At 14 years old Sani2C is one of the grand old ladies on the mountain bike stage racing scene. The race derives its name from the route starting at Glencairn close to the foot of Sani Pass, flowing South East to finish at Scottburgh on the Indian Ocean.
The route hasn’t changed much since inception, BUT it has been refined, sculpted and polished to deliver one of the most rewarding experiences one can have on a mountain bike. As such it has become a must-do event and a fine feather in your cap should you manage to take victory.
Having been around for a while and with a lot of other stage races popping up, the ch
allenge for Sani2C is how to stay relevant, but luckily they have a dynamic and passionate management team to lead the charge. Glen Haw, affectionately known as Farmer Glen, and his team/family have managed to successfully combine the goals of the race with supporting the local communities and that has given sponsors plenty of return on investment while contributing to a world class event.
Being avid mountain bikers themselves, the Sani2C team also have an eye for detail when it comes to enhancing one’s experience at the event. Comfortable mattresses, clothes dry racks and plentiful ablutions might not sound all that luxurious, but after a hard day of racing these practical comforts become more important than a DSTV subscription!
We kicked off proceedings in thick mist as we rolled away from Glencairn en route to McKenzie Club. Yolandi and I managed to distance the other mixed teams early in the stage but as the mist gave way to glorious sunshine Joanna van der Winkel and Marc Rodrigues caught back up to us. Joanna is a former Olympian road cyclist and Marc a former professional runner so we knew we had a race on our hands. We attacked on a steep climb with 15km remaining, opening up a decent gap by the time we rolled over the finish line to take our first stage win. The time gained on stage one would also prove significant by the time we reached Scottburgh.
Stage 2 at Sani2C is the Queen stage, characterized by the infamous ‘Umko drop’ and daunting ‘Iconic climb’ which takes riders into and out of the mighty Umkomaas River valley. The precipitous plunge down the Umkomaas Valley was where we made our move, forcing open a gap to our pursuers. They slowly made their way back to us on the long drag out of the valley and the ridiculously steep Iconic climb, further aided by a big group on the interminable district road just before the 2nd waterpoint. With less than 20km to go they were within 10seconds of us, but we forced the issue in the finale and took a second stage win to bolster our lead with another 40seconds.
Stage 3 is normally a fast affair from Jolivet Farm down to Scottburgh and this year was no different. Being strong climbers Joanna and Marc threw everything they had at us up the first few steep inclines but we matched them every time. After the opening skirmishes they started sitting on and it became clear they were readjusting their sights and going for a stage win. That was fine with us and we continued setting the pace for the next 50km to the finish. In the final sprint they just managed to pip us to the line but we were satisfied to take overall honours and the strong competition borne out by our 19th place overall made the victory even sweeter.
The fact that Sani2C gave equal exposure to all the racing categories was very motivating. Looking at the steady increase in Mixed Teams at events this is surely a trend set to continue as more ladies enter the sport and couples view events as a weekend away.
Long may Sani2C prosper and continue to play a pivotal role in setting the standard for mountain bike stage races the world over.