Riding for charity – what a rush!

Getting a little muddy never hurt anyone. It is however, advisable to keep the rubber the right way down in the process. I have taken my fair share of tumbles on my mountain bike but can happily report back on an incident-free Buco Lions Karoo to Coast Mountain Bike ride last month. As highlighted in my September column, a group of 17 of us rode the 96 kilometre epic from Uniondale to Knysna for a wonderful cause and managed to raise close on R70 000 for the Aurora Special Care Centre in Port Elizabeth.

One reads everyday about folk embarking on some great quest for charity and it really felt good to be that person doing the ‘slogging’ for a change. I have even more respect now for the lone crusaders who only have their thoughts to keep them company. Being part of a group fundraiser was a real thrill and of course there is the camaraderie that goes with it. It was impossible for all 17 of us to stick together because we started the Karoo to Coast in different batches. However, it was comforting to see our unmistakeable team shirt out on route and ride with new-found brother-in-arms during the course of the beautiful ride through the Outeniqua pass.

I mentioned the importance of keeping the rubber the right way down, and maybe in the same breath its probably worth highlighting the old age saying of ‘slow and steady wins the race’. There were a lot of nasty crashes on this year’s K2C – certainly more than in 2016. The thing about this race is that it consists of a lot of climbing, but also a lot of descending. Caution is certainly the operative word because hurtling down those mountain passes was definitely not child’s play. I may have aged a year or two in the process but keeping the brakes liberally applied was not a bad idea on reflection. Trying to make up a minute or two by risking everything on the down hills made no sense, because the alternative – as witnessed – was an end to your race and in most cases a night or two in hospital.

Thrills and spills apart, a record field of 4750 mountain bikers from all over the country flocked to Uniondale for the event. Rides of this nature are a massive windfall for the towns they visit – Uniondale was bursting at the seams and the surrounding farms and b&b’s had to accommodate the over flow. The same could be said for Knysna which hosted the finish and many a weary rider and their families who opted to stay over an extra night – public holiday’s on a Monday are a very clever invention.

The interesting thing about tackling a project for a good cause is that there’s bound to be a next one because now its in the blood, so to speak. Barry Allen and Niel van Vuuren were the big drivers of our Aurora fund-raiser and a big thank you must go to them and all the corporate sponsors and the individuals who bought raffle tickets – sorry there were only three of you who could win anything – but at the end of the day it is all about the giving. Barry and Niel are already mulling the next adventure and have advised us all to look after those very cool race shirts ‘because you’ll need them again’. Thank you to all my new found team mates too, and I’m certainly looking forward to that next adventure.

Sport in all its shapes and forms must be one of the greatest mechanisms known to man that can be used for a charitable end. Charity golf days are always a winner and Titch Moore probably leads the way now with his amazing golf day at PE Golf Club every year. We’ve also seen the incredible success Gary Stevenson and Garth Wright have enjoyed with their Ironman for the Kids initiative and the millions of rands they’ve raised for needy organisations in the Eastern Cape over the years.

At the end of the day, the fund-raising possibilities are endless – it just requires a little bit of imagination and a group of people willing to get out of their comfort zone for a few hours. One could argue that its an indictment on local government or the Department of Social Welfare that so many charitable causes exist but it is what it is. There is no bottomless pit and at the end of the day its up to us as individuals to get off the couch and make a difference. The beauty of it all is that it feels really good at the end of it all.

The game of golf has always been my first passion and despite the intrusion of the mountain bike still lies very close to my heart. I cannot get it out of my head that we’re facing the imminent closure of one of my favourite tracks at the Fish River Sun Resort. The Gary Player design Fish River Sun Golf Club is an ageless masterpiece sculptured by the great man himself in the late 1980’s. It really has stood the time and has hosted everything from the Africa Open to regular Sunshine Tour events and National Amateur Tournaments.

The current land claim awarded in favour of the land claimants would appear to be the straw that finally broke the camel’s back. Its a very complex case involving three different land claimants and with the Sun group indicating its not prepared to throw any more money at contesting the case, the plug has proverbially being pulled on one of the Eastern Cape’s finest resorts. Negotiations are currently in progress – I understand in particular around the State buying the Fish River Sun as a going concern – but it seems like a long shot to me. My suggestion is to dust off those clubs and head up to The Fish in the next two months for that swansong 18 holes. The Fish River Sun is set to close its doors at the end of November if there is no dramatic late intervention. We can only live in hope.

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