A week ago I did my first proper test back on the bike, the Nissan Trailseeker at Boschendal outside Stellenbosch. It was a really great course and I felt good on the bike and managed to win the race. I was really looking forward to the Sani2C after that, especially to be back racing with Robyn again. Our first race together as a team was Sani2C 2014, exactly 2 years ago and now it was going to be our 11th stage race together, we have come a long way since then! 2 years ago we won the race and the aim was to repeat that.
I flew to Johannesburg on Tuesday and we drove down to Underberg with the team Telkom and our combined staff. Thursday morning was not as cold as everyone had told us so it was looking to be a really nice day! The trail and the adventure had had some rain the days before so it was still very muddy out there. We got off to a good start on the first single tracks and took the lead. We did see Candice and Vera now and then and eventually at around 55km they caught us and we were sitting in a big bunch. Robyn asked me if we were stopping at the second water point and I was almost out of drinks so I said yes, silly mistake cause no one else in the bunch stopped! Robyn took her time and I shouted at her that we must go and I took off, when she got back to me we started chasing like mad ones and I thought my lungs and legs were going to explode! We only caught Candice and Vera with 3km to go and managed to past them and win the stage with only 15 seconds!
Day 2 started early, at 6.30am and we hit the first single track shortly after the start. There is an option to go left or right, the right side is usually the quickest and I got in there just behind Vera and Candice but a bit down the single track I could see that Robyn was on the left. Eventually the split is so big that I could see Robyn on the other side of the valley! When they eventually came together I could not see her anymore but figured that she must be behind since that side is slower. I let people pass but when she never came I started to wonder if I was wrong and if she might be ahead, I asked some riders and got mixed answers. Eventually I saw her coming behind but we had lost lots of time and at the first water point we were 1 minute 17 seconds behind and we had to chase hard! We caught them on an uphill and managed to pass and leave them. I struggled up the climb to the Spur water point at 67 km but we still had a lead of 1 minute 30 seconds up there. We carried on and I got my legs back a bit and we felt that we were going well. On a long open gravel road we were on our own, we did not see any other teams ahead or behind and suddenly Robyn says to me: Jen, I think we are wrong! The race is on GPS but there are arrows here and there but not at every turn and we had missed a right turn on to a narrow single track. We were still not 100% sure if we were right or wrong and stood and tried to figure it out when eventually a motor bike came and told us we were wrong, they were taking a short cut and just happened to see us! When we were back on the route we heard that we were 3 minutes something behind! And once again we found ourselves chasing! We finished 3 minutes 18 seconds behind and extremely disappointed!
The last day has a reverse starting order, so the fastest riders in A and B batch starts a few hours behind the slower riders. We started at 10am. I got a bad start out of the start shoot and we ended up riding together with Vera and Candice from the beginning. After the whole bunch took a wrong turn and turned around and got re-arranged and I found myself 10-15 riders behind the other girls and it cost a lot of energy after a single track which made the riders spread out. I had to work very hard to just catch up to them on the one climb where we maybe could have gotten away. After that, the route is too easy,too flat and fast for a ladies team to manage to get away from a big bunch of men, we tried on some short up hills but it did not work. We ended up riding the whole day together with Vera and Candice. We managed to take the stage win but finished 2nd overall and disappointed about the wrong turn on day 2 and that we could not repeat the win from 2014.
It was still 3 great days of riding with the most amazing single tracks and the vibe at the race is really relaxed and everyone are enjoying it! Thank you to the Sani2C team for putting such a great event together, even though I would like the route to go back to being marked;)
Thank you to all our sponsors who makes this possible for Robyn and I and a huge thank you to Magnus, Vian and Bridget for looking after us and the Telkom guys (Johan Rabie and HB Kruger) so well during the race!