It’s a tough life being a racer
Usually I like to take it easy when I ride – I have no problems with riding sweep. But today I feel like a change, so I take an iButton from race director Ben and jump on my bike. Before I leave camp I pause at the time pilot (our timing system for the racers and riders that want their journey to be timed) and press my iButton into the machine until I hear it beeping, put it safely into my jersey pocket and start pedalling as fast as I can along the dirt road out of camp back to the pavement.
There’s a sharp corner coming off the dirt road with gravel just before the pavement. I take it a little too fast and end up going SPLAT on the pavement! Ouch!!!
“Oh sorry!” says the Zambian bypasser.
She makes sure I am ok and even offers me some special Zambian cream for my wounds.
But I have a race to win. “I’m okay!” I smile at the friendly face, jump back on my bike and get the legs spinning again.
Before long I pass rider Robert who is busy fixing a flat. He already has Ciaran helping him out and has everything he needs. I give them the thumbs up and keep pedaling.
Next I catch rider Ming. Ming is busy taking photos. I give him a big smile and a thumbs-up too and I’m sure he has a lovely shot of me zooming down the hill in front of him.
Next I catch riders Jen and Carla. I think they are riding super slow to let me win! I don’t want them to go slow just because I’m racing though because if I’m the only one racing then it’s not a real race.
Jen, Esther, Jana, Femke, Marita and Natalie are sitting enjoying a cold coke when I pass.
A little later I pass Lisa, Bev, and Nola. By this time I am getting tired. There’s a big hill and before long they have all caught me again.
“Only 10km to lunch,” Nola tells me as she passes. Phew I think I can do that! I let them pass and decide all these guys are much fitter than I am and I need to play dirty if I want to win! I don’t think I can make 104km without eating so I can’t do like some of the boys do on a mando day and skip lunch. So I pull into the truck wash my hands, grab some food, wolf it down in a couple of mouthfuls, fill up my water and get back on my bike. Most of the female riders are still sitting at the truck when I leave. Gizele only left 10-15 minutes ago. She had a head start from me already from camp so if I ride fast and even if she gets to camp before me I could still win!
At 80km I am feeling a little over racing and feel like taking photos. I don’t let myself though. I am getting tired again but I have to keep moving – I have a race to win!
At 90km I am feeling completely stuffed. My back is hurting, my shoulders hurt, my knee and my elbow and my hand are all hurting from my fall.
I stop at the next possible coke stop and have an icy cold coke. And a freshly made Zambian doughnut. I have had enough racing and just want the ride to be over.
After my coke I am feeling much better so I get back on the bike and continue my ride. I’m still tired though and it’s not long before Jen, Femke , Natalie and Gennesse catch me. They offer me a wheel and I take it for a little while. It’s a smart way to race but I’m in Africa and I don’t really like staring at a wheel in front of mine when there’s so much other exciting stuff to look at!
I let them pass. I have no energy to keep their pace. I remember how much I hate racing!
Eventually I roll into camp. I don’t have energy to sprint to the finish line flag. I stop by the time pilot, clock out, chill for a little while before jumping in and having a shower.
I don’t know how the racers can do it – riding as fast as they can every single day. Now I can barely move.
I didn’t get the stage and I don’t really care but from now I am happy to just ride sweep where I can chill out right at the back, stop a lot, take photos and enjoy being in Africa!
– Claire Pegler