Although the dust of the Nedbank Desert Dash 2019 has long settled, the memories remain, not only for cyclists, but for everyone involved in this epic race that might strike fear into the hearts of many. Cyclists dash through the harsh Namib Desert, all the way from Windhoek to Swakopmund. Be it support crew, the crew at the water points and halfway point (also called the Gondwana Village in 2019), photographers, videographers, medics, technical teams … the list goes on of the people involved in this major event that takes an important space on the calendar in December every year.

The halfway point between Windhoek and Swakopmund © Annelien Murray

It was 2 am in the Namib Desert at the halfway mark between Windhoek and Swakopmund. The behind-the-scenes crews were on the edge after an exhausting Day 1, yet Day 2 (basically just an extension of Day 1) had only begun. Then it started raining! To me, this was an absolute miracle. In my 20-something years of existence, it was the first time that I had experienced rain in the Namib Desert. In addition to this, it was the first rains after Namibia had suffered through years of drought with very little to no rain in most areas, even the savanna grasslands were deprived of their annual abundance.

The soft drizzle continued throughout the early morning hours. By the time we packed up the halfway point to head to Swakopmund, the rain had not yet abated. While the rest of the crew was fast asleep in the Namibia2Go shuttle, I was able to snap a quick pic with my phone of the hazy views caused by the rain. (See picture below.) Even though not the best quality picture, the memory remains priceless.

A quick smartphone snap for a lasting memory of experiencing rain in the desert for the first time. © Annelien Murray

Gondwana Collection Namibia had the honour not only to man the halfway point of the event, but also to enter five teams in the Nedbank Desert Dash. Frank Snyman was the team coordinator of the four-man Gondwana Masters team. He sourced four dynamic cyclists with bulletproof talent and who are well known in cycling circles. In our books, they now rank in the Nedbank Desert Dash’s hall … or rather trail of fame – Rob Sim from Cape Town, Piet Swiegers from Klein-Aus Vista, German-born Nico Pfitzenmaier from Cape Town and Udo Bölts from Germany. A dream team with the coolest vibes!

the team – from left to right – Frank Snyman, Nico Pfitzenmaier, Rob Sim, Udo Bölts and Piet Swiegers © Gondwana Collection Namibia

On our bike radar: Udo Bölts

Aside from a total of 12 consecutive Tour de France races under his belt, Udo Bölts has also competed in Giro D’Italia, Vuelta a España, Cape Epic, Ironman Hawaii, and New York Marathon. What a massive feat – especially for someone who simply started cycling because he was overweight.

Last year, he participated in the Nedbank Desert Dash for the first time. On asking him about his experience, he replied, “The Nedbank Desert Dash is a real challenge. I have the utmost respect for this race.” It is hard to tell which race has been the toughest to date, since he always pushes past his limits. That is undoubtedly a trait to be admired.

Photo provided by Udo Bölts

It was Udo’s first time in Namibia and he was looking forward to the stories that he would take home with him. For him, it was not just about cycling as hard as he could through the desert, but also about everything that happened before, in between and after – the fun and the funny stuff during the race, having a braai with the Gondwana team (he gets us), the people behind the event and their backstory, plus everything that happened after the dust of the race had settled.

When Udo is not cycling, he practises cycling-related hobbies that is also his job. He does hiking and mountain-bike trail maintenance in a forest in Germany.

Photo provided by Udo Bölts

We enjoyed having Udo with us in Namibia and hope to invite him back for another braai soon. Of course, we can throw some cycling into the deal, since that is clearly what makes this talented sportsman tick. We wish him plenty more safe kilometres for the future.

Author – Annelien Robberts is an avid wordsmith who turns her pen to all things travel, culture, and lifestyle. She was born in a small town called Otjiwarongo and grew up on a farm nearby. Creativity, nature and animals make her happy.