Asking Monster questions ~ By Raymond Travers

Seen here:  Raymond Travers on various sections of the 2017 FNB Magalies Monster MTB Classic route.

Photo Credit:  Jetline Action Photo

Back when I was a teenager, you could buy cool posters to put up on your bedroom walls.

I had John Player Special Formula One car, as driven by my hero Jody Scheckter. One could also get a poster of a forlorn orangutan, staring at the camera with a resigned look.

The caption announced:

“Just when I figured out all of life’s answers, they changed the questions”.

And that is exactly what the organisers of this year’s FNB Magalies Monster MTB Classic did. They changed the route of the 33 kilometre race.

No, not completely. It still started and finished at ATKV Buffelspoort. And it still included some pretty “monster” climbs. In fact the actual paths, Jeep tracks and district roads were pretty much the same.

But there were massive changes.

For example, the first 10 kilometres of the 33 kilometre option were the same as the last 10 kilometres of last year’s race. Only they were ridden in the opposite direction. This included a rather nasty climb up a concrete road which saw riders zoom down during the 2016 event but pant and splutter up in 2017.

And the hill that broke my legs last year – no, not the massive monster but the smaller “bump” which I took to be a false flat and rode it like that and paid “school fees” during the 2016 race – was ridden within the first half of the race this year.

Now this simple act of changing it all around threw me a bit. You see, I was expecting the route to be exactly the same as the 2015 and 2016 and I trained for it. I specifically trained for that second “bump” … only to find that, this year, the second bump from 2016 wasn’t even a bump.

There were far worse “bumps”. Both before and after that. Like the aforementioned concrete climb and the … wait for it … the 2016 helter-skelter “UCI Downhill Crash Site” which, you guessed it, became an “up”.

I referred to this rather precarious descent last year which claimed the rides of a few riders and caused yet others to carefully descend on foot rather than on their bikes for fear of breaking a derailleur hanger or an arm.

Well, this year, the same bit of track also got riders off their bikes. But this time, it was to “push” their bikes up over the loose rocks and hectic gradient.

Some brave souls managed to ride the whole thing … right to the top … others resigned themselves to a tedious “hike a bike” push all the way. My fitness and skill level resulted in me riding all but the worst.

And then, we riders were rewarded.

The same first “Monster” hill from 2016 became a fantastic technical descent, smoother and longer than the climb on the other side of the mountain. And this is where my mountain bike excelled. With its low centre of gravity and 140 millimetres of suspension travel, my steed virtually “rides itself” on terrain like this and I loved it.

At the bottom, the same track as last year only in reverse meant a quick jaunt through an orchard followed by some really nice single track before the tar road crossing.

I, like many, looked down at the “distance” on my computer at that point and thought “only a few more kays … got this in the bag!”

Which, of course, was wrong.

I didn’t have it “in the bag” because, a few pedal strokes later, the trail went up.

The result was a rather weary bunch of mountain bikers hiking, scrambling, crawling and shouting up one of the most difficult hills in the area. Yes, I know the 66 kilometre riders’ “monster hill” is longer and perhaps steeper. But it all depends on perspective. Or perhaps location is a better description.

Anyone who has ever ridden a mountain bike race will tell you the last “serious” hill is the hardest. No matter whether you’ve just ridden 12 kilometres, or 30 kilometres or 63 kilometres, you have given a lot and your legs are tired and all you want is to see the finish line and hear Max Cluer’s welcoming voice.

After that climb, I rather enjoyed the remaining three-odd kilometres back to the finish line. Technical descents (again huge opportunities for skills clinics as most riders don’t have a clue how to descend), a bit of single track and even a water crossing to get your shoes wet before finishing. Nice!

And to find out later that it was my fastest Monster yet was that more rewarding! I don’t think it was quite as fast as Jody was in his JPS Formula One car, but to my Magalies Monster standards, it was fast. Which is awesome. I must just learn to remember that questions can change, whether those questions have been asked by an orangutan or a Monster.

See you all again next year!

Comments are closed.