Heinrich Kotze & Eugene Gerber

Heinrich Kotze & Eugene Gerber

In September 2012 my whole world was turned upside down. I left home and woke up 2 months later in hospital, after being involved in a motor vehicle accident. I was 29 years old at that stage and leading up to that day life was good, I had a golden future was on the cards.
I was an accountant for Canon where I was responsible for the financial well-being of 9 businesses with the sales director and franchise owners.

I sustained a spinal cord injury and traumatic brain injury, which left me wheelchair bound.

One can accomplish whatever you put your mind to and the wheelchair is not a reflection of my disability but a mere form of transportation.

I conquered the Telkom 947 Cycle Challenge in 2016, in an assisted chariot. In which I was in a recumbent chariot behind my friend Eugene on his bicycle. This year, 2017, I will be finishing the race again assisting Eugene more and aiming for a sub 5 hour race.

Eugene Gerber
94.7 Preparation

As it turned out, our major obstacle to overcome was the chariot design.  Jimmy wanted to pedal; something that wasn’t possible with any of the existing designs.  We initially thought of importing something from the US which might have worked, but there were too many what-ifs to justify that expense, so we turned to some local expertise.  The original design and manufacturing was done by Manny da Silva.  Further modifications were rushed through by Swift Cycles.  Sharon McGregor handled the fundraising, and people donated generously.  Andrew Farrer was our lead chariot-pusher, assisted by others.

Our first few attempts tallied up to exactly 0kms of training.  There were just too many issues to mention… and every time it was back to the drawing board, and less time to prepare.  When we finally did manage to get going, our initial effort was cut short at about 11kms.  The pedals needed to be modified.  The following weekend the chain on the chariot snapped after about 40km due to tension under breaking… a stronger chain was needed.  I’m not sure I ever mentioned this to Jimmy, but I had serious doubts about even making it to race day.  Chantelle and Jimmy’s can-do attitude, however, made sure that we got there.

Race day

Getting to the start line was easier than I had anticipated… great organizing from all involved at TNT.  We were expecting to stop a few times, but our first stop after 2km was definitely not planned… issues with the pedals.  Fortunately the problem was easily fixed and we headed out again.  The first bit of the race was all uphill… on cold legs… not ideal.  After 5kms I had gone through half of my first water bottle.    The strategy for the rest of the day became very clear;  survive the hills, recover on the downs.

The R55 was our next challenge.  Some proper downhills to contend with.  Our strategy was to let Jimmy handle the breaking on the down hills, and this worked out perfectly.  It did involve some hand signals from my side… he didn’t really have full sight of the road.  On the last downhill before crossing main road we had a proper blowout on my rear wheel; sidewall completely torn.  Fortunately Jimmy was controlling the breaks, allowing us to remain stable and pull over without incident.  The problem of finding a new tire was resolved by somebody from the team giving us his rear wheel… champ.  We pushed on, only to have a puncture just before Kyalami not even 1km from our last spot.  At this stage bypassing the Kyalami track was an option to make up lost time, but that didn’t really sit well with any of us.  As we pushed on, I kept on wondering whether we had made a mistake by using a road bike instead of a MTB. Were these thin tires going to give us more issues given the extra weight?

There were a few planned stops on the way.  All nutrition strategies were out the window. I was drinking whatever I could find.  Jimmy was doing his best to eat and drink.  Our earlier problems meant that we had to shorten our planned stops… we were trying to get in under 6 hrs.  Flying down Jan Smuts a cyclist in front of us lost an energy bar that landed under the chariot wheel.  At the same time I was busy giving hand signals to Jimmy to break.  A combination of a locked back wheel and me having one hand on the handle bars… we came very close to falling at that moment.

On Witkoppen we met all the friends and family at the TNT gazebo.  Definitely the highlight of the race.  Couple of monster hills including Cedar road and Steyn City, and finally the end was in sight.  The entire TNT team crossed the finish line together.  It was an awesome sight.

About Me

I work as an independent Excel consultant.  In Aug 2012 I did my first standard distance triathlon, one month before Jimmy’s accident.  The goal was to do a half-ironman race the following Jan, but Jimmy’s fight to survive made me change that goal to a full-ironman race 3 months later.  That race is all about not giving up during training.  Every time I felt the training was just too much I thought of Jimmy, then off I went in search of more pain.  Endurance sport has done a lot for my life.  I started 2012 weighing 110kg, I currently weigh 85kg.  I’ve done 6 Ironman races, Comrades once and several marathons… and Jimmy has played a part in all that.  I’m looking forward to doing 94.7 again with Jimmy this year, and shaving a big chunk of time off last year’s race.






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