In southern Africa people have a saying: “He’s got hair on his teeth.” It’s a saying with German roots and it means that someone is not scared of anything. It is also used to describe something difficult that lies ahead: “You gotta have hair on your teeth!” The Ramabanta Loop has been known to put hair on people’s teeth. In 2016 it claimed a couple of casualties, from a broken collarbone to a cut ear to a broken frame.  This year, we saw less crashes, but way more tired faces.

It’s a tough, short, punchy stage that suits the XCO style riders more than the old diesel engines. There were very little free meters to make up time or distance. In the past, we kept this stage till later in the week. This year we starting with it and riders who were hoping for a slow start to catch their breath in skinny-air country, would have been deeply disappointed. Outside the trading post’s gates, Nxesi pass awaited riders. It was a grueling welcome to what lies ahead. In the words of Jan Withaar (who finished third on the day):

Today, we went either straight up or straight down for the majority of the route and whether up or down, it was tricky. This is not a manicured track. We are riding along trails that are alive in the remotest parts of Lesotho.

The competition was fierce at the front today, with local MTB heroes battling it out with international pro riders. This leading group of UCI riders laid the hammer down from the start and by the top of the pass, the gap between them and the rest of the field was massive.

On a shorter day like today, the real race was always going to be towards the end. The Swiss duo, Mathias Flückiger and Ralph Näf looks super strong to end their MTB season on a high. They stayed with the pace of Phetetso Monese and Stuart Marais, until the final 5 km. On the day, the two had more in the tank and it showed in the 5 minutes time gap they put between themselves and Team Vodacom Lesotho. Grant Usher and Jan Withaar of Team 24-7 Security Services took the overall 3rd position.

Ila Stow and Frankie du Toit are riding for SAICA. They finished in the 14th position, with an overall time of 3:58:44.

Next up, we race to Roma. View Day 2’s route profile here.