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With advertising by-lines like RIDE THIS ONE YOU WILL REMEMBER IT, and ARE YOU TOUGH ENOUGH?.  The annual Steeltek race at the Lurie Ruskamp promised to be at the very least a tough one.

Now Jamie and the Steeltek race have a history, and not a happy one ……… he has yet to finish a Steeltek with both himself and/or his bike intact …….. in fact …….. he has yet to finish a Steeltek race full stop.

Add to the mix this will be his last ride on his beloved Merida 29’er (its got to go up for sale on behalf of the sponsor to make way for the new …… to be announced).  Boy did he love this bike.

Add to this there is only one race this year, no kiddie dash, no family ride, no 30 kay – only 60 km and on a new course set to challenge the riders to their limits.  There is 2000 meters of climbing (more than the Karoo to Coast).  You are asked to check out the race profile before the race so that you dont start too fast.

Add to this ……. the Mountain Events, Fat Tracks and Steeltek have  dangled a once off cherry to the participants.  Finish the race in Sub-4 hours and you will get a special T-shirt.  Oh there was a nifty amount of prize money, but the T-shirt was the real cherry.

Add to this the weather has been playing up as normal.

All the riders wanted that T-shirt.  Top local and not so local riders started entering the race.

As we set off, Frans shouts to us, still under the comfort of his downy duvet.  “There is enough petrol to go 120 km – it will be plenty”


As we hit the J-bay turnoff it was as if the petrol tank started sucking its own juice.  50 kays left it said.  Crossing the Gamtoos – 30 kays (impossible! its not 20 km from J-bay turnoff to Gamtoos.  By the time we hit the Thornhill turn off it said 10 km.  We limped into Lurie.

Now,  Lurie is cycling heaven, all the names are there.  Lots of really nice bikes.  Lots of bike talk.  Eventually the cyclists set off.

Did I mention that Lurie Ruskamp is in the middle of nowhere, except, close to Lurie.  To my horror I find out that Lurie does NOT have a petrol station and somehow I must get petrol in Hankey .

“How far is Hankey?”  I ask .

“20 km” the oke says.

“Oh dear”  I say “I only have enough petrol to go 10 km”

“Ag then its about 10, but dont worry its all downhill”  He retorts.

I decided since its a four hour wait I will try my luck at getting to Hankey, and if I get stuck I will phone a friend at the race.

Off I go, as I start the car the light starts beeping ………. 0 km’s it says.  I decide to see it through.

Now next time someone says to you “Its all downhill”, dont believe them.  I have never been so happy to see Sarah Baartmans grave in my life, I think I made hankey on fumes in the Ford.

Anyway …….. The car and I get back armed with 300 bucks in the tank and now I can relax.

The race has started claiming it first victims.  Last year, at this race I saw one oke limp home with s SQUARE wheel, I kid you not, it was square.

After 2h31 mins Jason Meaton flew in ….. “Shew that was tough”

Ten mins later Conrad Viljoen ….. “Tough”

and a mere 4 minutes later Jason Reed ……. “Toughest Ever!!!!”

And these guys are top top riders at the peak of their game.

More casualties came in, and still Jamie and his friend Nick are out there.

The riders start dribbling in, each of them heaving a sigh of relief as they come over the finsh.

At the 3 hour 40 mark I see Jamie in his Custom Bike shirt comming up the big finish hill.  He had made the 4 hour cut off AND he had got the T-shirt.  A few minutes later Nick came in …… he also got a T-shirt.

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The last sub 4’s dribbled in, and then the wait began for the rest of the field.  The question on everyones lips as they rode in was “Did you get the T-shirt?”

The T-shirt was important, 4 pieces of white cotton sewn together with some printing on it became a major aquisition at the Steeltek.  I proved that you were Tough Enough.

Which all got me thinking. Sometimes we need these physical reminders that we are good enough.

Rosie and Jamie gave Frans  a mug which says # 1 DaD,  he knows he is a good Dad, but boy does he love his mug.  Many years ago ……… many many years ago, Jamie painted Rosie a mug saying “MY BEST SISTER”, that she is his only sister is irrelevant, after he gave her the mug they were nice to each other for about two minutes and then the bickering started again.  I keep the mug in memory of those two minutes.

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I have a sticker …….. yes a sticker saying “MOMS TAXI” ……….. mmmmmm, I wonder …. does this mean I am tough enough?



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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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We have a living room.  This living room is exactly what I DIDN’T want as a living room, you know the type of room that no-one ever sits it ……… I remember going to friends homes when I was young and there was this room in most of my friends houses (we didn’t have one).  It had cream carpets, a cream lounge suite, beautiful cushions, tasteful drapes, lovely lamps and works of art tastefully placed in carefully thought out places.  Amongst all this beauty there was always a sense of loneliness in these rooms – this was the sitting room kept for special occasions – to me, it always felt like a “left-out” waste of space and I vowed I would never have one if I ever owned a house.

Homes are meant to be lived in, they are not museums they are houses where memories are made and every inch of space should be used.  Anyway, we don’t use our sitting room – it isn’t hidden away behind a door it is there in the openplanness which is our home ……… it just doesn’t get used …….. ever.

So in this unused space Jamie saw an opportunity.  He gets home from training one night and enters the house – bike and all – through the front door.  Now at the best of times a cyclist chomping around in full kit with cleat shoes pushing his bike is not a pretty sight.  For one thing the shoes make them walk like ducks,  a cyclist in full kit walking is a bit Borat-ish, a bicycle inside a house just isnt great, add to this when Jamie finishes his daily ride everything, and I mean EVERYTHING is full of mud.  The bike is caked in mud, his body is full of mud, even his face is full of mud splatters.  It can be the warmest, sunniest day and Jamie will come home full of mud.

Back to the opportunity.  Jamie calmly minces in, bike and all and parks the bike in the sitting room.

Frans sits there looking to and from Jamie and myself like a spectator at a tennis match ……. his mouth is wide open doing sort of fishy movements – no sound comes out.

I sit there looking just at Jamie.  My mouth is wide open also doing sort of fishy movements   – no sound comes out.

Rosie on the other hand will never let an opportunity go by to point out to Jamie what he is doing wrong – 100% normal 12 year old sister behavior.

“Why are you putting your bike in the lounge????”  She asks just loud enough for the whole of St Francis to hear.

“Get a life …………”.   He answers. 100% normal answer of a 15 year old boy to his sister.

Frans’s fish mouth is the first to find words, “Jamie why don’t you put your bike in the garage?”

“The garage is too dirty”  replies Jamie, “I am trying to look after my bike”.  He has calmly forgotton that his bike is full of mud, he is full of mud, man, even his riding glasses are full of mud.

Now I am really finding it difficult to take a boy seriously who is dressed in full muddy cycling kit, still in his cleats, sunglasses and helmet I am wondering what alien has walked into my home.

Jamie also seems to have calmly forgotten about the other 3 bicycles that he owns that are safely and quite happily living in the garage.

So now I am beginning to see method in Jamies madness.  The sitting room is unused.  No memories are made there.  There is a little voice in my brain saying “why not”

Before I know it the words spill out before the brain has time to process ……. “why not?”

Frans looks at me …… you know that look a husband gives to a wife when she is treading on uneven kid ground.  Its a sort of look, the eyes narrow, the head gives a little shake, and then the eyes move in a sidewards upwards direction.

What he is actually saying is ….. “That is the most idiotic thing I have ever heard, STOP TALKING NOW!!!!!!, come upstairs so we can discuss this without the kids hearing”

But OH NO!  mouth is in full swing here and brain has shut down.

“Frans, I seem to remember you actually building a boat in our living room once”,  what he has forgotten in those days we only had one place to sit, no TV room, no seperate dining room – just one place ……….. and he built a boat in it.

The shakey head is going a bit stronger here, Jamie and Rosie are looking on with interest – I can actually see their ears flapping.

“We dont use the living room ……… so why not?”

The brain starts catching up ……. I know my kids, once you give them an inch – or in this case 1.8 meters x 65 cm – they will take a whole room.

I can hear Rosies mind calculating how fast she can get a horse, hay and water in the room so we can have a new addition to the family.

Jamie is checking out the space and mentally working out where his workbench can stand, and how he is going to fit a personalized bike workshop in there.

Frans is pondering how much bigger this living room is and whether or not he should start construction of another boat.

Me on the other hand is punching myself in the mouth!!!!!

In that one single moment I realized why my friends parents had this “room” in their houses.  We all need a sanctuary.  A place of beauty, serenity and peace.  A place where the word cluttered doesn’t even hit its stratosphere.  I have it in my unused living room and I was just about to throw it all away – I need that unused space of beauty in my house.

So the end of the tale is ……. Frans doesn’t get a new spot to build a boatie thingie, Rosie must realize that horses belong at Homestead Estate and that is it.

Jamie on the other hand is still putting the bike in the sitting room ……. but …….. when he does, it is clean and shiny – lets face it a Merida Big Nine is a thing of beauty after all.