It takes a special group of cyclists to sign up for South Africa’s “toughest extreme one-day mountain bike race”, especially after the festive season.
Yet year after year thousands line up for the Momentum Health Attakwas Extreme presented by Biogen, which takes place on 19 January 2019. With 12 editions to look back on, race directors have identified a common thread that holds this riding community together – the undeniable ‘Attakwas spirit’. Each rider arrives with a different set of ambitions, but the same goal of simply ‘surviving’ the challenge.
The event has built a strong reputation for its tough and unforgiving nature, and for the 121km’s of relentless pounding that it presents to both man and machine. Beyond this, however, the Attakwas is renowned for its truly unique sense of camaraderie. It is a race where every rider knows that in the deepest, darkest hours on their bike, there will always be a helping hand from a fellow rider or friendly crew member.
No one epitomized the spirit of this event more than Attakwas finisher and fellow mountain biker, Douw Steyn. Late in 2014, an accident claimed the life of this extraordinary man who left behind a legacy of all the traits that this event stands for – friendship, loyalty and perseverance.
Dryland Event Management dedicated the “Spirit of the Attakwas” to Douw’s memory – a trophy created by his closest friends that is presented annually to the rider who reveals the same qualities. While many have received the award since, a special rider by the name of Stephan Drew stood out in 2016. After completing an impressive 10 Attakwas Extreme events and training for another one, he was involved in a motorcycle accident and lost his leg as a result.
“If I hadn’t been as fit as I was preparing for the Attakwas, doctors say I would have lost my life,” explained Drew. Less than five weeks later, he was back on a bicycle in a studio before having even received his prosthesis.
Today he has not only managed to learn to ride again, but has even completed multiple mountain bike races. While the Attakwas Extreme is slightly too technical to ride with a prosthetic leg at this stage, Drew carries the same sense of courage into other events he enters.