Big 5 Sport Challenge

Suicide on Wheels …

2011-07-05 06:09
Thamar Houliston
Thamar Houliston on the Knysna 100km road race

Just as I’d finished revelling in my 75km mountain bike finish, it was time to head out for the 100km road ride in Knysna on Sunday morning. I was in such a daze that I almost left my number behind and did leave my gloves behind. As I sat my aching butt down on the saddle and began the ride to the start, the chilly air bit at my hands and face. However, I’d learnt from the day before and remembered to don my long adidas tights under my cycle pants for warmth.

A Pleb in Takkies

The awesome thing about doing the Big5 is that even a pleb like me, who wears trainers on a road bike instead of cleats, gets to start just behind the elite riders. I don’t think I’ve ever been close enough to actually see the pros start. I felt very special being one of the 100 or so Big5 contestants. And to be honest, it’s amazing being at the front as you don’t have to fight your way through the masses.

My dilemma on the road bike is that I’ve only ever ridden one about five or six times. Usually I’d just use a mountain bike to ride The Argus, for example. So, on my borrowed road bike I was still very nervous.

The three Richard’s (my advice and training team) told me to “Get into a group and you’ll be fine, let them do the work”. Now I like to do things the hard way. I mean takkies over cleats is one fine example. Not being confident on the road bike there wasn’t a chance in hell that I was going to slot in behind one of those riders. What if I suddenly had to break?

The advantage of being alone was that I could see the scenery rather than the back of someone’s tyre and as we climbed out of Knysna on the road towards Plett I was on a high. Pushing the uphills in my highest gear I loved the momentum of the road bike. On a road bike I feel like I have such power and I could go seriously fast. Being the ninny that I am, though, I wasn’t going to see just how fast that was – especially on any downhills.

Reckless Roadies

The road from Knysna to Plett seems flat when you drive it, but let me tell you, there are some hectic uphills and downhills.  Groups of riders would come screaming past me and I’d almost have to move out of the way not to get gunned down. Are these people even more fearless than mountain bikers?

After about 30 kilometres the road seemed to get easier and I cruised for a while, then around the 40km mark we hit some nasty climbs on the way out to The Crags where the turnaround point was situated. When I hit the turnaround point my shoulders ached and all I wanted to do was sit up straight.

As I headed back the wind was against me. ‘Crap’ I thought, I should have found a group to latch onto after all. I also started to lose concentration with the wind drying out my eyes. A few lone rangers passed me. No groups to join …

I felt like I was out in the cold desert alone. Things got blurry and I started to lose focus. I took motivation from the few spectators along the way who clapped and waved.

After what felt like forever I saw the 30km to go and started to recognise the road. It’s amazing how when you’re going in the other direction the road seems flattish but when you turn back you realise that’s it’s actually a gradual incline.  All I wanted now was to finish but the hills kept coming. My legs were way more sore than on the mountain bike. And on the downhills the wind was blinding me so badly that I didn’t know whether I should stop or just close my eyes for a few seconds and risk suicide. The paramedics would always be situated at the bottom of a really steep hill which didn’t help my confidence much. Were they taking bets? “That one’s going to wipe for sure, I mean look at her…”

My saving grace was the 10km to go sign. It was downhill from there, and all I had to do was survive the traffic heading into Knysna and make it to the bottom without passing out. I did - just.

Then I crawled to the tent at the finish and ordered some Gluwein and chow. Shivering I thanked God that the bike events were out the way. Three events left.

Next up the Featherbed Trail Run on Tuesday.

Thamar is currently in Knysna participating in the Nedgroup Big5 Challenge presented by Sport24 … She is the online editor for You can follow her on her Knysna Big5 adventure here

Read more on:    knysna  |  big5

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