Teresa Coetzee – putting mud & sweat to paper
01 January 1970
You can also listen to these podcasts directly from the Old Mutual app, which is available here.
Hello and welcome to another edition of our Old Mutual Live Mountain Bike podcast, I’m Gerald de Kock. It’s great to have you joining us, thanks for downloading. I hope you’re enjoying the series of podcasts we’re doing on this great sport of mountain biking. No doubt you’re a mountain bike nut like all of us who take part in this great sport. Have an opportunity to explore our country and perhaps further afield on the back on a mountain bike. It’s a rare privilege indeed.
Over the years you meet people who ride a lot of events and you see a lot of them at the same events or different events all year round. The events I go to I both work and ride but there’s one person I do bump into a lot and she rides most of them, but it’s also part of work. It’s a strange situation, but Teresa Coetzee, you’re a journalist Teresa, but you ride more than you write.
Teresa Coetzee: That’s not true! That’s just a perception out there, it’s not true! I actually ride a lot, indeed, I do ride a lot as well and I work for Media 24, I’m a lifestyle journo and I’m just lucky.
GDK: It is luck but you’ve also created that luck haven’t you? When did this mountain bike thing take hold of you?
How my mountain biking just spiralled
TC: You know what? It’s actually funny, it was 4-5 years ago, I got invited. Let me just tell this, I was a roadie, I didn’t even have a mountain bike. I got invited to a race called Ride the Rhino, which was on the West Coast. They said: Come ride this and I wasn’t sure what it’s all about. I heard about stage races but I didn’t know what it was all about.
But anyway, I went and I loved it, it was absolutely amazing. I couldn’t believe that there’s events like that out there. I came back and I did a feature on it and the people of Berg & Bush said: You haven’t done anything if you haven’t done Berg & Bush, rather come ride that.
I did the same, and it just escalated, that’s how it all started. I did the one after the other and every time everybody says: You must try this, if you’ve ridden this, you must try Pioneer. I suppose I just set new goals for myself all the time.
GDK: At what stage did it become an adventure, a passion, where does the transition, now I’m almost inclined to say it’s an addiction?
TC: It’s definitely an addiction, yes. I’m not sure, I think it was an adventure from the first time that I got on my bike, I just loved it. It was so nice to be able to experience it. Then go back and tell people about it, that’s the best part. Go back and go for your pictures and you re-live the entire story. You get to tell other people, that’s just amazing. You tell them: You have to do this because it’s so amazing.
GDK: You sit down quite often after events and some of them you ride out of your work time, but most of them you’re riding and working, writing stories on them. You go back at the end of the ride and write a reflective piece or is it a newsy piece?
Giving people an understanding of different events
TC: Sometimes I will write a newsy piece, but mostly it’s a reflective piece because people want to know, what’s the difference between a Wines2Whales and a Sani. People want to know what’s the difference between an Epic and a Pioneer and I can actually tell them exactly what the difference is.
GDK: Quickly do so then, for those who aren’t going to read your articles in Afrikaans, they can listen to your English, it’s perfect.
TC: What I always say, Epic is big deal, it is big deal, nobody can tell you anything else. It’s hard, it isn’t fun, it’s pain and suffering from the first moment. But when you get over the finish line you know you’ve worked for that medal. Pioneer, it’s fun, it’s friendly, everybody can actually do it. But also it’s not only for novice riders, it’s for professionals as well. But if you want to go have some fun and just out there for the fun part, don’t do Epic!
GDK: How do you equate Sani2c and Wines2Whales for example, 2-3 day races at different times of the year and provinces?
TC: I personally think if you can do both, absolutely. Because it’s two brilliant events and it compares really well in terms of food and route and hospitality. So if you can do both, go for it.
GDK: There’s one three-day ride that you actually haven’t done this year, and only a very special occasion brought that about. How did you miss out on the Berg & Bush this year?
TC: I was basically on my way to go ride the Berg & Bush, I had a partner and everything and then BBC Earth phoned me. They said they’ve got this wonderful opportunity, I can go to London and do a personal interview with Sir David Attenborough. So of course I had to make the most difficult choice of my life and I went to London and I met him personally. He’s 90 years old this year, so that was amazing, I really feel privileged.
GDK: Getting back to your writing about these, have you over the time that you’ve now been doing this, come across people who have read your stories and been inspired to take it up?
Helping inspire others
TC: You know what, funny enough, especially girls who know my stuff and who is following me, I’ve heard that before. They really find it inspiring and the thing is Gerald, I’m not a professional athlete, I’m a working mother. I’ve got two boys at home, I’m just a girl next door. Hopefully I can inspire people because if I can do it, everybody else can do it. If I can ride an Epic, I promise you, every girl out there who is willing to train and is willing to put in some work will be able to do it.
GDK: You put it across like that, you’ve got two children at home, family and those responsibilities, work, and yet you’re able to put in the training hours.
TC: You know what? You learn to make time for these things. You will know it, the more you do, the more you get to do. I get up at 4:00 in the morning and I train during winter and there’s times when you think, why am I doing this, what the hell is wrong with me? Then the next morning you just get up and you go on and you do it because the reward is so big and it’s just so amazing.
GDK: What is that reward? How do you explain it?
TC: I think the reward is knowing by yourself, you know you can do this. You know you can get up that hill. You get times, even in stage races that you feel, gee, I feel tired, I don’t feel up to it, I’m not myself. But something in you tells you, you can do it because you know you’ve done it before. You’ve been through harder days than this one and you can do it.
GDK: What’s your hardest day on a bike?
TC: There’s been a couple! For instance, I’ve heard somebody said this morning in the tent, last year, day three of Wines2Whales was horrific, I never want to do that again. It was raining the moment we started and it was raining non-stop. There was a few times that I thought by myself, listen, I don’t need to do this and I don’t need to prove anything to anyone out there, let me just quit.
Then the next moment you say to yourself, no, I’m not a quitter, once I’ve quit once, I’ll do it again, so just carry on. I carried on and I’m so glad I did. I remember 2-3 years back we had a rainy day at Cape Pioneer, two years back and that was the Combinasie day. We literally spent 10 hours on our bikes that day. It was the most horrible day of my life, so yes, there’s been a few.
GDK: Where is this going for you? I have to say that you’ve done I think 11 events this year and they’re not just one day events, from 3-9 day events, which is a wonderful privilege. Where do you think this is going to end?
TC: I’ve got no idea. I don’t know. The thing is, I just know I’m really privileged and I know that at every single event, I think gee, I am so privileged, so you never know. I don’t even think about next year because I don’t know, but it’s just such a wonderful privilege to have done what I’ve done.
GDK: Teresa, it’s lovely chatting to you, you’ve got a lovely attitude and approach to riding mountain bikes and life, it’s fantastic.
TC: Thanks Gerald, thanks.
GDK: An inspiring story, Teresa Coetzee from Media 24 and you can read your stuff, where would we read your stuff?
TC: In Beeld of course, the Rapport newspaper and then also on Netwerk 24, the Afrikaans part of –
TC: That’s right.
GDK: Thanks very much Teresa Coetzee. Thanks very much to you for downloading this edition of Old Mutual Live Mountain Biking, I hope you enjoyed it. We’ll have plenty more, the personalities, people and issues that make this great sport tick. Until next time, cheers.