The last man over the line on stage 1 of the 2016 Grindrod Bank Berg & Bush was Namibian visitor Otto Alfleld. His ride partner, Andrea Stier, was beaming after her first dig at the event. Otto was not.
That might have had something to do with his seven hour-plus finish time, or that his entry was a birthday present he wasn’t quite expecting. The emotions on the finish line for team StierKampf were decidedly mixed, but Otto still managed the universal sign that all is not lost – a thumbs up.
“My husband Arne rode last year and he said that we absolutely have to ride in this event,” said Andrea Stier. “I had a fantastic day. I think Otto maybe did not enjoy it as much, but he will recover soon enough. He started getting cramps and that just ruined his ride. The trails were awesome, though, and the singletrack was great fun.”
The pair was last over the line with the sweeps, a funny coincidence as last year Stier’s husband was also last over the line on day one, finishing with the sweeps – although mechanicals were to blame on that day. “Its good to be here,” said Arne Stier. “After last year I couldn’t wait to come ride again. It’s a fantastic event.”
At mountain bike events around the county sweeps provide a valuable, often thankless task. The Berg & Bush is no different, with Mark and Kevin Christie from Subaru Pietermaritzburg providing the service once again at the Descent. “There were not too many hassles today,” said Kevin. One lady fell and had a collar bone issue, while another of the slower teams bailed at the final water point. We had a pretty good day. Sweeping isn’t for everyone. You need to have patience and enjoy riding. We’ve done this for a few years now and we enjoy it.”
Team StierKampf, the part that was in a mood to talk at least, was grateful for the Christies efforts. “The guys were really great. They were just behind us encouraging us to the finish the whole way. I really appreciated their company, they are absolutely legends.”
All in all, the first stage was a good one for the 954 riders at the Berg & Bush Descent. The field is eclectic, featuring a stellar line-up of the best local pros to husband and wife teams. There are tall people, short people, round people, skinny people – but all people who enjoy the warm hospitality that the event has become renowned for.
With the racing and riding done for the day, participants were able to soak up the atmosphere on a specially constructed deck over the Tugela river, chugging back bottomless chocolate milk and other essential MTB refreshments.