After a three year absence, the Imana Wild Ride celebrated it’s twenty-second ‘racing of the tide’ from 23rd to 28th July. The race was won by Damon Stamp and Andrew Houston, breaking Warren Price’s eight-year domination of the event. The young Midlands farmers took a comfortable win in an accumulated time of nine hours and forty-two minutes for the four-day event covering about one hundred and sixty kilometres along the wild coast.
Stamp and Houston took a commanding lead of the race from the start at the Great Kei River and never looked back as they led the field over the testing coastal terrain to the finish at Umngazi River Bungalows. The pair may not be well known in regular cycling circles but have been groomed for the Imana Wild Ride, coming from a competitive canoeing background and having claimed a top ten gold at the Dusi Canoe Marathon earlier this year. Cape Town veterans Craig Woods and Oli Munnik took a commendable second place in ten hours and eight minutes. Bearing in mind Stamp and Houston were entering pre-school at the time Woods raced his first Imana Wild Ride, it is impressive that he is still chasing that elusive victory twenty years later ! Rookies Ryan Willoughby and David Humphries took advantage of their strong road cycling pedigree to pull into third place on the final day.
The event suits multi-disciplined athletes as it requires a blend of fitness attributes to conquer the varied terrain in which participants need to portage in places, push through soft sand and pedal (if possible) some severe inclines ! Eight-time defending champion, Warren Price, riding with his son Seth for the first time this year, is testament to the diversity required to win this event with his resume including several Dusi and adventure racing accolades. As the event enters its’ third decade, the father-son duo were inspiring as they placed fourth overall. Fifth place went to another seasoned ‘Imana Wild Ride family’ – Ewald Thole, whose parents Errol and Elmarie have both featured near the front of the race over the years – and his partner Jan-Hendrik de Villiers. The Imana Wild Ride has certainly come of age with Stamp, the son of co-race founder Steve Stamp and Houston – the soon to be son-in-law of fellow co-founder Glen Haw, making up three of the top five positions of second generation families !
Newbies Penni and Steven Hirst found themselves unexpectedly in the lead of the mixed race after stage one and went on to claim the honours in a time of fifteen hours and thirty-three minutes. Monique Engela and Mark Olivier were never far behind and kept the pressure on but had to settle for second whilst the young couple of Jessica and Tyron Ross filled a deserved third place.
Aside from the competitive end of the field, the organisers introduced a fun ‘scaled’ category which took into account age and gender in adjusting the final results. Buckey Symons and Doug Bird, with a combined age of one hundred and forty-two years, were voted the deserved winners of this category at the final awards evening at Umngazi. For the majority of the field however, the only race was against the tide – and the early low spring tide meant that there was no time to slack off for fear of facing ‘the sand devils’ when the tide turned ! The last teams home clocked an accumulated time of just over twenty-six and a half hours but were still all smiles upon reaching the finish line and banged the final going at Umngazi with gusto amidst the jubilant cheers of welcome from the Umngazi staff. Despite several buckled wheels, bike mechanicals and bruised bodies there is something very soul satisfying about completing this journey up the coastline on a bicycle.
For the participants of the second start, namely ‘Ride the Wave’, they certainly relished all the flavours of the wild coast with many beer stops and laughs along the way, encouraged by none other than ‘Farmer Glen’ as he led his troops. The use of GPS for the first time this year also made navigating a whole lot less stressful for the new teams whilst also allowing the novice teams to be competitive. Saying that, there is no replacement for ‘local knowledge’ !
All proceeds from the event are channelled through the Wild Ride Education Company (WREC) and used to build classrooms along the coastline. To date, the Imana Wild Ride has donated forty-six classrooms to local communities. It is with grateful thanks to the participants in the Imana Wild Ride that the organisers hope to be able to add to the classroom tally following the event and continue to make a difference to this impoverished region which has so much to offer.
RESULTS: Overall GC – 1. Damon Stamp & Andrew Houston (Wild Coast Cruisers) 9h42.41, 2. Craig Woods & Oli Munnik (20th Racing the Tide) 10h08.48, 3. Ryan Willoughby & David Humphris (Unfortunate Pairing) 11h32.48, Warren & Seth Price (Mr Price) 12h02.57, Ewald Thole and Jan-Hendrik de Villiers (Cheese Eating Cookie Monsters) 12h39.59
Mixed GC – 1. Penni & Steven Hirst (Mr & Mrs Hirst) 15h33.08, Monique Engela & Mark Olivier (MNM) 16h11.22, 3. Jessica & Tyron Ross (The Mamba’s) 16h43.46