Namibia: Desert Dash’s youngest solo rider finishes in the Top 10
JULIAN Nel of Swakopmund, the youngest rider in a field of 207 participants in this year’s Nedbank Desert Dash men’s solo division, finished in seventh place, as one of the youngest riders to finish in the top 10 of this main edition since the race was introduced 21 years ago.
Nel, who turned 19 in August, crossed the finish line at the Swakopmund Waterfront Mall in 16:57:44, just over two hours after defending Desert Dash champion Swiss Konny Looser, who won the grueling 373 km race from Windhoek, through Khomas Hochland and the Namib Desert to Swakopmund – again.
âMy first goal was to just finish the race, since I was so young and going solo. My biggest goal, however, was to finish the race in 17 hours. My secret goal was to finish in the top 10, âthe teenager said. The Namibian, all smiles as he managed to achieve all the goals in one race.
Solo riders must be 19 years old before participating in solo. Nel has already completed the “dash” – once, in 2018, as part of a four-man squad, then last year as a two-man squad.
He said there was a time when he thought about giving up during the first half of the 24-hour race after battling the degree of sunstroke. According to the riders, the conditions this year have been harsh in terms of heat and wind.
“I thought then that the time and place didn’t matter – just an arrival at least,” Nel said.
It was when he reached halfway that he “heard” that he was in 10th place. This energized the youngster as he realized that it might be possible to hit his time target, and even finish in the top 10.
âIn the home stretch, as we entered Swakopmund, I knew I could make it, and I just ‘powered up’ it with renewed energy. When I crossed the finish line, all that I could think is that I had achieved a major goal in my life, and I’m very proud of myself. It’s a relief to achieve something like that, “he explained.
Nel is not done with the Desert Dash, and still has big plans as he seeks to push his position to the top, but that will have to wait for now, as he will go to Stellenbosch University next year. to do a four-year Diploma in Mechatronics Engineering.
He finished his 12th year at Swakopmund Private School in 2019 and took a year off because he didn’t know which professional path to take. And then, while taking a break, the Covid-19 pandemic struck which resulted in the cancellation of all major mountain bike races, which at first did not please this active person who loves the sport. He also enjoys tennis and surfing.
There was, however, still hope that the Desert Dash would take place, and the prevailing circumstances helped Nel decide that he would âdo his bestâ and train for the event solo.
This has translated into a goal, a plan, a commitment, hard work and persistence over the past eight months.
âSwakop is limited in some ways; there aren’t a lot of people who have workout routines for me. in the business to lead me through this race, âNel explained, adding that in addition to training at the gym and a responsible diet, he had to average 12 hours of cycling per week in the desert terrain. difficult from the central coast.
He does not tolerate the excuse that there is “no time” to do all of this, encouraging other young people to set a goal and commit to it fiercely.
The biggest challenge for him was to stay inspired as the training was often difficult and he had to walk hundreds of miles on his own, but it ended up paying off, and the satisfaction that comes with reaching his goal is well worth it, according to him.
âIn previous races I saw the solo riders cross the finish line exhausted, but they had a smile of accomplishment. I wanted it too and this year was the right year to do it, âhe told this newspaper.
Nel said he would like to be at the same level as Looser, and hopes that one day he can run with him.