At only 64 kilometres with 1150m of climbing, the stage would be easy by Pioneer standards, and with no next-day consequences for going too hard, we enjoyed the fast start after the obligatory neutral zone out of town.
The route did not have a single major climb, rather a series of “sharks teeth” made up of rocky climbs and loose descents, so that we were either climbing or descending as we made our way through the reserve.
With a lot of open road under our belts, it was a treat to be riding terrain that kept your mind focused on the bike and what was coming up ahead. Karoo shale has sharp edges which can easily catch a misplaced tyre, and so even jeep track descents require a level of concentration which is ideal for taking your mind off aching legs and a bruised bum.
Once again, we were fortunate to have comfortable temperatures: the rocky valleys are sheltered from the wind, and offer no shade, making them unforgiving in the heat.
A brutally steep climb made sure our legs were drained before we hit a final wonderful piece of trail. Raw, and unmanicured Karoo path, it snaked up and down the hillside, laced with off camber turns and loose rocks, but still maintaining a grin-inducing flow. The high carried us to the final water point and through the flat 10 kilometre run into town where the finish line at the Queens Hotel, and ice cold champagne was waiting.
Compared with the preceding days, this stage was over in a flash, I did not even get around to drinking my second bottle. It was fantastic to finish with a fast fun route which left us feeling strong and with a happy buzz from the trails.
It has been a mentally taxing seven days of riding, initially made challenging by weather conditions and mud, and later by the cumulative fatigue of long days in the saddle, and the complications of tent life. I am incredibly stoked that we got through without a single mechanical or mushroom cloud event in the team. Dryland have put on a superb event, and I can’t thank everyone involved enough.
Although I am overjoyed to be reunited with my bed and coffee machine, the withdrawal is real, and I can’t help but start looking for the next adventure.