Around the globe adventure racing teams are mobilising. Bike boxes are fitted, lists are checked off, bags are packed. Duct tape and cable ties. Helmets, shoes, torches, trekking poles and compass. Favoured energy bars slip in between every fold but most food will be harvested off local supermarket shelves once at the race destination.
Clothes don’t occupy much space – most competitors will spend the week in only one set.
Smell, after all, doesn’t weigh anything. Members of the Merrell Adventure Addicts team, meanwhile, get their stitches removed, their long buried splinters surgically cut out, a pre-emptive stomach bug sorted, and triumphantly declared clear of cancer. Set to go. Fresh from a year laying relatively low, the team regroups invigorated with renewed energy for this year’s monumental Expedition Africa which will have them hurtling about 500km around the wilds of Swaziland pitted against 24 other international and South African teams.
Having dealt with many disruptions to the solid team structure in the last two years due to illness, injury and childbearing duties, it was decided to increase the party of Addicts to five athletes from which four will be entered for each event, effectively having a pumped up and ready spare tyre should one member have a virtual blow out close to the start date. And so it is that old man Hanno Houtkapper stands by in his forest for this race while long time team mates Graham Tweet Bird and Tiny Don Simms head off with newcomers Grant Ross and Robyn Kime. Young Robyn, Queen of Dusi, has already proved her strength and determination in the fields of canoeing and trail running, representing our country well at both.
This will be her first expedition length adventure race, having to spoon with half dead, rotten teammates when the sleep monsters have won a round, but she passed the endurance test already by managing a whole training camp under the relentless barrage of Don and Hanno’s fishing stories. Grant brings some strong, albeit now scarred (could chicks dig him even more?) cycling legs to the team and a gentle unassuming manner that completely belies his focus and strength in the field where he has a decade of adventure racing experience.
He is one of the founders of the No Danger Diaries social enterprise that is creating smiles all over South Africa, encouraging folk to be kind by having fun. “Not scared to make a difference.” Expedition Africa is the first of three major events for the team this year, culminating at the World Championships in Brazil. Currently ranked 16th in the World ratings, Team Merrell Adventure Addicts is hoping to bring themselves up the ladder with a solid performance starting next week Sunday. With the continuing support and shared vision of Merrell, the Addicts will continue to be driven by the “OUT. PERFORM.” philosophy of Merrell. Other team sponsors include PVM Nutritional Science, Black Diamond head torches, Extreme Lights, Giant Bicycles, Squirt Bicycle Lube and Island Tribe Sunscreen