As most of you know, Ben Melt Swanepoel and I will be teaming up to race as Team Garmin for a few select events. As a team, we decided we would take turns to write a race report for the events we do, so here is Ben Melt’s account of this weekend’s KAP Sani2C. It was a fun event and a good start to our campaign so hopefully it makes for a good read too.
At 12 years old, the Sani2C is one of the oldest and most iconic mountain bike stage races in South Africa and indeed the world. The event owes its name to the now famous route from the foot of Sani Pass to Scottburgh Main beach on the Indian Ocean, envisioned and sculpted by Glen Haw or as everyone knows him – Farmer Glen.
It has grown from a 3 day stage race, to a 3 event race with each version taking 1500 participants over the same route on 3 consecutive editions. From Tuesday to Thursday the Sani2C Trail riders tackle the route followed by the Sani2C Adventure participants from Wednesday to Friday and finally the Sani2C Race gets its opportunity from Thursday to Saturday.
In all 4500 riders traverse the 263km route in the space of 5 days, turning a lot of the singletrack (and there is a LOT of singletrack) into a proverbial MTB highway.
In stark contrast to the longevity of Sani2C, this year’s event would be the first race Yolandi du Toit and I would race together as Team Garmin. Yolandi is synonymous with Garmin having represented them for the last 2 and a half years, but for me it was a first.
This initiative was instigated when Walter Mech, CEO of Garmin SA had the vision of a mixed team representing Garmin as a brand. From his idea came the reality that we would team up as Team Garmin for select events. Outside of these chosen events I will continue to represent Squirtlube, albeit as a Garmin Brand Ambassador using and promoting their products.
Although we had raced the 2015 Trans Alp and Southern Tropical Challenge together, Sani2C would be our first excursion representing Garmin as a team and we both really wanted to start off the partnership with a bang.
Despite 1295m of climbing stage 1 of Sani2C is 82km of high speed action from Glencairn Farm just outside of Himeville to MacKenzie Club in Ixopo. We had a great start going into the dual tracks through ‘Oak Maze’ just behind the well established mixed team of Johan Labuschagne and Catherine Williamson (Team BestMed/Bicycle Company). They got a small gap on us just prior to the following singletrack section, but we kept them in sight for most of the day eventually finishing 2nd on the stage. What impressed me most on the stage was Yolandi’s World Cup-like racer skill as she attacked the slippery singletracks with enough verve to even scare me a few times!
Day 2 of Sani2C is the Big Daddy or so-called ‘Queen stage’, squeezing almost 1600m of climbing into the second half of a 99km stage following the infamous drop into the Umkomaas Valley. Our best laid plans were dashed when a small puncture at the very top of the Umkomaas saw us losing not so much time, but plenty of position as a horde of teams passed us while we repaired the errant fissure. From then on it was a chase to make up time as we had to pass team after team, often finding ourselves frustrated by the scant passing opportunities available. We paid for our efforts towards the end of the stage when the wheels started to come off a little bit, but we lived to fight another day.
Day 3 was our last shot at a stage win and that was our goal when we set of to cover the 82km from Jolivet Farm to Scottburgh. We just lost position going into the first singletrack, sitting close behind Johan and Cath when Yolandi’s rear wheel got caught in an erosion ditch, violently throwing her sideways but somehow she stayed upright (did I mention Yolandi’s skills?!?). We steadied the ship, composed ourselves and started our chase back to the leaders for a third day in a row. We emptied ourselves to maintain our 2nd position overall, finishing within eyesight of the 2nd team on the day.
Johan and Cath were deserving winners of the 2016 Sani2C, especially so after their 2nd place at Joberg2C just weeks before due to a puncture which cost them their lead on the penultimate stage. Natal locals Andrew Warr and Hailey Smith (Kargo Pro MTB Team) got stronger as the days progressed and finished in 3rd place.
- Team BestMed/Bicycle Co (Johan Labuschagne & Catherine Williamson)
- Team Garmin (Yolandi du Toit & Melt Swanepoel)
- Kargo Pro MTB Team (Andrew Warr & Hailey Smith)
We were satisfied that we had done all we could and gave our best but were beaten by a stronger and more experienced team at the race. We have learned a lot and hopefully that knowledge will stand us in good stead as we face up to our next race as Team Garmin at the One Zambia event in 2.5 week’s time.
Until then we will #Beat Yesterday!
Yolandi and Melt