I should have known.
I should have known when I had to try and control Da Son’s excited nudging forward to the front of the start group, while at the same time attempting to stop Da Chick from freaking out, that this was a race that was best suited for two parents. Or perhaps two parents, two guardians, two cheerleaders, a paramedic and a back-up.
But it was only Sofie and I, and I had a sinking feeling that our grand plan of me chasing the front with Da Son and Sof cruising in the back with Da Chick wasn’t going to work out.
We were at the start line of the Cape Argus Pick n Pay Momentum MTB Challenge, on the first of a two-day mountain biking extravaganza that will make even the most hardcore of riders giggle with glee.
I had originally entered the whole familia, but Da Husband was going to be out of town, so I had to cancel his entry and managed to convince Sofie to bring Hans, her beeeeejuuuuuuuuutiful mountain bike, along for some quality riding.
Da Son, who got a got a mountain bike for Christmas, has already been showing some promise on the trails. Turns out that he enjoys the challenge of technical terrain. Or, as he puts it, it keeps his brain busy and he doesn’t get bored so quickly. According to Da Husband, he is quite good.
Da Chick on the other hand, has had an about-turn from tomboy to princess and is more of a runner anyway. But she loves her bike and wanted to come along.
Saturday morning: I was prepared to carry two sleeping bodies out to the car, with all their clothes and race accessories bagged and packed. But when I opened my eyes at 5am, I had two little faces staring back at me and Da Son telling me to hurry!
My race bag smelled like triathlon and suddenly I felt those familiar butterflies taking flight inside of me. Meanwhile, Da Kids put on their RaceTec chips and got dressed for the day…
“I want to start in front, mom! Stop following me! You are embarrassing me!!” Yup, Da Son has morphed into a pre-teen emo. And he is only 9! I’m going to have to start watching out for the first traces of guyliner.
But I know the race rules! He’s supposed to be under my constant supervision. Aargh – this was getting really stressful.
Meanwhile, I looked across to Da Chick whose bright smile had given way to a quivering lip and tears rolling down her cheeks.
Oh dear… She was developing a bad case of pre-race nerves. Then she looked up at me and uttered those dreaded words: “Mama, I don’t want to do this any more.”
But there was no time to argue as the start gun went off and I saw the back of Da Son’s helmet disappearing into the distance. “So much for obeying the rules,” I thought, and wondered if they would disqualify us.
Da Chick wouldn’t budge though, and I ended up jumping off my bike every so often to run and push her (and my) bike, while she was flopping about on top of her bicycle, doing the ugly cry.
By the time she had hit the umpteenth sandy patch, she had had enough and threw herself down onto the sand and cried bitterly. And at that point the guy in the sweep vehicle behind us came to see if she was OK and whether she’d want to complete the course on the back of the bakkie.
She wasn’t too sure at first, but when another mom came back with her little boy and his broken bike, the prospect of having a little friend on the back of the bakkie and not being a complete loser appealed a bit more and she promptly hopped on.
HA! This was my chance! I screamed off on my bike, only to stop as quickly as I had started. Stopping turned to walking and walking became stopping and investigating. There was something wrong with my bike. After a few false starts and having had my brakes deactivated at one point, I realised that my gears had packed up and that I could only, literally, ride in one gear. And, just like that, my bike turned herself into a singlespeed.
After this discovery, I was only interested in getting my brakes fixed again. Except… Da Son had my hydration pack with my kar keys, bike tool, water, snacks…
Which was roundabout the time that the Amarider bike angel appeared. I have only ever written about their services, and suddenly I was about to get mechanical assistance from one. In two ticks my bike was sorted and he stayed behind wait for the last bunch of riders…
By this time I was paranoid: Would my kids remember our “stranger danger” rule? Would Da Son be OK at the finish line? Would Da Chick be ok on the back of a stranger’s bakkie?
Suddenly I only had one goal in mind: the finish line. I had to find Da Kids.
When I finally made it to the finish line, I rode straight across to the kids’ play area where my kids were happily playing on the jumping castles! Da Son proudly showed me his medal while Da Chick promptly took mine.
Oh – Sofie! How could I forget? This was her first mountain bike race and she took it really slowly – taking care not to injure herself or break anything ahead of her tri champs. Overall she did great and I’m so proud of her! (Next stop, Karoo to Coast, hey, Sof?!?)
I have never had the opportunity to ride the old routes because I used to work on Race Day. I knew from the photographs though that the original route was a wonderfully gentle ride.
But the race venue moved from Boschendal to La Bonheur Wine Estate, which meant significant changes to the route, and making this 14km ride bit more technical than its predecessor.
It sports some serious climbs (not really for a grown-up but rather from a kid’s perspective) and a lot of loose and rocky bits. And sand. Lots and lots and lots of sand. I spent most of my time running through sand as my bicycle would just come to a grinding halt.
I definitely can’t fault the event from an organisational perspective, and the crew did an amazing job.
However, I would advise any parent to seriously reconsider if you want this to be your child’s introduction to mountain biking. It is a difficult terrain for smaller, less experienced kids and the sand can become quite daunting.
If you are a novice who wants to tackle mountain biking for the first time – by all means… knock yourself out! But save yourself the stress and leave the kids at home. Unless you have a super rider like Da Son.