The Mankele Mountain Bike Park is a favourite playground amongst mountain bikers. It is situated in the heart of the Lowveld, a mere 30 minute drive from Nelspruit, White River and Sabie.
Not that one needs a reason to visit this beautiful part of our country but this past weekend saw Mankele host their annual stage race event, the Isuzu 3 Towers.
The event is held over 3 days and started off with a 70km stage on day one. The highlight of this stage was the short portage section through a waste deep river. If you were unlucky like me, it turned out to be a short swim.
Stage two was the “queen stage” which included 1750m of climbing over the 70km stage. The race organisers are passionate mountain bikers themselves and never let a climbing effort go unrewarded. Subsequent to every climb they spoiled us with meandering cattle tracks, bush tunnels and forested single track.
The final 45km stage was short and sweet. It had the highest reward to effort ratio with loads of single track following a long climb at the start.
What added to the fun element of the race was that Mankele lies at the bottom of a valley. With all the stages starting and finishing at Mankele it meant that the final kilometres of every day was downhill and yes, of course it was on single track! No matter what happened out on route, you were always guaranteed to finish with a big smile.
For this year’s edition I teamed up with local cross country star, Samantha Sanders. Sam and I have become friends through cycling but this would be our first stage race as a team. Like all new relationships you spend extra energy at the beginning to make it work and hopefully it’s smooth sailing from there. Sam and I have widely differing strengths on the bike which added to the challenges but having the same goal made the job at hand a lot easier.
We got on well before, during and after each stage which surely contributed to our consistent riding throughout the event. From day one until the end we maintained our 2nd place overall in the ladies category while the other teams reshuffled the podium, often due to mechanicals.
When all was said and done Candice Neethling and Cherise Stander took overall honours with Vera Adrian and Irene Styne rounding out the podium in 3rd place.
3 Towers has always been a highlight on my racing calendar as it has so much to offer. Their trails are some of the best in the country, the food is delicious, the camping is quite pleasant and the organisers do their best to put on a great event. Thanks to the Mankele Team for a wonderful weekend of mountain biking. I’m already looking forward to next year’s event.
1st Candice Neethling & Cherise Stander (Time Freight Velolife – RE:CM)
2nd Yolandi du Toit & Samantha Sanders (Garmin/Valencia)
3rd Vera Adrian & Irene Styne (Namibia)
4th Ashleigh Moffat & Carla Van Huyssteen (Time Freight Velolife)
5th Heila Meintjies & Ruth Le Roux (Bells Cycling)