The first of my local races for the year is the Zini Buffalo Classic. I did it last year, and it is the first race in the Big 5 Mountain Bike Series. I did four of the five races last year, and apparently have become a bit of a talking point. It seems taking on 25km worth of mountain bike race on a unicycle gets one noticed.
My sister, her husband and my mum decided to come along, just because. So we all trooped down to Mtunzini. At the start were many familiar faces from last year. Lots of the usual reaction (something along the lines of: “No bloody way” or “Are you actually serious?”) while waiting for everything to get started. I did offer to swap, but no one took me up on it. Strange, that. Last year I did the race with Johnny, but I think he was on call or otherwise engaged.
The start was the same as last year, down the fairway and back up the next one, then into the Zini River Estate and down to the river proper. Someone had realised that it was better to let the faster 50km riders go in front of us, so this section was a lot less stressful for me, bringing up the rear. I was riding largely alone, at the back of the field, as is customary. The split between the 50km and 25km race was still a klick or so off when I got overtaken by the front runners. Bonus points to the gentleman who wheelied past me.
The route then got into the inevitable cane fields (Southern Zululand is lousy with the things 😉 ). The riding was still pretty easy, but a bit more undulating. The long uphills meant that I was able to start closing the gap on my bi-wheeled compatriots. The water table people were suitably astonished at the one-wheeled maniac cheerfully pedalling along. Along this section, but after the water table, I passed a nasty spill, which had apparently resulted in a broken collar bone. Since there were people there, and a medic was apparently on the way, I decided that there was not much that I could do, and continued my ride.
The worst section of the ride was a long uphill where the can had been cut on one side of the farm road. The wind was extremely annoying, blowing across from my left and requiring constant correction. After this the route turned into more sheltered timber plantations. A short way in came the first bit of real single-track: a quite steep, twisty downhill. In other words, a total blast.
More riding along farm roads followed until the second water table. After that? SINGLE-TRACK! Absolutely amazing riding through the coastal forest. I pushed harder than I really should have, but was able to keep up with a few riders through here. One of the water table attendants seemed bemused by my enthusiasm on being told about the technical riding ahead. This section of singletrack, and I have no idea how long it actually was, is some of the most enjoyable riding I have done.
The finish was fairly anticlimatic after that, with a last push through the town back to the country club. I did have the support of Erica, Mal and my mum for this last section, since that is where they were waiting for me.
I finished with a slower time compared to last year, but I believe that this was a fairly common trend. I also got interviewed over the PA system, which was pretty cool.
The next of the Big 5 series is at home, in Eshowe, but it is on the same weekend as the Unidaba in Durban, so I need to see which one I go to on the Sunday. Either are sure to be great.