Every now and then you find yourself riding on a trail that puts all your worries into perspective, a trail that reminds you of your place in the world, a world beautiful beyond words and as ancient as time itself. This was my day today — actually it’s been my entire week. I’m riding the 8th edition of Lesotho Sky with a great mate and on an awesome bike, sponsored by Silverback. It’s the third time I get to do this event and every year I am reminded of how easily Lesotho’s trails find a foothold in the human heart. Riding your bike in these mountains is special.
Like with many stage races, the journey to the race started months in advance. Mine was spent mostly on a Wattbike in the gym. It was the only way of putting in the hard yards while still balancing the rest of my life. This isn’t ideal when you find yourself on gnarly, rocky trails but I did get to put in some big rides on local trails back home in the Cape.
The organisers have a philosophy of leaving the trails as they find them. Nothing is manicured and there are very few free kilometers on any stage. Being fit is one thing, but you’ll need the right skills and the right bike to really make the most of the amazing contour lines and the endless jumps and natural berms you’ll find along the way.
In the past, I was crazy enough to do this race on a very rigid 26r hardtail and looking back after today, I can fully understand why at the end the week I was totally shattered. This year, I’m on a Silverback Sesta Pro with the Sram Eagle groupset. Jeez, what a difference! On these trails, 140 mm travel and some fatter tires would also have been a good choice, but the sheer amount of climbing makes this bike perfect. On the downhills I was able to really klap it, without feeling that the bike is going to throw me off.
Our race was one of two halves. The first 30 km was a mixture of finding our lungs in the thin Lesotho air, soaking in the stoke and having a jol at the waterpoints. The second half we started to find our rhythm and got into a bit of racing mode, although our wheels did come off a bit towards the end.
The route flows in and out of daily Lesotho life. On any given moment you are greeting someone who is either shouting words of support and praise, or busy going about his or her daily business. Passing one of the locals will make you believe for a moment you are Nino Schürter on the last lap of a World Cup.
The first day is in the bag; next we trek for Malealea. It’s going to test the legs. I wish I was a diesel engine, but with Greg Minnaar’s downhill skills.
Photo credits: Wayne Reiche