accounting for taste…). He’s tries to live by the motto “Fear conquered, Glory Achieved”.

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