I've always loved Namibia, wide open spaces, stunning desert environment and a population density of less than two people per square kilometre which means that most of the country seems deserted. When I was asked to second a team on the Desert Dash, I didn't hesitate. Not for a moment.
The Desert Dash is an annual race from Windhoek to Swakopmund, 340km which must be completed in less than 24hrs. Options are solo, and two person or 4 person teams. All riders must ride the first and last 35km and their share of the 70km stages in between. This means that there is a mass of support vehicles at the first stage hand-over, fewer at the next and so on. Water points are in the middle of each of the 70km stages and riders may not be assisted along the route by their back-up vehicles.
The race starts at 3pm, with most teams making the top of the Kupferberg in about two hours.
The FNB Namibia Desert Vixens before the start
The start was accompanied by harsh gusting wind, all the way to the top of the Kupferberg, slowing riders somewhat but also offering some respite from the heat.
Gisela starting the Us Pass stage
Kupferberg is chaos as the designated rider moves on and the others get themselves into the support vehicles for the trek to the beginning of the next stage, in this case the Kuiseb Bridge after the Us Pass.
Louis "Luiperd" Wessels showing how the masters do it
Unidentified rider making like a fokofpolisiekar down the Us Pass
Gisela ripped this stage, with her half candle-power light she never even saw the yawning chasms over the edge of the pass. Way to ride.
Kim attacked the second stage with a sense of urgency unknown in these parts, being familiar with the stage, she had a plan. All I can say is that I'm glad that I wasn't out there on a bike in my present state of fitness. So I stuck to this.......
Kim flew into the Khomas Safari checkpoint, giving the graveyard shift to Sandra. Kim, it appears is unflappable.
This "undulating" stretch seemed to be never-ending dust. By this time I was hallucinating in the dust clouds (did I mention the dust?). The dilemma of passing riders and leaving them in the dust, knowing that you really have no choice, but it still goes against the grain.
The BloedKopje checkpoint was where I hoped to get some sleep, so I pushed the driver's seat back and passed out, regrettably my over-trained team were having none of this. It wasn't long before Tina set out on her stage to the Power Station checkpoint, Sandra having ripped the section in faster than expected time
Tina setting out from Bloedkopje at dawn
Wicked Desert Vixen behaviour
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The Power Station checkpoint was where the entire team regrouped for the final stretch into Swakopmund.
Arriving at the finish the team looked as calm and composed as they had at the start nineteen and a half hours earlier!
Kim, Sandra, Tina, Gisela after a very credible 19 h 31min
(I'm the Fat Bastard without a bike)
PS Mannie Heymans set a new record of 12h13min. Solo. Loco.