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As parents it is one of our prime jobs to keep our children as safe as possible.  If we had anything to do with anything when it came to kids, in retrospect,  we would have promoted chess or scrabble to be our kids primary sports activities.

I must admit we have ridden many races in which Jamie has participated and REALLY if I can do it, it has got to be safe because I am about as brave as a coat of red lipstick on a mouth so wrinkled that it doesnt even have a clear outline.

Against all safe judgement we pack up our tent, bike and family to support Jamie in his quest to be part of the South African XCO Championships.

I should have started to get worried when I asked Jamie if there what anything I should pack for him? ……..

“The medical aid box”


But ….. anyway …… here we are the day before the SA XCO, in Hayterdale, at the bottom of the Zuurberg Pass  – it is practice day and there are just bikes and more bikes all over the place.  We have arrived in cycling heaven.

First job is to set up the tent, and, I kid you not, what normally takes about an hour of fighting, arguing and stomping …….. took precisely 8,2 minutes ……. Jamie needed to get onto the track to practice.

Off he goes and we wander around.  There are posters of the race plastered here and there (see above) and we start getting an inkling that this race is not for the faint hearted and these “obstacles” don’t look what I would categorize as safe.

In XCO terms the race is described as exciting.

So ……. after a night of Loots camping (wait for the story), the big day arrives.  This weekend is all about Jamie and he is the star of the story.  We then do what all good parents do to a pre-race nervous child ……. we feed him and then take Rosie horseriding (wait for the story).

Jamies race is at 1.00 – there are split starts where the Elite Men, u/23 men, Junior men and Youth (his category) will all be battling it out on the same track.  Jamie will be riding at the same time with all his cycling hero’s – this alone was a huge drawcardd

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We say “good luck” and his last words to us were ……”Mom, DO NOT come onto the track, even if you see me lying in the rocks full of blood, DO NOT come and save me”

Oh well ……. this sounds interesting.

The starter starts the race ……. and, very basically, the 40 plus starters in his category must all dash from the start onto an uphill single track technical climb. Jamie and his friend are seeded right at the back.  At the single track you cannot overtake and if someone in front of you wipes out you are stuck behind them and will lose precious time …… the whole race is about time and not being lapped.  Add to this the Elite, U/23 and Junior men are all hacking it out at the same time and they are all bigger, faster and more experienced.  After the first climb you hit a 90 degree pebbly section and go straight into Robs Drop, this is then followed by a jeeptrack climbing section, then steep singletrack and a switchback climb.

Well the start is done and dusted and the next time we see Jamie is at Robs Drop.

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The second half of the course is generally downhill, starting with a fast section known as berm lane.  It’s a series of sharp bermed corners and dips as riders criss-cross a small gorge.  Berm Lane ends with a very intimidating Rock Garden, which many riders opt not to ride and rather take the easier, slower chicken run.

Here, however, Jamie opts for neither of the above ……….. he goes for the “Superman” approach where a rider must lose his bike at the top and go flying without his bike to the bottom – this is a move not sanctioned by Cycling South Africa.   He was lucky we were not there to see his unsanctioned move.

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After flying through the rock garden, a rider then hits a short jeep track, then the riders enter another gorge via a steep drop-off to the right.  Basically the riders are told to let go of their brakes and they must try hard to keep their line as they negotiate tight turns and drops through the gorge.

The gorge is then interuppted by a short climb …….. over two wooden bridges and the riders are back into a high-speed downhill for the last part of the gorge..

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If this isn’t enough the riders must then line themselves up for the most exciting feature ………. The Rabbit Hole, then for good measure the course designers packed into the last 500 meters of the race – Trevors surprise (I have met Trevor), Richards Steps and the Tree Drop before enering the final 200 meters open stretch to the finish line – The competitors in Jamies group must do this 5 Times.

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Getting lapped by the Super Stars (Marco Joubert comming in 2nd) in the 4th lap wasn’t the end of the world, Jamie still made it into top 20 at SA’s. Jamie came in 19th and his friend Nicholas 20th.  An achievement?  I reckon so.  A happy and Good Experience.

Even better was watching my son cheer on Marco Joubert our local hero.

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All in all a weekend of proud moments and new friends.  A special thank you to the Hayter family for opening their farm, and building the tracks for this event.  From Mountain Events to the “never stop talking”  Greg Ritz who made sitting round the campfire an event in itself, and everyone in-between.

Especially to Tyrone Kindness and Robbie from Merida Bikes who both motivated Jamie to even take part in an event like this.  To coach Leon Schepers  who managed not only to get Jamie to stick to a programme (a true miracle)  but gave him opportunities to train like a pro.

As for the safe bit …….. I think we got off lightly – the score still stands Rock Garden 1 – Jamie 0.

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