Mountain Bike Magazine SANI - Autumn 2018 - Page 129

1Zambia MTB Challenge From Namibia we travelled to Zambia for the 1Zambia MTB Challenge hosted at Lilayi Lodge, an hour’s drive outside the capital Lusaka. The lush savannah was in stark contrast to the arid desert we had just left behind but the hospitality was one and the same. Owen and Ilke Green poured all their soul into an event overflowing with passion and a can-do attitude which permeated the race and everyone involved in it. A race course based on a myriad game trails and footpaths meant we were constantly racing with one eye on our Garmin’s whilst trying not to be too distracted by the beautiful scenery presented by the escarpment we traversed daily. The third and final stage which took us to Kiambi Lodge on the shores of the great Zambezi River embodied the race, marrying a stiff challenge to rugged beauty and a fun factor few can match down the “Moment of Truth” trail. In between racing our afternoons were spent recovering next to a waterhole where antelope, giraffe and many other African favourites came to quench their thirst, unwittingly providing us with entertainment of a different kind. Added to the comfortable amenities offered by Lilayi Lodge we couldn’t have asked for more. Kalahari Challenge We then made our way home for two days to unpack, wash everything and repack our bags in preparation for the Kalahari Challenge, Botswana’s premier mountain bike stage race. The event takes place just outside the capital Gaborone where one would think the mostly flat and geographically featureless landscape would make for lacklustre riding, but an active mountain bike community and some very accommodating cattle delivered surprisingly fun biking. According to the race book, 235km lay in wait for us with a “mere” 2 000m of elevation gain over the three days of racing. What wasn’t published (but was forewarned) was that there were plenty of Botswana hills, i.e. deep sandy patches and a bunch of thorns acting as traffic police making sure we kept our speed in check. Freezing nights and shivering stage starts were in stark contrast to the hot days, but piles of blankets in the comfortably furnished tents kept us cosy and it all added to the challenge of a self-navigating event. Despite mounting fatigue we managed to prevail in the mixed category and keep our winning streak alive. 129