It’s emotional at joberg2c

By David Moseley

It’s always emotional at joberg2c. If crossing the final finish line after nine days and 900km of riding doesn’t make you just a little weepy, then you have a colder heart than an alligator holidaying in Alaska.

But this joberg2c, the last after 11 eventful years (13 years and 11 events if you count the “lost covid years”), was particularly emotional.

Celebrity cyclist Gerald de Kock was already welling up on day one, and that made me emotional. The mud on days two and three made me even more emotional, but knowing this was to be the final joberg2c spurred me on towards Scottburgh.

To get through the long days of this year’s event on legs that had never felt so weary at a joberg2c, I started thinking about my previous efforts, what stood out, and what the event had done for me.

I first heard of joberg2c in 2013, when I was asked by an advertising agency to attend, possibly ride, and help with creating copy for the then headline sponsor.

I was too busy (ie lazy), so I had to pass on the opportunity. But now knowing that joberg2c existed, I was intrigued. I sent the details to my riding pal, Jonathan, a celebrated journalist, author, and wearer of ill-fitting bib shorts.

Throughout the course of 2013, we debated the merits of taking part in a nine-day mountain bike ride. “It’s too long,” (that’s what she said) we reasoned. “We’re social cyclists, man, we ride for coffee,” we said. “How will we train?” we wondered. The year moved along and we ended up at a three-day stage race in the Western Cape, riding with other partners. It turned out to be the “muddiest stage race ever”.

A few days after that ordeal, gathering our senses on our standard 25km mountain bike ride, Jonathan and I resolved to never do another stage race again. “They’re just not for us,” we agreed. A week later we entered the 2014 joberg2c.

Come registration day, we were fit, we were ready, we were highly caffeinated thanks to a 6am redeye to Joburg and free Seattle coffees at registration, we were shit scared. Nine days to come. NINE DAYS. That’s a lot.

After day one’s traditional leg-spinning 117km from Heidelberg to Frankfort we were still fit, slightly less shit scared but still scared enough to listen intently to Wappo’s insane race briefings, and still highly caffeinated thanks to Jonno moving his tent into the Seattle coffee stall.

But we survived. We got through. We endured. We drank enough Seattle coffee to pee all the way to Seattle the city.

Jonno told me stories like the one about “Mal Manie”, a chap he went to stay with in a small town on the West Coast who had never met a Jewish fellow and so took to parading Jonno through the streets of his town every morning, crying out with wonder to the townsfolk, “se more vir die Jood!”

Jonno told me this story halfway up a monstrous climb; a few minutes after its telling he realised I was no longer riding alongside him, but rather lying on the floor laughing uncontrollably.

The nine days were long, but the route, the scenery, the humour, and the company made it seem short. We tackled every obstacle in front of us with aplomb, Jonno enjoying the challenge so much that he took an uphill wrong turn that added 2km to his overall ride. As he disappeared into the distance, I sent him a voice message saying “hope I see you again one day”.

After nine days and too many smiles to count we crossed the line in Scottburgh. It was emotional.

We drank the best-tasting beer ever at the Cutty Sark Hotel with the promise of a major celebration to come, and then promptly passed out and slept the best sleep ever.

We returned home triumphant, better educated about the South African countryside, and adamant that we never needed to do another nine-day mountain bike ride again. Later that year, I signed up for the 2015 joberg2c.

In 2015, I rode solo, fell off Longdrop Pass on the day four ride from Sterkfontein Dam to Winterton, but soldiered on to the finish in no small amount of pain. It showed me I could tough it out if I had to, and proved 2014 was no fluke. I thought I’d found a friend in fellow journo Barry, but after one day of riding together, he told me to not come back to his part of the field because I spoke too much on the climbs.

In 2016 I was unable to ride but worked at the event in my capacity as the then sponsor’s media liaison. It was the year photographer Em Gatland and myself resolved to build more schools than ever before at joberg2c (R10 of every beer purchased goes towards a school building programme). I’m proud to say that whatever Em and I earned working at the event that year, we plowed straight into the local communities.

By 2017 joberg2c had cottoned on to the fact that I could ride and write, so they asked me back to write stories for the event from the back of my bicycle.

Having fallen in love with the route, the people, the challenge, the beers, I duly obliged. For once, I raced my guts out. But, having lost all my guts by day four, I reverted to type and found some beefy lads calling themselves The Devlin Limousins to ride with. We made jokes, drank beer, compared aching joints and blistered bums, and had a blast.

In 2018 I rode with celebrity cyclist Gerald de Kock, one part of the Devlin Limousin team from 2017, Dr Womble (not his real name), and organiser Gary Green’s daughter Roxanne.

After a wild Berg & Bush crew party at the end of 2017 (a party that still sees Berg & Bush crew parties banned to this day), Rox declared an interest in riding joberg2c. I said I’d ride with her. In preparation for the 2018 joberg2c, I trained for Cape Epic and Rox did one road ride. She also did the BC Bike Race. But she can tell you about that.

It was the longest, slowest, most hilarious, joberg2c ever. Gerald shouted at me. Often. Roxanne stopped on average for 20 minutes at each water point, delicately sampling one of everything. Dr Womble made numerous off-colour jokes and grumbled non-stop that the climbs were too long for his larger-than-life frame (body, not bike).

We rumbled over the line close to last almost every day, Dr Womble immediately collapsing in a heap, and Gerald muttering that he’s never riding with me again. It was a grand old time and we finished triumphantly as a large team at Scottburgh Golf Club on day nine.

I was back again in 2019, once more as a solo rider and slightly out of shape, but fit enough to help guide a newcomer I met on day one through the nine days.

The newbie fancied himself a bit of a racer but blew up tremendously on the Reitz to Sterkfontein Dam stage. I couldn’t leave him to the mercy of the cows, so I rode home with him and we stuck together for the rest of that joberg2c.

We talked about life, the climbs, farming, women, travels, everything. It was another wholly unique joberg2c experience, where on day one you don’t know a person exists, and on day nine he knows more about your life than your family does.

That’s what joberg2c does, or did.

It forced you to open up, to open your mind, your eyes, your soul. It took you places physically, emotionally, and mentally.

It showed you places you’d never see. It made you dig deep. It loosened the emotions and tightened friendships.

It was a journey from place to place, but also a journey for the spirit. It made you cry. It made you sore. It made you soar too. It made you laugh. It made you persevere. It made you emotional. It made you focus on the now. It made you think of the bigger picture.

It’s gone now, but it will live forever for those people who had the privilege of experiencing nine days of riding the beloved country.