Anyway, 6 years had passed, I’d had a son, started a new role at the company, bought the same make and model bicycle as the one Cymot had loaned me for my first Dash (yes, I’m sure they knew exactly what they were doing…😊), and I’d been itching to do another Desert Dash for that entire time, so when the opportunity presented itself I jumped at the chance.
Mindful of my previous Dash I started early and was feeling strong. Unfortunately, that year I had a major depressive episode – the worst I had ever experienced – and needed to finally accept the fact that I would have to start using anti-depressants. They were great! I didn’t know why I had held out so long, but there were side-effects – no matter how much training I was putting in, my kit was getting tighter and tighter, and it was getting that little bit harder to reach the top of Kupferberg than it had been. I was getting fat! There was nothing to do though. I had to just keep on pushing and come to terms with my slightly heavier body.
Race day arrived and I was scheduled to keep on riding once all of us had reached the boards at the top of Kupferberg. Meanwhile I was feeling bad because I was struggling to keep up with my team going up the pass – the weight was weighing on me in more than just the physical sense of the word. I was determined to do my part though, so I had something to eat and drink at the top, put my (thoroughly tested after last time) lights on my bike, strapped on my hydration vest, and set off.
I can’t say that I was feeling it, but I had a job to do, and I was going to do it.
I pushed myself, refused to stop at the water point, and by the top of Us Pass I was actually starting to enjoy myself – this was where I could make up a bit of time. Shooting down the pass at top speed was amazing, zipping round corners and past support vehicles, until I felt my back wheel hit a rock and a ‘burp-flat’ sent all the air rushing out the tyre. Thankfully it was the back tyre and I could control it easily enough until I could come to a stop, it was dark but I had my bombs so re-inflating and getting on my way again wouldn’t be an issue, the only problem though was that I didn’t realise at first that all the sealant had rushed out at the same time as the air and the bombs were pointless because all the air just kept leaking out.
I had been ragged about carrying a spare tube as I was told it was unnecessary extra weight but at this moment in the race I was glad I had, that is until after repeated attempts at inflating it revealed that the valve was damaged and it was, in fact, unnecessary extra weight. So there I was, at the bottom of the Us Pass with a flat rear wheel and 15 kilometres to go to the end of the stage.
For the second time in my Desert Dash journey having a team relying on me is the only reason I kept going.
I ran with the bike on the flats, walked the bike up the hills, and rode the rim on the downhills. I was passed by what felt like every other person on the field (many of whom in true Dash spirit were quick to stop to offer help) but I eventually arrived at an almost completely deserted Kuiseb river checkpoint, far later than I should have, a somewhat broken man.
Our next rider set off and I climbed into the back of the overland vehicle we were using as our support vehicle and quietly cried – I had pushed through and made it to the end of the stage instead of quitting, but I still felt that I had let everyone down. We all had to cross the finish line at Platz am Meer and after riding the rim for so many downhills I was not sure my bike was even useable anymore.
Thank goodness for Cymot’s Tech Zone, and more specifically Martin, who took the time to bend, bash, and hammer the rim back into some kind of shape capable of holding a tube in place.
The fact that my bike was fixed (to a point, I’d still need to buy a new rim) and that even if we didn’t manage to finish, it would at least not be my fault lifted my spirits a bit, and the fact that my fellow teammates were putting in their own massive efforts to make up our lost time buoyed them even further. By the time we all set off together from Goanikontes all was pretty much right with the world again, the sun was shining, and the end was, if not in sight, at least imaginable, we were going to do this. As so many other people who have done the Nedbank Desert Dash have also said they experienced, by the time I got out of the Swakop River valley I suddenly felt a second (or is that third, fourth, or twelfth) wind and I was able to take more than my share of turns on the front and pull the team along to the finish line, while we picked up some struggling solo riders to form a nice big bunch.
I crossed the line in Swakopmund tired, dirty, and extremely sore but into the arms of my wife and son and amidst the cheering of the crowd, some of whom had been there since early that morning, or even late the previous night but were still shouting for each and every cyclist who crossed the line as if they’d just won the thing.
I’ve had one or two opportunities to ride another Desert Dash since 2018 but something has always gotten in the way. With 2024 marking another six years since my last Dash though I probably need to make a concerted effort to enter and ride, after all, what could possibly go wrong…
Keep an eye on this page for David’s Desert Dash Diaries Pt 3 coming soon…
Listen to more stories from other Green Champions (aka riders who have completed the Nedbank Desert Dash) here >> NEDBANK GREEN CHAMPIONS SERIES
Written by: Christine Venter