Pietermaritzburg - For Shaun Biggs the Dusi Valley is in his blood and part of his family history, so when he lines up for his first dusi2c mountain bike race on Saturday 10 June it will be starting a new chapter in the Biggs family’s Dusi legacy.
Shaun claims he is no racing snake on a mountain bike and says he is “only” aiming for a top 30 finish at the dusi2c where he will be riding with Craig Carter-Brown.
A quick look at the FNB Dusi Canoe Marathon list of past winners reveals Shaun’s uncles Tim and Danny won the race in 1982, and in 1979 Tim partnered Robbie Stewart to victory.
Shaun’s father is also well-known as a canoeist and so it was no surprise when young Shaun began taking part when he was still a young schoolboy.
The 35-year-old has now completed 22 Dusi Canoe Marathons with an impressive third place in 2001, while a World Championship silver medal adds to the evidence that he never let the family name down with a paddle in his hands.
In 2006 Shaun took over running the family seedling business in Ixopo and work pressure meant competitive canoeing had to take a backseat.
“I had to concentrate on a career since 2006 when I came back into the family seedling business,” said Biggs from his Ixopo office this week.
“Since coming into the business I found it very difficult to find the time to train, especially during the main canoeing season.
“The main seed-growing season is October to March, so that is obviously when we are at our most busy at work, and that is also the main canoeing season.
“I have been riding a mountain bike since I was at school but never that seriously. However, it is easier to trail run and mountain bike in winter so I started doing more of that once I stopped canoeing so seriously.
“I did the Dusi Mfula (the pre-cursor to the dusi2c) mountain bike race in 2006 and really found that fantastic. But this is going to be my first dusi2c.
“I have done a few other mountain bike races though. I have done five KAP sani2c rides and the Swazi Extreme and Imana Wild Ride with Graeme Pope-Ellis.
“I can’t wait to see what the dusi2c will be like. Obviously from my canoeing days I know the (Msundusi and Mgeni) Valley backwards. I know all the portages and we used to spend a lot of time tripping through the valley in the build up to the Dusi.
“I can’t wait to see what Glen (Haw) has in store for us.
“It will also be a help to me to know where we are the whole time, to know how far away from Mfula Store (the overnight stop) will be a big help on the first day.
“From what I have heard the dusi2c is a lot smaller and more relaxed vibe than sani2c. I think it is more like the canoeing vibe than bigger races like sani2c, which will be just up my alley.
“Craig is very fit but I have been really busy for the past few weeks. I have only been able to ride once or twice a week – I am a real weekend warrior,” added Biggs.
While Biggs plays down his chances at the dusi2c it is obvious his (and the rest of the family’s) competitive spirit has not died. He recently light-heartedly challenged his uncle Danny, who was also a Comrades Marathon gold medallist, to a trail run.
Shaun worriedly admits he has heard Danny is training “as hard as he ever did” for the upcoming event on Table Mountain.
The dusi2c starts at the Natal Canoe Club on the banks of the Msundusi River in Pietermaritzburg on June 10, the same place the FNB Dusi Canoe Marathon starts every year. The second stage takes riders from the overnight stop at Mfula Store, deep in the Valley of 1 000 Hills, to Durban’s Blue Lagoon on June 11.