At the start we were led out through the neutral zone in the village by a procession of Basotho horsemen in traditional attire. The clattering of galloping hooves alongside us made for a unique experience on the bike.
Once out of the neutral zone, we were in full Lesotho Sky territory, following contouring footpaths and donkey trails around the hillside, and enjoying some stimulating technical climbing which was a lot of fun on my borrowed hardtail (big thanks again to Christo Roos of Enduro Planet for helping us out). A tar descent, and a few more sweeping trails and river crossings later we had passed both water points and were head down into the wind, starting the ascent to the much-hyped Wild Goose trail.
The Wild Goose turned out to be a bit less flowing, and a lot more hard work than we expected (we really should know Darol’s style better by now). The trail wound around the skirts of the mountain, requiring keen navigation and line-picking skills, as well as a certain amount of “frisk” to tackle the more sketchy sections. The trail ended with a beautiful open descent alongside the river which got our spirits up and tired legs turning again.
The stage ended with a series of incredibly tough climbs, followed by bone-rattling descents, which in true Lesotho style left us feeling like we had really earned the steak roll and cold Maluti waiting at the finish line, against the inspiring backdrop of the Maletsunyane Falls.
This race has been one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences I have had on a bike. It has taken its toll on the body and most dramatically on our equipment but has been a privilege to take part and explore some of the most incredible mountain-biking terrain Southern Africa has to offer. There is no comparison I can make, nor words to adequately describe the experience - Lesotho is completely unique. It has been an opportunity to push boundaries, dig deep, and learn to understand our strengths, weaknesses, and everything in between. For our team, it really has been a ride of passage.