Last year the inaugural Lowveld Quest Stage race was a highlight of my racing calendar, so I was very excited to participate at the second edition of the event this year. Lowveld stalwart Francois Lourens would again be my partner for the race as we had a successful and enjoyable partnership 12 months before.
Stage 1, 70km and 1500m of climbing
The event started in Lydenburg and riders set off from Lydenburg Hoërskool under a grey sky to tackle the first of 4 stages.
Overnight rain resumed within the first 10km of the stage making the route to Mankele Bike Park very wet and muddy. The weather conditions definitely proved to be the biggest challenge on the day, but all the mud eating, impaired vision and my short swim in a puddle of water were soon forgotten as we were welcomed home to warm showers, delicious food and the beautiful setting at Mankele.
Stage 2, 70km and 1600m of climbing
Day two’s route almost immediately tilted upward as we made our way out of the Mankele Valley. We gradually climbed for the next 45km before reaching the top of Misty Mountain. From there we were rewarded with mainly descending trails all the way to our new ‘home’ for the night at Merry Pebbles Resort in Sabie.
Despite a grey sky, thick mist hanging over misty mountain and patches of light rain during the stage, the weather still allowed us to appreciate some of the spectacular scenery the Lowveld has on offer.
Stage 3, 57km and 1564m of climbing
After all the rain it came as no surprise that the route leading us to our next host venue at Eagles View Estate just outside of Graskop to be wet and muddy.
What we didn’t count on (and hoped would stay away) was more light rain during the stage. This made for yet another wet and muddy day out, but on the bright side it was another opportunity for some good practise in bike handling skills. When else are you going to learn how to handle your bike on slippery and wet terrain?
I have to add – I’ll much rather be on the bike than trying to organise an event in the undesirable conditions. I felt sorry for the race organisers as there isn’t anything you can do about the weather and a potentially great day on the trails turned into quite a muddy affair.
At least it made for good war stories to be told over a warm cappuccino and a slice of carrot cake at the venue’s coffee shop which is perched on the God’s Window escarpment with a breathtaking view over the Lowveld.
Stage 4, 50km and 1500m of climbing
The last day saw riders gathering for the start under a blue sky. Yes you read right – for a welcome change the sky was blue and not grey.
I’m not sure if it was because the sun was shining, the mostly downhill stage with fun single track sections that laid in wait or the fact that race organisers took to washing some of the riders bikes after a mucky stage 3 but whatever the reason, the air was vibrant and it was a nice feeling to head out onto the last stretch to Induna Adventures just outside of Hazyview with smiles all around.
The course was still muddy, but by now everyone’s bike handling skills on wet and slippery terrain had improved and the lively atmosphere from the start was still there at the finish.
Francois and I made a strong team as our abilities on the bike are very similar making it easy to ride together. We rode very consistently and managed to win all 4 stages, securing the overall win in the mixed category. Christelle and Anthony Meyer rode stronger every stage giving them the second overall spot ahead of Angelique Schutte and Ray Roodt.
The Lowveld Quest stage race will always stand out for me as you get organisers of Mankele 3 Towers 3 day stage race, Induna Adventure mountain bike race, Sabie Classic and the Lydenburg mountain bike club teaming up to bring you the best mountain biking experience the Lowveld has to offer.
Being passionate mountain bikers themselves they not only created a pleasant atmosphere at the race but also understand the need of riders, what works and what not. Therefore come rain or shine, you’ll always be guaranteed a great and unforgettable experience at the Lowveld Quest. Thanks to everyone involved in making such a unique event take place. I already look forward to the 3rd edition.