A ‘Nuvo’ dawn awaits as the sun sets on ‘the Imana’

The 23rd Imana Wild Ride took place on a full moon in early June and will be remembered for the ‘year of big river swims’. Riders faced some challenging river crossings on every stage, after the recent heavy rains in the eastern Cape. More significantly however, is that the 23rd ‘racing of the tide’ marked the end of the first chapter of the Imana Wild Ride and the final year that the Wild Ride will be known as ‘the Imana’.

Imana Foods have been the title sponsor to the Imana Wild Ride since the race began in 2000. A small company, based in Pinetown, KZN, who understood the vision of the race founders, Steve Stamp and Glen Haw, shook hands in 1999 on an unusual sporting event sponsorship which has gone way beyond what anyone had envisioned. For many riders, ‘the Imana’ is a four-day cycling adventure on the wild coast. Imana Foods is a soya protein manufacturing company, supplying low-cost, high quality soya protein products to low-income earners. One may wonder what the connection is ? The answer lies in a common drive to ‘make a difference’ to those less fortunate. Spanning a full generation (twenty-four years, including the Covid lock-down period) is a long time to sponsor one race but clearly, it has been more than just a race sponsorship and Imana Foods can sign out knowing they have left a proud legacy in this region. Imana Foods, we salute you !

Participants gathered in the small holiday village of Morgan’s Bay over the first weekend in June with great excitement and banter about the adventure which lay ahead. Whilst the racing field was somewhat diminished, the race against the tide applied to everyone. Conditions were perfect over the five days of adventuring with the first event setting off on Sunday the 4th of June, followed by the second event the next day to make up the field of about one hundred and seventy riders. The swollen rivers and estuaries created some testing swims and this combined with the after effects of the March and May floods in the area, certainly made for a wilder than usual experience ! Out in front, leading the field, was none other than eight-time defending champion Warren Price and his seventeen-year-old son, Reuben. The father-son duo were never under pressure but still kept the pace high as they took a commanding lead over the four days and arrived at Umngazi River Bungalows to take a solid win in an accumulated time of twelve hours and fourteen minutes. Second team home was Ryan Willoughby and David Humphries, who rode consistently to improve on their third place finish the previous year. Competitive masters duo Graham Monteith and Ernest Welch showed their mettle to claim third place overall.
Mixed team honours went to the rookie pair of Franci Joubert and Paul Micklewood, who proved that first time wild riders can be competitive and the GPS route assistance works ! They were kept on their toes by 2022 defending mens’ champion, Damon Stamp, paired with his wife Cassandra, who kept Joubert & Micklewood on their toes all the way to the finish line !

While the racing teams were speeding up the coastline, the rest of the field took things at a more sedate pace and enjoyed the sights and delights of the wild coast. The beaches were in perfect riding condition after the recent heavy rains but the tracks and trails off the beach were very washed out making for harder than usual pedalling, especially along the marshy grassland sections. Riders were certainly tested to the full with the river swims adding a new dimension of physical effort but aside from a few casualties, everyone made it through to the finish at Umngazi full of smiles.

In partnership with the Bulungula Incubator program, the Imana Wild Ride was proud to donate a three-block classroom building to Bulungula College during the event to bring the total number of classrooms built to date to 50. The benefits of investing in education were witnessed with last year’s Grade 12 class achieving a one hundred percent pass rate, making them the top school in the region and the first time this has ever been achieved in the area. Through the Wild Ride Education Company (WREC), the first two phases of Bulungula College were completed between 2017-2019 with this new section allowing for a dedicated library and science block to complete the college. The success of this partnership is reaping rewards not just for the scholars but for the community as a whole with the colleges’ new Job Skills & Entrepreneurship Programme (JSEP) being offered after hours.
It is good to know that, if even in a small way, in an isolated pocket of the country, a few people are ‘making a difference’ to the lives of others. And whilst the participants in the Imana Wild Ride are out there, enjoying the beauty and challenge of riding this rugged coastline, they are also contributing to improving the lives of those less fortunate.

The Wild Ride continues next year in July as a new chapter begins under ‘the Nuvo era’….

RESULTS: Overall GC – 1. Warren & Reuben Price (Watch the Price) 12h14.01, 2. David Humphries & Ryan Willoughby (Unfortunate Pairing) 12h45.06, 3. Graham Monteith & Ernest Welch (Full Gas) 13h30.28 3.
Mixed GC – 1. Franci Joubert & Paul Micklewood (Knysna Mice) 15h09.40, 2. Cassandra & Damon Stamp (Still Married) 15h44.39, Steve Stamp & Rebecca van der Linde (Wild Ride Siblings) 18h39.39