Karoo to Coast triumph for local pair
The 18th Buco Lions Karoo to Coast mountain bike challenge was held this past weekend with a capacity field of 4 700 entrants, and for one Knysna photographer covering the event something extraordinary caught her attention.
Elle Redman of Elle Photography in Knysna said her heart almost melted when she saw two men, Knysna locals, crossing the finish line on a tandem mountain bike. What made this so special was the fact that the back rider did so with only one leg.
“What a great achievement it was for Stephen Drew, to finish this race with his partner Jeffrey Willcocks. It was really a heart-warming sight,” she said.
Drew had already been an avid mountain biker before he lost his leg in a motorcycle accident almost a year ago, having taken part in a few Cape Epic races with his friend Willcocks. He said that 10 years ago he and Willcocks had even completed an Epic on the same tandem bike they used for this Karoo to Coast. “We learned that riding a tandem is even more difficult than a normal bike,” he said.
“I started training for the race in January after my friends had urged me to do so. I also saw it as me making a statement of sorts that I’m not dead yet. You can do anything in life, and finishing the event was just great,” he said.
Even more remarkable is that Drew started the race with the benefit of a prosthetic limb, but ended up crossing the finish line without it.
“About 5km into the race there was a really rocky section. Some of the riders got off their bikes to push them so we did the same. I hadn’t even taken that many steps when my prosthesis snapped in half. Jeffrey and I spent half-an-hour strategising about what we should do, and then just carried on,” he laughed, and so they set off to finish the race with his prosthesis in his backpack.
* The Karoo to Coast challenge is an off-road race from Uniondale to Knysna via the Prince Alfred’s pass. The race is also an official premier seeding event for the 2018 Cape Town Cycle Tour.
The 19-year-old Robert Hobson won the event in emphatic style after reportedly making a solo break with about 40km to go. It was his first attempt at the 95.95km event and he said at the finish that he came to the event with hopes to win.
“But I didn’t really know who would be here so wasn’t too sure what to expect,” he said. Hobson won in a time of 3:17:19. Jeanie de Villiers, who finished second in 2016, went one better in the women’s category to win in a time of 3:59:50. “I expected to suffer and I got that,” said the visibly ecstatic 36-yearold at the finish. “I’m so happy to have so many people on my side and the way it played out. A very special thanks goes out to my coach John Wakefield,” she said.
According to media liaison for the event Jazz Kuschke, conditions for the race – which has an ascent of 1 521m and a 2 244m descent – were perfect, with overcast skies and cooler temperatures than initially forecast. “More importantly, the wind stayed away,” Kuschke said.
Top racers Men:
1. Robert Hobson 03:17:19; 2. Charles McFall 03:21:52; 3. Matthew Keyser 03:23:35 1. Jeanie de Villiers 03:59:50; 2. Nicola Giliomee 04:07:13; 3. Tina Brenzel 04:19:33
* More info: www.karootocoast.com
Knysna locals Stephen Drew (back) and Jeffrey Willcocks at the finish line. Drew’s prosthetic leg broke about 5km into the race and he had to finish the race without it.
A rider during the 2017 Karoo to Coast MTB race from Uniondale to Knysna.