Monthly Archives: May 2017

#TeamGarminMTB reports on their first event in the #AfricanMTBSeries, @NamibQuest

Last week we finally embarked on our African MTB Series where we will be taking part in 5 mountain bike stage races across Sub-Saharan Africa, but outside of our South African borders. After a busy few months on home soil we were excited to finally get the ball rolling on our ‘international’ campaign.

The Namib Quest is a 6 day mountain bike stage race which starts in the Namibian capital, Windhoek, and finishes 480km later at the coastal town of Swakopmund.  It would serve as the first step of our journey and what a step it was!

Our largely westward route meant we would be traversing the semi desert Komas Hochland by loosely following the C28 dirt road but frequently diverting on to adjacent farms for some proper mountain biking.  Eventually we dropped down through the transitional plateau and into the Namib Desert, crossing the Namib Naukluft Park and finally popping out on to the Atlantic coast at Swakopmund.

The route itself offered a fascinating balance of  loose rocky sections and sandy stretches, which got quite technical when the terrain was uneven, connected by open district roads.

This unique course combined with the unfamiliar terrain proved to be extremely challenging but very rewarding once conquered. Although we started at  1700m above sea level and finished at the coast, there was the small matter of conquering  5,296 meters of ascent along the way with most of that climbing (and descending) to be done on some of Namibia’s harshest terrain.

Obviously nothing new to Namibians, but camping was also taken to a whole new level for us South Africans. The camping equipment was proper gear and campsites were erected in beautiful, remote places where phone signal was as scarce as water! This meant the day post stage was spent in the company of nature, fellow riders and race staff rather than staring at our mobile devices. It was refreshing to spend time watching the sun set while sharing war stories about the day’s stage. The race atmosphere is peaceful and to keep it this way the race organisers limit the event to 75 entrants which meant we all knew each other by the time we rolled into Swakopmund.

The only part of the day which had some intensity was the racing as we all battled away to reach the best possible result. We had a fantastic run with no mechanical or other issues allowing us to concentrate on the job at hand.We managed to win 4 stages, the mixed category as well as the overall title ahead of Irene Steyn and Xavier Papo (Mannie’s Bike Mecca) in 2nd and ON Travel Services’ Pedro Campos and Jorge Padrones in 3rd. For us the most striking thing amongst competitors was the camaraderie with Irene often sharing her local knowledge and experience with us despite us being the closest of competitors. It was refreshing and indicative of the ethos of the event.

Although it is billed as a ‘Boutique event’ and riders’ needs are all catered for, the Namib Quest is a challenge not to be underestimated. You still have to pedal your own bike and look after it to make sure it survives all that the desert can through at it, but few journeys will be as rewarding as conquering this quest!

#TeamGarminMTB embarks on the African MTB Series. @GarminSA

The African MTB series is a collection of 5 mountain bike races in Sub Saharan Africa chosen to highlight mountain biking in Africa and the involvement of Garmin in these events and countries.

In a twist of fate the African Series will commence with a trilogy of events starting in Namibia, heading to Zambia and concluding (temporarily) in Botswana. Come September the African Series will resume in Kenya before the grand finale in Mauritius.

This coming weekend Team Garmin will be heading to Namibia for the Namib Quest stage race which starts on the 21st of May in Windhoek and finishes in Swakopmund on the 26th of May. More importantly, this event marks the inaugural stage race in our Africa Series Campaign and we are excited to finally embark on this novel adventure.

From the arid Namib Quest we will head straight to fertile Zambia to participate at the 1-Zambia MTB Challenge. This event starts In Lusaka on the 2nd of June and finishes at the lower Zambezi on the 4th of June. It promises 3 days and 230km of pure African adventure!

From Zambia our journey continues south to Botswana where the Kalahari Challenge awaits us from 9-11 June. The event follows a circular route starting and finishing at the Lion Park just outside of Gabarone with plenty of singletrack through the bushveld and Kalahari Mountains on offer.

The next three weeks is sure to be an unforgettable experience for a myriad of reasons and we will make sure to share more details of the events and our experiences through our various media platforms.  So keep an eye out for Team Garmin as we’ll be out to #BeatYesterday!

 

#TeamGarminMTB reports on the inaugural @CradleTraverse. @GarminSA

It’s not often that we get the opportunity to be part of a race or event for the fun of it without having to worry about our performance. With that in mind we jumped at the opportunity when race organizers Dryland invited us to partake at the inaugural Cradle Traverse. The invitation came on condition that we just ride and enjoy the event in line with its raison d’être.

Along with its sister event the Stormsriver Traverse, the Cradle Traverse is focussed on a family orientated, fun filled weekend based around some mountain biking. Like most stage races there were various accommodation options for the 3 day event ranging from tents, to luxury tents and hotel rooms at Avianto – the race venue elect.

Along with the comfortable lodgings, the food and entertainment on offer over the 3 days were top class often to blame for some of the toughest decisions to be made – do I eat more of the delicious main course or save more space for the delectable dessert..?

There was also a ‘kiddie’s service’ on offer whereby kids could play under adult supervision while the adults were out on their bikes playing like kids!

On that note the trails laid out by the Dryland crew and Richard Beswick were surprisingly fun considering the geo-restrictions of designing a race course in a highly populated area. Each of the 3 stages were unique with enough singletrack to keep you engaged, sufficient distance and climbing to challenge you and plenty of variation to keep you smiling while testing your skill.

Team Garmin made the most of every opportunity to ride easy, mix with the pack and soak up the relaxed atmosphere while getting in some trail time with fellow mountain bikers. (In fact, it was so much fun that we had to remind ourselves to get back into training by the time the weekend was done!)?

Some teams raced hard, but the majority of participants were there to have a good time and share trail with likeminded people while taking in trails and views which aren’t always accessible. Suffice to say that everyone involved got what they wanted from the weekend which made it a huge success surely to become a permanent fixture on the MTB calendar.

We are proud to have been part of the inaugural Cradle Traverse and look forward to more of these fun events!

#TeamGarminMTB reports on @joBerg2c_ @GarminSA

The Old Mutual Joberg2C – Ride the Beloved Country

It’s all in the name – this event takes participants from Heidelberg (just South of Johannesburg) on the Highveld, through the Free State, down into Natal and finishes on the beach at Scottburgh with Indian Ocean waves crashing in the background. The race slogan is as significant as the name with this event definitely focused on the experience along the way. Don’t get us wrong – there is a very definite racing element, but it is confined to the hours spent on the bike with everything else focussed on this unique journey.

In keeping with their theme, Joberg2C has always made the first stage a neutral day with everyone getting the same time affording all the opportunity to appreciate the scenery while getting to know one another en route. This year the final stage was also neutral and aptly named a champagne stage where riders could soak up the final day atmosphere after a concluding prize giving the night before which was longer for some than for others regardless of results…

Stages 2 to 8 were the ‘racing stages’ where we battled for stage and overall honours. Barring the Elite Men’s field, the Mixed Category was by far the strongest category assembled. This is fantastic as it grows a significant facet of the sport by allowing ladies a less intimidating entry point into mountain bike racing.

Being a GPS navigated event, Joberg2C is a perfect opportunity to showcase our fantastic Garmin equipment with the Garmin EDGE 1000 literally taking centre stage. With its big screen and GPS accuracy we bombed along on the stages safe in the knowledge that a simple glance at our handlebars was all that was needed to keep us on track.

Even with a neutral stage to start and finish with, nine days and 900km on a mountain bike takes its toll. We were really lucky with the weather which made our journey easier, but this is how Joberg2C 2017 unfolded:

Stage 1 Heidelberg (Karan Beef) to Frankfort School (116km, 862m ascent)

Despite being neutral this was a long day in the saddle with the boat crossing of the Vaal Dam being a particularly fun innovation along the way. Good thing we weren’t racing as someone might have been drowned in a stampede 😉

Stage 2 Frankfort School to Reitz Show Grounds (93km, 1001m ascent)

Quoting the Joberg2C website: “This is where racing begins for some and the journey continues for most”. This stage went deep into rural Free State via sections of singletrack divided by stretches of district road and finished with the fun Boerbull Descent leading to the Husky Romi Wolf Sanctuary where you didn’t want to get left behind…

Stage 3 Reitz Show Grounds to Sterkfontein Dam (122km, 1188m ascent)

This was another long stage where the Jabulani singletrack came at just the right time to break the monotony of district road riding. The stage finish up and over Mount Paul was as hard as it was spectacular with views of Sterkfontein Dam and the Drakensberg Mountains signalling the stage finish.

Stage 4 Sterkfontein Dam to Emseni Camp (93km, 1100m)

This was the day we left the mielie (maize) fields behind and descended off the escarpment into Natal Bushveld, home of the Berg&Bush event. The iconic Great Wall my China, Solly’s Great Traverse and Bezuidenhout’s Pass set the tone for the day with the ‘Long Drop’ trail putting the cherry on top as we descended to the Emseni with a smile.

Stage 5 Emseni Camp to Clifton Nottingham Road (123km, 1900m ascent)

This was a leg breaker with huge distance and lots of climbing to be conquered after the halfway stage of the event. With 3 distinct characteristics we raced from the Natal Bushveld, skirted the Maloti Mountains and finally on to the dairy farmlands and Clifton School for some hard earned rest.

Stage 6 Clifton Nottingham Road to Glencairn Farm at Sani Pass Road (98km, 1821m ascent)

After a welcome start on tar roads we were straight at it up Gumtree climb which sorted the men from the boys. A surprisingly hard day made harder by the Slow Poison climb, but made bearable by spectacular scenery and the descents down Harrison’s pass and Rock and Roll midway through the stage as well as SO Sappi and Never Ender close to the finish.

Stage 7 Glencairn Farm to MacKenzie Club (82km, 1000m ascent)

This stage is famous as it’s also the first day of the Sani2C event – one of the longest standing stage races in South Africa. A fast flowing day punctuated by well established singletrack , floating bridges and purpose built rest camps.

Stage 8 MacKenzie Club to Jolivet Farm (96km, 1521m ascent)

This was the final racing stage and what a tough way to end the race albeit not the journey. The spectacular descent into the Umkomaas was as good as it gets and we made the most of it before riding next to the mighty Umkomaas river and finally up the new ‘Iconic climb’ to get back to the high country where the finish awaited.

After 7 days of racing there was no doubt about the results. The mixed teams were ridiculously consistent finishing in their respective positions daily, making the final overall result a direct reflection of the daily results. Darren and Candice Lill (Dormakaba) retained their title from last year with Grant Usher and Amy Macdougall finishing in 2nd. Johann Labuschagne and Catherine Williamson edged us out for 3rd, but to put matters in perspective all the mixed teams finished in the top 17 overall and top 13 overall results if you exclude solo riders. In a field of almost 400 teams that takes some doing!

Stage 9 Jolivet to Scottburgh The Old Mutual Wealth “Champagne Stage” (84km, 854m ascent)

Another neutral stage and an opportunity to spin out the legs, meet those we hadn’t met yet and enjoy the scenery while riding with other mountain bikers. This initiative was a hit with most riders and sure to become a favourite way to conclude this fantastic journey.

Although we only really got to enjoy them on the first and last stages, the waterpoints along the way were fantastic. They seemed to be opportunities for the locals to spoil the Joberg2C riders, each of them trying to outdo the others with us being the beneficiaries. On that note it was fantastic to see how land owners embraced the event, allowing us access to remote areas often by trails specifically built and maintained for this event. It is a credit to organizers and their vision that the local communities got so involved making the experience truly unique.

Craig Wapnick, Gary Green and Glen Haw’s vision with this event was to provide a journey where the destination is less important than the experience along the way and boy did they succeed! It was a true privilege to be part of this journey made exceptional by the passion of all those involved in bringing it to us and Team Garmin MTB is already making plans to be back next year. After all, it’s good to be reminded why we started to ride our mountain bikes in the first place!