It is so difficult to put into words what one experiences over 9 days and 850 kilometres with a group of 22 cyclists riding for a cause as big as the transformation of education in Queenstown!
And, of course, the kaleidoscopic clash of emotions that happens in the last 10 kilometres, the last kilometre; the last 100 metres is so intense as to almost defy description.
We had a great tour starting in Heidelberg over 9 days ago now. Many of the cyclists had never met each other, never even heard of each other before last Tuesday evening at the Heidelberg Kloof Lodge. Now they are friends for life! Friendships that have been forged in the furnace of a challenge that many were fearful they would not be up to.
The transformation in people and in the quality of the interactions and support for each other is amazing to behold. For one who has travelled on a bicycle down this road on three previous occasions it is always fascinating to watch the process unfold as people begin to believe in themselves and to believe that the impossible just requires a little more effort and a bowl full of self-belief.
There were those who said openly after the first long day in Frankfort they did not think they would be able to ride the whole way. But at the same time had lived through the long grind of 140km from Heidelberg and felt immense satisfaction at having done that. Enough to get them up the next morning to tackle a relatively short leg of 66km to Reitz. This short leg proved to be more difficult than expected because of the heavy yoke of a headwind and the fatigued legs of the day before.
The thought of a 148km leg to Ficksburg for some seemed like a bridge too far. But when the day dawned and they were on their bicycles in the chilly Free State air rolling through the beautiful Free State countryside, life began to seem truly great. The big lift in spirits came from the Traffic Department escort through Bethlehem. We felt like celebrities! It was a simply amazing experience and I for one was totally overcome by it and the tears flowed freely – especially compared to the previous year when the tour was on the brink of being stopped by this same Traffic Department.
And then the mood really began to pick up and by the time we had consumed great food at the Woodpecker Lodge in Ficksburg and had raced through the 40km to the World’s best pancakes at the Constantia Farmstall we were ready to tackle anything and the impossible was just a few days away from being realised.
But there were some big and leg-sapping hills to negotiate. The infamous Ladybrand hill – with a reputation much worse than the reality; the long, long climb midway between Ladybrand and Wepener and the final big challenge that lay ahead 9km outside Aliwal North.
The intention here is not to repeat a history already wonderfully encapsulated by the bloggers along the way. They did a wonderful job of capturing the humour that inevitably flows; the challenges confronted and the friendships made.
But this blog is a bit of a reflection of the team, the wonderful camaraderie that developed, the fantastic support we had from Neil and John and Mike(the Medic) and Reg; the fabulous connection we felt (and feel) with all of you that Blogged, Facebooked, Tweeted, Sms’d, called and mailed. You all inspired us in ways that you cannot even imagine.
The reaction to the daily blog and video hopefully kept you entertained and informed. We have the best videographic crew there is! Louis and Richard are geniuses and there cannot be many like them!
The Finish>>>>> There are no words for what happens inside you after 850km and you enter the Rec to be welcomed by 2000+ excited, clapping, cheering, waving, smiling, laughing, shouting schoolkids. The intensity is overwhelming. The gratitude that one feels to the Almighty for giving you the strength and health to do something like this is beyond understanding. The joy of accomplishment fills you. The elation of doing it with other like-minded and committed individuals knows no boundaries. The realisation of what you have started is somewhat daunting. The humility of knowing that you may have touched lives in inscrutable ways is a massive privilege, an honour and a responsibility.
The 2014 edition of the 1965Ride is over. It was a significant success and a big step forward. We are still growing, still learning. There is much to be done.
We thank you all – sponsors, friends and family, support team, supporters, the Queenstown schools for the amazing welcome and the opportunity to help you make a difference in the lives of the future leaders of our country, and, especially the cyclists. They are the true heroes!
Come and ride in 2015. Registrations are open.