With hilly terrain, a moderate climate and quiet roads, the Mpumalanga Lowveld is an attractive training ground for various outdoor sports. To top it off, the region’s scenery is absolutely breathtaking and this understandably makes training (and suffering) a lot more bearable.
For these reasons it just made sense to stay on in the Lowveld for an extra two days after finishing the MTN Panorama Road Tour. There was more to it though, as the Sabie Xperience MTB stage race, just down the road from my base in White River, was the next event on my racing calender. The 2 days in between races flew by and before I knew it I was back in the firing line.
The Xperience was held in and around the forestry town of Sabie, with all the stages starting and finishing at the Floreat Riverside lodge. The race opened up with a 32km time trail on the first day, followed by a 52km stage on day two, a 66km stage on day three and concluded with a 62km stage on the fourth and final day. The total distance of 211km might not sound daunting at first, but if you consider the 4550m of climbing we had to do during the race, you soon realised the event would be no easy feat.
This year marked my third participation at the event and for this edition I teamed up with Carel Bosman. Our last minute partnership was organised during a brief chat on the 3rd day of the MTN Panorama Tour when we learned we were both still without a confirmed teammate for the Sabie Xperience. Problem solved and 4 days later we stood on the start line in Sabie! Like they say, sometimes things really just have a way of working out for the best J.
Carel and I had a good team dynamic and got along very well on and off the bike. We were also fortunate to have an incident free ride through the race. All this contributed to our successful partnership as Carel and I placed 1st on all four stages to win the race overall in the mixed category. Andrew Hermanson & Tanielle Mandy placed 2nd with Wayne Domnick & Tami Alves rounding out the podium in 3rd place.
A big ‘high five’to the organisers of Sabie Xperience for changing the dates of the event from rainy December to cool and dry May. In the past the event was run in the rain season to avoid potential fire hazards, but that made for a wet and muddy affair. With the event now happening in the dry autumn months, every day turned out to be an absolute pleasure. The routes were fun, yet challenging and the environment which we were so fortunate to cycle through made for one special Sabie Xperience. I already look forward to next year’s edition and can safely invite everyone (back) to join in the fun. Sabie Xperience is back with a vengeance!