Monthly Archives: April 2014

The Lowveld Quest Stage Race, 9-12 April 2014

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.

Stage 4

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.

Absa Cape Epic

The 11th edition of the Absa Cape Epic took place in the Western Cape from the 23rd to the 30th of March 2014. The eight day stage race covered a total of 718km and included 14 850m of climbing divided into a prologue and 7 stages.

Sasol came onboard as a headline sponsor for the Epic this year increasing the ladies prize money to equal that of the men. To enhance the competition for this prize purse, and to help grow ladies mountain biking, Sasol also entered two ladies teams.

 In January I was offered the chance to be part of one of these teams for the Epic and I grabbed the opportunity with both hands. I feel privileged to have been part of this project and have to thank Sasol for the opportunity as well as my current sponsors for allowing me to be part of the Sasol Team for the Epic.

Sasol partnered me with Stellenbosch resident Leana de Jager who has already completed three Epics. Leana and I are good friends and have done several stage races together which meant we didn’t have to spend any time and energy getting to know one another and we could focus on the task at hand.

The 23km prologue kicked off proceedings at the picturesque Meerendal Wine Estate, situated just outside of Durbanville in the Tygerberg region. We had a steady ride knowing this would only be the aperitif for the week’s main menu of suffering.

From Meerendal the Epic race village moved to the quaint little town of Robertson, situated in the shadow of the majestic Langeberg Mountains. Arabella Wine Estate became our home for stage one (108 km, 2450m of climbing), a very wet and muddy stage two (101 km, 1550m of climbing) and the start of stage three (134 km, 1800m of climbing). The 3rd stage was the longest stage in this year’s Epic and took riders from Robertson to the charming village of Greyton.

Set at the foot of the Zonderend Mountains and close to Greyton, the Oaks Estate hosted the Epic race village for stage 4 (88 km, 1850m of climbing) and 5 (110km, 2900m of climbing) before heading on to Elgin.

The finish line of stage 5 awaited riders under a canopy of ancient Oak trees at Oak Valley Wine Estate in Elgin. This would become our final camping ground for the concluding two nights of Epic 2014. Stage 6 (85km and 1800m of climbing) was laid out in the surrounding area and took riders over the infamous Groenlandberg where, believe it or not, we were greeted by an opera singing goddess making the whole experience even more surreal.

 The final stage (68km and 1800m of climbing) took us from Elgin over Nuweberg pass, down the historic ox wagon trail to the highly anticipated finish at Lourensford in Somerset West.

As you can imagine it is impossible to summarize this 8 day journey which took us 42hours, 2 minutes and 30 seconds of riding time to complete. Most of the trip fades into a blur of unorganized memories only to fall in place once you start talking about a specific event.

In life we all know how important a relationship is in the outcome of success. Leana and I had a great relationship on and off the bike and I am sure this contributed to our consistent riding throughout the event. The route this year was also very well balanced with no “hike a bike” sections as in the past. This made for a challenging Epic but still an enjoyable one.

Yolandi and Leana

With the Absa Cape Epic being one of the biggest mountain bike races worldwide, there is always tough competition, so Leana and I were very pleased to finish 7th in the ladies category and 2nd South African ladies Team.

Big thanks to my partner (Leana de Jager), Sasol teammates (Yolande de Villiers, Ischen Stopforth, David 

Labuschagne, Johan Labuschagne), support crew (Henties de Villiers, Dirkie Labuschagne), Cycle Lab (Lynnwood and Centurion) bike mechanics and everyone from Sasol for an unforgettable experience.

Ladies Overall Results

Stage 2

1st           Ariane Kleinhand & Annika Langvad

2nd          Esther Suss & Sally Bigham

3rd           Jennie Stenerhag & Theresa Ralph

4th           Milena Landtwing & Hielke Elferink

5th           Sara Mertens & Laura Turpijn

6th           Ischen Stopforth & Yolande de Villiers

7th           Yolandi du Toit & Leana de Jager

8th           Hanlie Booyens & Mariske Strauss

9th           Tanya Rabie & Nicola Walker

10th         Theresa Horn & Desiree Loubser