The picturesque little town of Tulbagh played host to the 3rd leg in the MTN National MTB Series. It is the only event in the 8-race series which takes place in the Cape and the timing couldn’t have been better. Coming from Gauteng the warm, clear weather proved to be a welcome respite from the continuous rain we’ve had of late on the Highveld.
Tulbagh town is found at the northern end of the Tulbagh valley and is surrounded by majestic mountains. The 74km marathon route stayed within the boundaries of the Tulbagh valley, and although the course never made its way outside of the valley, there was no shortage of hills to contend with on the day.
The course snaked several times up and down the lower slopes of the bordering mountains, making it difficult to find a good rhythm. At times, the inclines got so steep and loose that dismounting and pushing your bike was the only option.
The tough and rocky terrain also added to the unique character of the race. It required a specific skill and confidence to navigate your way through and over rocks of different shapes and sizes. Fortunately I brought my Merida Big Ninety Nine full suspension bike along for the challenge and it more than made up for whatever skill I was lacking on the day.
With the Epic just around the corner, a lot of the international riders used the event to familiarise themselves with African soil and weather conditions. They couldn’t have asked for a better experience as Tulbagh usually features as a stage location in the Epic.
To hear several different languages amongst the girls as we toed the start line brought back memories of my time racing in Europe. In bike racing terms I knew from past experiences this could only mean one thing – Ouch, this is going to hurt! And it did!
Sadly I seemed to have packed the wrong legs for the day and didn’t make the winning break when it went clear in the opening kilometres. From there on it was a lonely ride for me all the way to the beautiful finishing venue at Saronsberg Wine Estate, just managing to sneak into the top 10. I guess we need days like these to make us appreciate the good ones when they come around.
Up front Arianne Kleinhans proved her world class status as she took the win over English star Sally Bigham and Swedish champion Jennie Stenerhag in 2nd and 3rd places respectively.
Next up I’ll be taking part in the Absa Cape Epic with former teammate and good friend Leana de Jager. My new pair of legs is on order, so hopefully they will arrive in time for the Epic prologue this coming Sunday.
You can follow the link below to see the profile of the 74km Marathon event at Tulbagh, recorded by my trusty Garmin Edge 810: