Cape Town’s Guy Jennings becomes first South African to complete world’s toughest Silk Road Mountain Race

On the 31 August, Guy Jennings completed the world’s toughest mountain race, placing 34th out of 144 competitors, becoming the first South African to succeed in this adventure!

 

Cape Town, South Africa – Most would consider riding 1700 kilometres over the world’s toughest terrain in 5 days an impossible feat, but for 55-year-old Guy Jennings (Noordhoek, Cape Town), this was the ultimate challenge. And on Saturday, 31 August, Guy completed this mammoth undertaking, placing 34th out of 144 competitors in the 2019 Silk Road Mountain Race – the first South African to succeed in this adventure.

“The race was very, very hard – beautiful but brutal!” said an exhilarated Guy on the final day. 

“This is billed the toughest mountain bike race in the world, so I had to try it. I was also keen to explore a new country, and I love mountains, so it was the ideal challenge!”

The Silk Road Mountain Race is a fixed route, unsupported, single-stage cycling race through the mountains of Kyrgyzstan. Leaving Bishkek on 17 August, competitors followed long-forgotten old soviet roads with very little tarmac. Every cyclist carries food and kit and is responsible for their course planning so as not to run out before any of the three checkpoints. As a vegan competitor, sourcing food was an added challenge for Guy.

“You have to plan your rations and sleep along the course, to avoid sleeping on top of a mountain when it’s snowing – something I did! And any personal or bike problems you have to sort out yourself,” he explained.

The Capetonian adventurer has had a lot of experience with endurance racing, having competed in 11 Comrades Marathons and three 7-Day Desert Runs. His love for exploring new territories has also seen him completing the 230-kilometre Jungle Ultra Marathon through the Peruvian Amazon Rainforest, as well as the world’s longest winter ultra-marathon – The Iditarod Trail Invitational in Alaska. Here participants compete on bicycle, foot or skis, braving extreme conditions for 30 days, unsupported.

Cape Town’s Guy Jennings becomes first South African to complete world’s toughest Silk Road Mountain Race

After an injury which saw Guy undergoing double hip replacement, he swopped out running for cycling and started riding competitively in 2010. He has gone on to complete four Cape Epics and three Munga MTBs, a 15-day, 1000-kilometre race in the heat of the South African summer.

Discussing his preparation for the Silk Road Mountain Race, Guy said: “I did a lot of strength training including long rides and hill training. I would also do big weekends with eight to nine hours on the bike and then a two-to-four mountain run or hike.” However, no amount of training can prepare competitors for everything, and a series of misadventures almost saw Guy missing his cut-off marks.

“My crank broke so I had to cycle 180 kilometres to the checkpoint with one pedal. I got a lift to town – a seven-hour drive – bought a temporary replacement and drove back to the checkpoint, re-joining the race. Two days later, I climbed halfway up Tong Pass (4013 metres), and my pedal broke so I road back down to organise a replacement pedal. I managed to find a children’s pedal, which lasted for the next 700 kilometres.”
The physical challenges are undeniably extreme. However, it’s often the mental pressure that derails athletes: “This is especially true when your phone says on day two that you have nothing to listen to for ten days! It’s just something you get used to. I was surprisingly calm during my challenges on this race.”

Explaining his passion for such extreme racing, Guy said: “I love meeting fellow racers from every corner of the earth, as well as experiencing a new country and meeting locals. I also enjoy the physical and mental challenge. I think I will try race in Costa Rica in January or Morocco in February next.”

His love for travel and natural beauty extend into his workplace, Wildaid, where Guy has been working as the South African consultant for the past 18 months. This conservation organisation focuses on scientific studies and anti-poaching efforts, working to reduce global consumption of wildlife products and increase local support for conservation efforts. Through more than 100 global ambassadors – Prince William, David Beckham and Leonardo Dicaprio among them – WildAid delivers high-impact, culturally sensitive campaigns that reach hundreds of millions of people each year.

Commenting on his upcoming Wildaid projects, Guy said: “We are officially launching our programme into Mozambique, working with Public Service Associations, in November. I will be filming a Pangolin rescuer and the rehabilitation programme in Gorongosa National Park, as well as documenting ‘unsung heroes’ – mainly women – who are doing amazing things in conservation.”

To find out more about Wildaid’s work, visit www.wildaid.org or contact Guy at Jennings@wildaid.org.


Sources: Guy Jennings
Have something to add to this story? Share it in the comments or follow GoodThingsGuy on Facebook & Twitter to keep up to date with good news as it happens or share your good news with us by clicking here
Click the link below to listen to the Good Things Guy Podcast, with Brent Lindeque – South Africa’s very own Good Things Guy. He’s on a mission to change what the world pays attention to, and he truly believes that there’s good news all around us. In the Good Things Guy podcast, you’ll meet these everyday heroes & hear their incredible stories:
Or watch an episode of Good Things TV below, a show created to offer South Africans balance in a world with what feels like constant bad news. We’re here to remind you that there are still so many good things happening in South Africa & we’ll hopefully leave you feeling a little more proudly South African. 

Facebook Comments

Brent Lindeque
About the Author

Brent Lindeque is the founder and man in charge at Good Things Guy.

Recognised as one of the Mail and Guardian’s Top 200 Young South African’s as well as a Primedia LeadSA Hero, Brent is a change maker, thought leader, radio host, foodie, vlogger, writer and all round good guy.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *