Maximus Conquers the 36ONE Challenge
Saddle time: 18hrs 33min 55s
Time sliced off from 2017: 2hr 44min 12s
Hours of training: Well that’s more of a mystery
The Story Behind The Facts
Just take a few minutes to take that in. 50th. Yes, you read correctly, 50th. Out of 303 riders, he came 50th. Now I know, it’s not about your time. It’s not about your position. But when you’re riding 361km on a hardtail through the desperately desolate Karoo at night, added to that, you only started riding two years ago, have a full time job and you’re not your stereotypical matching bike, socks, helmet, gloves cyclist, then it does matter. It matters because it’s a reflection of the tenacity of the cyclist standing proudly in that position. Max Bulelani Jodo.
In 2017, Max completed his first race, the 36ONE challenge. He completed it after multiple mechanicals, light failure and somewhat raw and injured nether regions. When I approached Max earlier this year with my master plan of making cycling and races more accessible to all, I asked him which race he would like to conquer. ‘36ONE!’ He responded without any hesitation. ‘I want to improve my time from last year.’
And so the mission was started. Get Max to the start line of 36ONE 2018. I am told Geminis are master procrastinators. Or more accurately they’re masters at filling their plates with a bit of everything at the buffet and then taking their sweet time to finish it. Max and I are both Geminis. Hence 6 weeks to go, Max and I realised it’s time to get our A into G and make our mission happen. However, in contrast to me who would be stressing and hoping that the energy expended stressing could be bottled in a vial and injected into my muscles, Max was as cool as a cucumber. He has this unfaltering belief that he will be fine. He will love it. He will finish. And he will be laughing and smiling through it all.
As the day drew nearer, Max prepared all his equipment (a case of something borrowed, something new, something blue), we met for a final logistical check and while dreaming about our future plans, Max shared a mindful Max moment with me. ‘You know, Unice. Sometimes you’re born into circumstances where you have very high walls around you. You can’t see that there is a world of opportunities that exist beyond those walls. Until someone removes just one brick giving you a window into this outside world. Once you see it, you can’t unsee it. Then it’s up to you to work to get there. I want to help others remove this one brick from their walls.’
On 20 April just before 6pm, the Max smile popped up onto my phone. My heart did a little booty shaking dance in my chest. We did it! We got him there. With the input of his sponsors he lined up at the 2018 36ONE Challenge. This was the last I saw and heard of Max. And then he was gone. On my ride the next morning I kept thinking about him. Where is he now? Who is he chatting to? Is he alone? What is he feeling as the sun crests over the horizon? It puts your 40km into perspective when you know your friend has now been in the saddle for 14hours and still has a few more to go. More than 24 hours later, Max resurfaced. His phone battery had died. I should’ve guessed. Max and his phone is a story on its own. More importantly he was safe and had finished in a whopping 18hrs 33min 55s.
On our first post 36ONE ride Max regaled his experience. ‘Look, look….see Position, Category….wait….wait….there! See, 50 Bulelani Jodo’. The pride on his face as he showed us this rapidly transfused into my blood. I felt as if I was the one who had come 50th. The rest of the ride was filled with tales of dust, desolation, darkness and die hard Karoo farmers shouting, ‘Vat hom Frikkie!’ and ‘Trap hom Pieter!’ as Max edged passed them. As we continued along Tafelberg road Max shared his 2018 lessons with us.
- You can’t have too many lights.
- Sticking with a buddy cuts kilometres
- Your ass will hurt whether you’re black, white, coloured, Indian, fat, thin. There’s no escaping it. Just accept it.
- Get a proper bike set up. Small tweaks make a huge difference over 361 km
- Food! It’s important. Know what works for you and what doesn’t.
- Smile, laugh and know that riding is a privilege that is not accessible to everyone but should be.
Ok, I added the last one but I know Max agrees. Riding a bike changes you. If you ask yourself the question, am I better with or without it, it will always be, with it. It removes that brick in the wall Max told me about, giving you the chance to peak through to the other side. And once you’ve done that, once you’ve seen what’s possible, what you’re capable of, there’s no going back. Max knows it. And to the kids in his neighbourhood he’s determined to show it.