Words and pictures by Jacques Marais.
It was my first Tour de Tuli MTB ride, and I was slotted into the proverbial ‘Green Room’, with verdant mopane bush whipping past on either side. There wasn’t much time to think beyond feathering the brakes as I slid into corners, or moving my weight back on the saddle as I hit the dry river washes, to avoid face-planting over the bars. Going into a tight dog-leg, my foot clipped out of the left-hand pedal, nearly causing me to lose it in the gritty corner. I somehow kept it together, though, emerging from a dust cloud to see the group of mountain bikers I was following disappear into the thorny veldt so typical of Botswana’s Tuli Block. I looked down to inspect the crank, and immediately noticed the stripped thread.
Two thoughts popped simultaneously into my head: “This is Big 5 country,” and “I’m buggered for the rest of the Tour if I can’t get this fixed.” Fortunately, I was only about 2 km from one of the Start Points, and started pushing my Slider back at a pace, all the while keeping an eye on the surrounding bush for signs of anything higher on the food chain than I was. About half an hour later, I sweated my way back into Start Point One, and looked despairingly around. Next to a Land Rover was a guy in a green T-shirt, and I wandered over to see if he could, by any chance, sort out my sorry situation. The man turned out to be Frank Bekkens, a Landy support crew member – and, as they say in the classics, the rest is history.
Within half an hour, Frank had stripped pedals from a bike belonging to a bloodied rider who had taken a fall, and I was mobile once more. “You owe me a beer,” he smiled, as we highfived before I bombed back onto the trail. That, to me, sums up the incredible ‘can-do’ attitude of the Land Rover Owners’ Club of SA, and I have come to accept that they are very much the glue that keeps this event together. “I’ve been a part of the Tourde- Tuli organising team since 2011, and the impact of this band of merry men and their beloved vehicles is the stuff of legend,” says Chris Crewdson, Logistics Manager for the Nedbank Tour de Tuli. Chris continues with a story of how he first met one of these characters, Philip Lochner.
Philip himself takes up the story: “On one of our first routeplanning trips in Zim, Keith Knott (the owner of Nottingham Farm) was planning to take us along the #TdT route planned across his farm. Keith, a staunch Toyota disciple, was quite insistent that we take his Land Cruiser, as my vehicle was ‘not suitable’.