Racer or rider...
The Berg & Bush has an event for everyone; the key to choosing the right ride lies in determining what type of rider you are.
During a mountain bike event, this usually laidback rider found himself leading the charge to the finish line. It was a far cry from my usual sedate efforts at the Berg & Bush, which usually centered around the number of samosas I could devour at the water tables.
But not on this particular day. Here, by some freakish alignment of the stars, planets and galaxies, I was racing for first-place glory.
The race started like any other; myself and my partner bumbling around at the back of the batch, discussing the snacks we might have en route.
But soon after starting, and with minimum effort and little fanfare, we had moved to the front of the field.
Admittedly, this was a somewhat obscure race with a field populated mostly by riders who arrived at registration with bikes they’d never ridden and tools they could scarcely comprehend.
My partner and I spent the better part of the registration evening assembling bikes (him actually doing the assembling, me watching on) after the official event mechanic decided his talents were better suited to uncorking wine bottles.
It was with little surprise then, though some amusement, that we found ourselves tearing towards the first waterpoint of the day with our nearest rivals somewhere way back in the field, politely allowing the roaming goats to descend the singletrack trails ahead of them.
As we came roaring towards the waterpoint, I panicked. Leading a race, however limited the field, was a new, mind-bending experience. So instead of whizzing past the volunteers at the feed station, I stopped.
Having missed my wild and unintelligible hand signals, my partner Chris carried on racing at full steam, descending a rocky dirt path like a man determined to finish the race before the resort staff cleared away the breakfast buffet.
Still totally befuddled by our race position, I took a cool drink I didn’t need from the waterpoint, asked the crew about their morning so far and stood around for 30 seconds or so politely nibbling on a dated date ball.
Waving goodbye after a few awkward minutes, I set off after Chris and caught him coming back up the descent with a wild look in his eyes (which is his default setting anyway). “What the heck happened to you,” he thundered. “Well… I stopped for a drink and some food.”
By now, the huffing and puffing field was sitting at the top of the hill, gratefully accepting the cold drinks and sweets on offer. “But what did you need a drink for, we’re winning. You have a full water bottle anyway.”
Watching as the chasing pack started wobbling past us, I replied. “I thought it would be rude not to stop and say hello.”
Harrumphing loudly, Chris spun around and started descending again. On the next climb we passed most of the field, sauntering home to a comfortable second place after we followed a cow in the distance for a few kilometres thinking it was the leading team (it was a very athletic looking cow, okay).
Pondering the morning’s ride at our second breakfast sitting (as we had indeed finished before the brekkie buffet was over), I concluded that racing just wasn’t in my blood.
Sure, I like going fast as much as the next middle-aged suburban guy trying to prove that age isn’t impacting on his athletic prowess, but the real beauty of mountain biking comes from absorbing the sights, sounds and scenery on rides. A personal opinion, certainly, as many riders find their joy in racing at breakneck speed and pushing themselves to improve year on year.
And that, really, is what makes mountain biking great. You can dilly, you can dally, you can dawdle or you can dash around at high speed. It’s truly a sport for everyone, particularly at the Berg & Bush where the three unique events cater for all riding types. Long live the samosas and other sumptuous snacks on offer!
By Proud F Batch Rider