People who are interested in what survival is really about, should get up from their couches in front of their television sets and take up mountain biking. This will teach them what it feels like when you have to cope all by yourself when things go seriously wrong.
In mountain biking there are no advertisement breaks that give you time to recuperate. There is no time to rest under a tree until the television crew is ready to resume filming for the next episode either. When you participate in a mountain-biking event, it means non-stop action until you cross the finishing line.
Just imagine losing your back tyre while you are racing at high speed. Try to imagine your battle to keep control of your mountain bike when this happens. Imagine making a stupid mistake which causes you to, unwillingly, donate blood on a technical dirt road section. Or better still, imagine yourself being ‘attacked’ by a plant, leading to more bloodshed, while waiting for a team-mate to fix his chain.
All of this and more happened during just one ‘episode’ of the daily survival series of the Garmin-adidas riders while they were competing in the Sani2C mountain-bike tour in KwaZulu-Natal over the weekend.
Mannie Heymans and his partner, Marc Bassingthwaighte, or Philip Buys and his partner, Mathys Beukes, might not have won a stage or finished on the podium during any of the three Sani2C stages, but they certainly had some of the best survival stories to tell after every stage.
Buys tells the tale of how Beukes and he were riding quite nicely during the first stage, until they reached a rough technical section.
“I think I was probably a bit off-balance on my bike. This lead to my rear tyre jumping off the rim. I ran out of ‘CO2 bombs’ trying to fix it. After a while Mathys got worried and turned back to look for me. By then we had lost so much time that we decided just to ride at a relaxed pace to the finish.
“Stage two was quite uneventful with nothing serious going wrong.
“Before the start of stage three, Mathys and I agreed that we would do our utmost to win. The stage started with a quite tricky technical section which suited us. We were just making our presence felt when Mathys’ chain broke.
“While he was fixing it, I kept on cycling. I kept to the right side of the track, waiting for Mathys to catch up with me. I did not pay any attention to the plants next to the road, not expecting any danger to come from that side. This turned out to be huge mistake.
“I was caught totally off-guard when my bike’s handlebars were ensnared by an overhanging creeper. That was the last thing I expected to happen. Seconds later, I lost control of my bike and experienced a spontaneous fall. Apart from shedding blood, I was badly bruised. It really hurt and I was totally stunned for a few moments. But in mountain biking there is no time to feel sorry for oneself. Mathys caught up with me and we had to continue racing.
“We were just beginning to race well again, when I had to stop because of a chain suck. That was when we realized that it was not meant for us to win a stage. We managed to catch up with Mannie and Marc and rode together for a while. In the end we were involved in a sprint for the 6th place which we won.”
“A disastrous survival adventure,” was how Heymans afterwards described their participation.
“On day one Marc and I had three punctures between the two of us. Then, on day two, Marc crashed and on day three we missed the vital break, which forced us to chase the leaders for about 50 kilometres,” Heymans said.
Bassingthwaigthe’s crash was rather ironic. One could say that he knew how to time his fall to perfection.
They were racing at quite a high speed on a downhill section when Bassingthwaighte spotted something from the corner of his eye. It was an ambulance.
“The mistake I made was to pay too much attention to the ambulance, forgetting to focus on the road in front of me. Suddenly we went through a dip which caught me unawares. My bike slid from underneath me and I ended up taking a tumble.”
The moment the dust had settled and Bassinghthwaighte was back on his feet again, the ambulance people were at his side to offer assistance.
“I told them I was a bit shaken but OK. The worst result of the crash was that I had punctured, which meant that we lost more minutes than we would have liked.”
From today (Tuesday, 9 March) Heymans is making cycling history by competing once again in the Giro del Capo Cycle Tour in the Western Cape.
Heymans is the only rider who has competed every year since the Giro’s inception in the early 90’s. This year is the 18th time that he will be participating. His best finish was in 2000 when he finished 9th overall.