This year’s CEMSA Southern Skies 24hr Cycle Challenge turned out to be an event we would all remember, long after our last rider carried his bike over the log at the finish. Twenty four hours of friendship, teamwork, endurance, perseverance, grit, cold noses, and countless cups of slightly-overpriced-much-needed ‘moer’ coffee, black please, are bound to leave an impression on any cyclist’s memory. That groggy feeling of confusion as your team leader wakes you up to tell you to get ready is one I would rather forget. My mind boggles as I try to comprehend what exactly she is asking me to do at 3 in the morning. “Oh right, ride my bike. That’s not random at all.” A quick shower to wake up, and wake up we did after the helpful gentleman would loudly bang on the pump to get it running, thus sending piping hot water gushing out, which would promptly turn ice cold before trickling to a stop. ‘Bang’ ‘bang’ ‘bang!’, and so the process would repeat.
Between racing around the 61 laps of exciting single track at Koedoeslaagte, relationships within the team were developed and we learned to work together. It was truly touching to see all the cyclists show good sportsmanship as they supported their fellow friends and team mates, our own team leader staying up all through the night, her smile encouraging us all. Seeing your team members’ shouting for you through wide grins while wildly waving their hands as you run through the transition certainly gives you a new strength to complete yet another lap.
Out into the darkness we would go, pedaling faster, our eyes fixed on the area of light in front of our wheel, alone into the night. We learned to trust the track, we wanted to beat it, we depended on every turn, stone and bridge that got us closer to our goal. Occasionally the track would allow us to glance up and gaze at the wonder of the night, a million stars were our audience. An audience to cyclists racing through the night, the blackness covering our faces, our identities. It was a strange feeling, actually, to ride in the dark with souls that had no faces. No longer did age, race, gender or level of competence matter, the darkness made us equal. Perfect strangers talked, laughed and helped one another through the dark track, sharing the moment together. Then all at once the lap was finished and we were reunited with our team, where we would all fight to stay awake together and cheer our comrades on. We shared good laughs and made lasting memories, although next time we won’t forget the marshmallows for smores!