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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


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