Author Archives: yolliedutoit@yahoo.com

#TeamGarminMTB’s race report of @bergandbush – Slaying single track & drinking chocolate milk.

Late September to mid November is one of our favourite times of the year as three fantastic events straddle this part of a busy end-of-season race calendar. All these races are characterised by the commitment and passion shown by their organizers, creating events that are mightier than the sum of their parts.

First off is the Mankele 3 Towers event, followed by the Berg & Bush and finally the Cape Pioneer Trek. This year we unfortunately missed out on 3 Towers owing to The Rift Valley Odyssey – I suppose you can’t have your cake (or in this case chicken) and eat it! Due to logistics and an extensive race season, we regrettably also won’t be attending the 2017 Cape Pioneer Trek, which meant we wanted to make the most of our opportunity to race Berg & Bush.

Gary Green, better known as ‘Farmer Gary’, and his team make annual improvements to an already successful event, refining the race to deliver a very unique experience. Over 3 days riders drop off the Drakensberg Escarpment down into the Natal Bushveld on trails that seem to get better with the passing of every edition. Is it possible that Farmer Gary trains his cattle to march out a perfectly sculpted singletrack…?

In between stages rider’s camp on the banks of the mighty Tugela River, dining on food fit for a king and an endless supply of chocolate milk…to enhance recovery of course. Walk around the host village at Em’seni Camp and all you will hear is chatter about the day’s singletrack and the trails that still lie in wait.

Team Garmin MTB split up for the Berg&Bush with Yolandi teaming up with Theresa Ralph w

hile I raced with another du Toit – Arno du Toit, from the LCB Racing team. Pitting ourselves against our contemporaries at stage races is a great way of measuring ourselves and staying motivated while not falling into the trap of complacency.

From the heat and dust of last year it was cool and wet as we set off from Windmill Farm atop the Drakensberg on Friday morning. In fact it was so wet that the first 31km was neutralized as we dropped down the escarpment on Sollie’s Folly. For once we could enjoy the views granted from this signature singletrack as the mist slowly gave way. Once at the bottom it was a short stop before we were set off in batches and racing started in earnest.

The men stayed together in a large group until the big climb about 20km from the finish where all hell broke loose. Arno and I had just chased back from an earlier puncture so we were one of the first casualties as Team PYGA Eurosteel and Team NAD battled for supremacy. Team NAD won the day after PYGA Eurosteel rode into each other causing a crash and a broken wheel. Luckily their back up team wasn’t too far away and could help them save the day with a borrowed wheel. Arno and I could also do with a spare wheel as we punctured again, finally rolling in for 7th place on the day.

Yolandi and Theresa had taken the neutral start quite literally thinking that everyone would be set off together from waterpoint 1, so they were surprised to get there and find the first bunch containing 3 ladies teams had already left. They started in the second bunch and time trialled their way through the remaining 69km’s battling the muddy course and a puncture to finish 4th on the day.

Day 2 was only 60km but most of it was on singletrack making the fight for position vital and consequently the start a veritable free for all. The strongest teams soon separated themselves from the rest and a second acceleration saw Teams NAD and PYGA Eurosteel go off the front. About halfway we passed a stricken Team NAD as they struggled to fix a puncture. They would make a comeback after some assistance from their back up team, but Team PYGA and the overall win had slipped from their grasp.

Arno and I had a fantastic day until about 3 km to go when I suffered a hunger flat while we were fighting for 3rd place on the day. We finished 4th a few seconds off the day’s podium wondering what might have been.

Yolandi and Theresa raced to their strengths going out steady and picking up speed as the day progressed. They finished 4th again, but much closer to the podium than the day before.

Day 3 was a short and sharp 48km stage with the famous Spioenkop climb thrown in towards the end. The rolling roads at the start made for a steady start to the day and once we turned into singletrack it was Team PYGA Eurosteel leading the way and setting the pace. This left about 5 teams in contention when we hit Spioenkop from where it was an all out effort to the finish. The climb took its toll but the downhill off it was so exhilarating all pain was soon forgotten. Arno and I finished 5th on the day placing 4th overall at the 12th edition of Berg&Bush.

Yolandi and Theresa rode their hearts out catching up to 3rd place but lost a bit of ground in the second half of the stage taking 4th again and 4th overall after 3 days of fantastic racing in the ladies category.

Then it was time for a final bike wash, bush shower and a scrumptious meal before we said our goodbyes to Gary and his team leaving the Berg&Bush behind knowing we will have to wait another year before the playground is open again!

Ever wondered what it’s like to MTB in Kenya? Find out here as #TeamGarminMTB recounts our adventure at the @RideRVO. @GarminSA

The Rift Valley Odyssey – what a cool name for a race, wouldn’t you agree? It implies adventure, excitement and a deep sense of fulfilment for completing a journey most people won’t even attempt! Indeed this year’s edition of the RVO had several of these features but cast in the South African mindset of ‘racing’ mountain bikes it wasn’t easy to define what exactly the RVO was, where it fit in and who it was for.

Most cycling events are referred to as races being timed events where the personwho covers the distance between the start and finish line the quickest is declared the winner. This in turn means success is defined in terms of time, often just fractions of a second separating winner’s from the rest. The Ride RVO, as it is known, is something completely different. There is no timing of participants which means riders must ‘find success’ in other ways.

With an optional prologue and 5 long stages the Ride RVO poses a substantial physical challenge for mountain bikers with most riders spending between 4.5 and 7 hours on the bike each day, covering distances between 80 and 100km per stage. The terrain is extremely varied, ever changing from the Alpine forests and tea plantations of the Kenyan Highlands (some as high as 2700m above sea level) to tropical jungles and semi desert plains where the Maasai cattle and wildlife peacefully graze next to each other as if in one great herd.

Merely completing this challenge meant success for some while spotting wildlife and other distinctly Kenyan attractions rated highly on other participants’ agenda.

For Team Garmin MTB it was the 4th and penultimate leg of our #AfricanMTBSeries. As there was no timing our aim was to immerse ourselves in the event and embrace every opportunity as it arose to make the best of our time in Kenya.

In terms of Mountain Biking, the course created from Nairobi to the border of the Maasai Mara was spectacular to say the least. Along the way we stopped at famous Kenyan landmarks such as Lake Naivasha, the dormant volcano of Mount Suswa, the Ewaso Nyiro River, the South African/Maasai camp Olkoroi and finally Cottars Camp on the banks of the Sand River right across the Maasai Mara itself.

Along the way the scenery was stunning with some uniquely African vistas from remote vantage points only accessible by foot or bike. As we sped past the local Maasai people cheered or scattered depending on the particular individual’s mix of total bewilderment, awe and grasp of the situation.

Of course this is Africa and things don’t always go to plan as we found out on days 3 and 4 when our finish of stage 3 and the start of stage 4 were delayed by ‘African toll gates’, spontaneously erected by the local tribesman demanding money for each bike, car and truck to pass despite these negotiations having been concluded weeks earlier.

Support vehicles also often got held up due to the bad roads leaving most riders stranded in their cycling clothes after stages while waiting for the luggage to arrive. Although somewhat uncomfortable, we all tried to make the best of these situations often doing things we normally wouldn’t as racing requires such dedicated focus and commitment. It’s quite amazing how much a mere dip in the river can lift ones sprits after a long day in the saddle.

A particular highlight of each day was the catering, especially considering how remote our camps were. The 2 catering teams used for the event went out of their way to accommodate everyone – even managing to please Marco and Bebo – our Italian vegan/vegetarian duo who completed the event on e-bikes complete with handlebar baskets full of nuts, leaves and other plant based nutrition!

Back to the riding and a lot of the trails used were on the best cattle paths available, also selected by boda boda (motorbike taxis) for their ‘flow’ and then unwittingly sculpted by these overloaded motorbikes going at just the right speed to give the trail a feel of flow often only reserved for hand built, MTB specific singletrack.

Taking into account the obvious challenges of hosting a MTB stage race in remote parts of Africa, the event ran off reasonably smooth but judging by the lofty standards set by South African events where the competition is so fierce, the event needs some refinement to justify its hefty price tag. That said the race has a lot of potential and if managed correctly it can become a must do ride on the African continent and beyond.

Back to the opening question of what exactly the RVO was and for who it catered, well that doesn’t really matter as long as you love riding your bike, enjoy adventure and can go with the flow – this ride is for you!

Read all about #TeamGarminMTB’s experience at the the Bestmed @jockcycle Tour.

The Bestmed Jock Tour, presented by Rudy Project is arguably one of the toughest road races in South Africa. Staged in and around Nelspruit, Mpumalanga, the tour makes use of the toughest roads in the area to create a 320km course with more than 6000meters of ascent over 3 days. The stages are divided into a 27km Individual Time Trial on Friday afternoon, a 154km stage on Saturday and finally a 138km stage on Sunday.

The Mbombela stadium on the outskirts of Nelspruit hosted the event giving race registration the feel that something big was about to happen. ASG Events made good use of the opportunity with an expo showcasing some of the ASG brands such as Tour sponsor Rudy Project, High 5 supplements and Pinarello bicycles.

After race registration it was a long wait until we started the afternoon time trial from Nelspruit straight up a mountain finishing at the quaint little town of Kaapse Hoop. The ladies were first to go and Yolandi flew up the mountain winning the time trial by almost 2 minutes and taking the leaders jersey in the process. I couldn’t quite follow up that performance, but finished in 9th place about 3.5 minutes behind stage winner Brendon Davids. The next race was to get home and recover before the 4am wake up call for the next day’s marathon stage.

Stage 2 took us from the Mbombela stadium to White River, on to Sabie over the well known Long Tom pass and back to the stadium. In the men’s race a breakaway group was established soon after the start with the Team ProTouch riders driving the move while Team Road Cover kept them in check along with Kent Main from the Dimension Data Continental squad. As Kent was wearing the yellow jersey he was forced to do most of the chasing and despite a little help he was isolated on Long Tom pass where Brendon Davids attacked. It was a chase all the way back to Nelspruit with Jade Julius just hanging on for the stage win from the original breakaway and Brendon Davids a few seconds behind. I rolled in with the 5-man yellow jersey chase group, happy to have the day done with.

The ladies race was a test of patience with the small field quite intimidated by the long distance and ascent making everyone afraid to put their nose in the wind. This meant that they only reached the 50km mark after more than 2 hours of racing. Although it was against her better judgement, Yolandi couldn’t linger any longer and started to pace in an effort to get home. Of course this left her vulnerable to inevitable attacks but Yolandi countered, finally getting away with Carla Oberholzer. Carla refused to work with Yolandi as they left the field behind, eventually attacking her on the Spitskop climb. From there it was an individual Time Trial of sorts with Carla taking the stage ahead of Yolandi.

Stage 3 was from Mobombela stadium out on the N4 highway, over the ‘Boulders’ climb towards Kaap Muiden, on to Barberton and back to Nelspruit. The men’s’ race was very controlled with Team RoadCover setting the tempo all the way to the top of Boulders and shedding the peloton of some ‘deadwood’ along the way. At the bottom of the tricky descent there were a few attacks with Team ProTouch being very aggressive. Team RoadCover brought calm back to proceedings leading the bunch through Barberton and back to Nelspruit. There were a few tough moments in the crosswinds where we earned our keep in the wheels, but we reached the final climb up Hilltop still together in a group. From here on in it was every man for himself as the bunch (or what was left of it) split into pieces on the lower slopes. James Fourie won the stage just ahead of Kent Main and Brendon Davids giving the breakaway group two wins out of two, but Davids walked away with overall tour honours. I started the climb slow but accelerated throughout, cresting the hill with Gregory de Vink which was a blessing as his big frame and strong legs made short work of the mostly downhill run into Nelpruit while I helped where I could but tried not to get in the way too much. Together we finished in 7th and 8th on the day for an overall 6th place for me in the tour – a result so unexpected I appeared on the podium in non UCI regulation shorts and Team Garmin T-shirt!

The ladies race was again a slow going affair with 3 girls riding off the front on the approach to Boulders and the bunch ambling along behind them. Over Boulders Yolandi set the tempo with only Cherise Willeit able to follow and they made contact with the 2 leaders at the bottom of the Boulders descent as they turned on to the Barberton road. Team tactics came into play again with no one willing to ride with Yolandi and Cherise, allowing the group to swell again. The reduced ladies peloton haphazardly made their way to Hilltop where Cherise attacked drawing Yolandi and Carla away with her. The 3 of them took it all the way to the line with Carla winning the sprint ahead of Yolandi and Cherise mirroring their overall tour placements.

A standout feature from the Jock Tour is the competitive nature of all the categories. As the race is so tough by nature most people that turn up for the event are pretty serious about their racing and each category win was vigorously contested. Of course this doesn’t mean there is no place for fun and quite a few riders completed the event purely to conquer the challenge that was set.

From an organizational point of view compliments should go to the commissaries (judges/referees) and Road Rangers who go out of their way to make the roads safe for us. These people drive their motorbikes and rental cars into the face of mostly indifferent, oncoming traffic for scant reward other than an occasional gratitude from riders. If it wasn’t for them and the other ground staff who tirelessly work behind the scenes an event of this nature and magnitude would not be possible.

The saying goes that you only grow outside of your comfort zone and although road racing isn’t necessarily our forte, it was good fun to race our road bikes in this beautiful part of South Africa. The data gathered by our Garmin Vector pedals proved that we had indeed been beyond the borders of our comfort zone and hopefully that will stand us in good stead as we head into the final part of the season.

#TeamGarminMTB reports on the Ride Crater Cruise.

The Ride Crater Cruise has been an institution on the SA MTB calendar since its inception in 2004 when it was designed and billed as the ultimate challenge between MTB and road cyclists. The race slowly evolved to be more of a mountain bike race, but always maintained its characteristic corrugated road sections, flat-ish profile and less technical nature.

Last year the race did not take place due to land access issues, but this year it was back on the calendar with a new route and venue. The Koedoeslaagte Trail Park and Venue situated on the banks of the Vaal River was the start and finish venue this year with the course going out the same way as always but starting about 25km into the old route omitting the neutral zone through town, the opening hot-spot sprint (on tar) and the fight for position leading into the first corrugated section.

Although these established features were missed there were a few new sections which added fresh flavour to the race route. Chief amongst these was the new singletrack section shortly after the start, the extra loop through the Grootkoppe Nature Reserve and the traverse of the Thabela Thabeng Kloof. Although the new route is a breath of fresh air, it still needs some refining and if the organisers stick with it there is a lot of potential for future editions to reclaim the stature that the race used to enjoy.

Self seeding at the start saw riders lining up in 3 batches according to their fitness level and/or ambition for the race. This meant ladies and men started together but as always a fast start sorted things out pretty quickly.

In the men’s race Arno du Toit was the early aggressor attacking from the start with the Day brothers using their road racing acumen and tactics to keep everything in check behind. Melt attacked on the Espach climb combining with Arno on the open roads that followed. The second half of the race was a tough affair being mainly uphill on jeep track and cattle paths. This is where Melt made a break from Arno maintaining his lead to win the Crater Cruise for a third time.

 

I followed the pace as best I could from the start often riding alone or in small groups but always maintaining a steady pace knowing how tough this event is. Starting with the men made the race a lot more aggressive and equalled the

playing field as it added to the depth of the field in comparison to a ladies-only bunch. Everyone was a rival and the route was the real challenge with nowhere to hide. Despite strong challenges from Cherise Willeit and Sylvia van Tromp I managed to take a 4th victory in this race which has such a special place in my heart.

One of the biggest challenges on the day was the heat, exacerbated by the longer than advertised race distance (10km longer!) which made the waterpoints further apart than expected. The fact that the final 7km was on fun singletrack next to the mighty Vaal River was lost on most, as it was so close to the finish that the commentators voice could often be heard in an agonising case of so close, yet so far…

In the end The Ride Crater Cruise was the usual slug fest which suits our style of racing and we were happy to come out on top for Team Garmin!

 

#TeamGarminMTB reports on the @NatMTBseries #NatMTB6.

The penultimate round of the Ashburton National MTB Series took riders to Dullstroom, situated on the edge of an escarpment 2000m above sea level. The altitude was a big factor affecting performance but being one of the coldest towns in South Africa, the weather would also have its say.

The venue at Dunkeld Estate was covered in fog as riders lined up for day 1 of the 2 day event. As always the new, shorter format made for aggressive racing from the start as riders jostled for position in the yet to be established pecking order.

As the fog lifted a howling wind came up that made the going difficult on the district roads and jeep track which characterized the 71km route of day 1. Candice Lill (Team Dormakaba) was on a storming ride winning day 1 alone despite suffering a flat. Behind her the ladies bunch had disintegrated and they were all chasing solo with only some ego-driven males stuck to their rear wheels. Sam Sanders (Valencia) finished 2nd on the day with Yolandi in 3rd and still in the hunt for overall honours on the weekend.

In the men’s race the Pyga/Eurosteel boys were duelling with Team NAD leaving the rest of us trailing in their wake. Only Gert Heyns (Ascendis Health) could keep up and he made it count escaping in the final singletrack to win ahead of Nico Bell and Philip Buys.

I was in a 4-man group battling for 5th spot when my pedal came apart at the top of a lo

ng technical descent. Luckily for me the one and only tech zone was at the bottom of said descent, but unlucky for me none of the mechanics had a compatible spare pedal. Despite some help from Team NAD’s Nadia Bell, I reluctantly decided to call it a day and loaded my bike in their team bus. As we waited to cheer for Yolandi who would pass by shortly, Bradley Potgieter from Team Road Cover pulled into the tech zone with a flat tire. His race was done, but his pedals were intact…

Queue a quick pedal swap and I was back in the game doing my best to salvage some sort of result. I snuck in 20th, but just finishing was a moral victory!

Day 2 dawned clear but ice cold as a layer of frost covered anything and everything unlucky enough to be situated in the shade. Although shivering at the start we were up to race speed in no time, warming up quickly as we tackled day two’s 51km course. The route was much faster and much more fun than day 1 with plenty of singletrack and well ridden trails making for easy going with only the relentless pace responsible for the perpetual discomfort!

In the ladies race Samantha and Candice stuck together all day with Sam winning the stage in a sprint, but Candice taking overall honours for the weekend by crossing

 

the line only seconds behind Sam. Yolandi only just didn’t have the legs to go with them at the start, but she continued her consistent showing by finishing 3rd again despite riding alone for most of the day and claiming 3rd overall for the weekend.

The men’s race was once again dominated by Team’s NAD and PYG

A/Eurosteel with Matthys Beukes coming back from a puncture on day 1 to win ahead of Philip Buys and Nico Bell. This changed the overall standings for the weekend with Philip Buys taking overall honours ahead of Nico Bell and Gert Heyns in 3rd.

I managed to keep my bike in one piece and with a loan pedal from Andrew Grobler I battled with Tim Hammond, Dylan Rebello and Wessel Botha for 6th place out on trail. I just lost contact with this group at a water crossing/road underpass – a mistake which cost me dearly as I was left to chase about 1 min behind them for the second half of the race. I never caught them and finished in 9th place on the day, but only a minute off the pace giving me some measure of redemption for day 1 with a 12th place overall for the weekend.

Next up for us the Crater Cruise and we look forward to racing on the Free State flatlands!

Here is some reading for the weekend. #TeamGarminMTB recalls their adventure at the recent @EcoBoundMTB #Transbaviaans2017:

The Trans Baviaans derives its name from the route it traces through the Baviaanskloof as it links Willowmore and Jeffrey’s Bay via 230km of stunningly beautiful, but challenging roads.

This is not your typical mountain bike race, but rather an endurance event testing man and machine, teamwork and determination. Starting at 10am on Saturday morning riders had 24 hours to complete the route in 2, 3 or 4-man teams.

My dad did the event last year and enjoyed it so much that he just had to do it again in 2017. We don’t get the opportunity to ride together that often, but this was the perfect chance to team up and relive days gone by. Splitting Team Garmin MTB for a change Melt teamed up with another Free State resident as he joined our friend Raymond Odendaal for the adventure.

The freezing weather that swept over the country in the lead up to the event was on everyone’s lips and people were preparing for a cold race, but as it turned out conditions were optimal on race day. Despite snow covering the surrounding mountaintops, it was sunny and cool with only a slight headwind to contend with come Saturday morning.

The opening 100km to checkpoint 1 is mainly on open, district roads where everyone tries to save as much energy as possible while staying close to the front of events. This year it went by in a blur, not so much because of the speed but rather due to the heavily corrugated roads which made everyone shake until their eyeballs touched the insides of their dust covered glasses!

Getting only slightly carried away with ‘race fever’, my dad and I stayed in a strong group making life as easy as possible for ourselves. Melt and Raymond was with the front bunch when Raymond had to slow down while feeling ill. Raymond had been sick in the lead up to the event and by the time we passed them he was standing still, paralyzed with cramp. Not a good sign when there is still about 170km left to go.

Just before checkpoint 2 things got more interesting as we entered the Baviaanskloof Reserve itself rolling on to smaller roads littered with river crossings. My dad started paying the price for a fast start (and about a hundred cappuccinos the day before!), so we slowed down in an attempt to aid recovery. By checkpoint 2 Raymond and Melt had caught back up to us (which was a relief) and we left the waterpoint together encouraging each other as we slowly picked up the pace.

Melt and Raymond forged ahead gaining some momentum over the Baviaans Back climb into checkpoint 3 while my dad and I kept it steady to consolidate our good start.

Next up was the aptly named ‘Fangs’ climbs which served as a warm-up for the MAC (Mother Of All) climb. This beast reared its ugly head just after the halfway mark leading up to the infamous checkpoint 4 at Bergplaas. All of us made the most of the hot soup at this waterpoint as dusk slowly brought on the cold of night.

The descent that followed off Bergplaas was a nice break in proceedings giving some momentum for the 50 km stretch that followed to checkpoint 5 at Komdomo. The big pack house, generous crowd and chip buns on offer were just what the doctor ordered before we faced the final challenge.

Neverender is a 26km drag, relentlessly ramping up just as the race distance started gnawing at our legs. Unmanned checkpoint 6 signalled the end of this slow death after which we descended to our final checkpoint 7 at Zuurbron. The hot jaffles served here revived us and with only the mini MAC climb and 25km left to ride to the finish at Fountains Mall in Jeffrey’s Bay we knew we could make it.

After 10hours, 56minutes and 17 seconds Raymond and Melt made a fantastic recovery riding into 11th place overall, a mere 4 minutes off of a top 10 placing.

My dad and I got more value for our money spending 12hours 14minutes and 31seconds out on route to finish 40th overall and 8th Mixed team.

In sports timing and results are used to measure success, but for once I can honestly say that being in the privileged position of facing this challenge in the company of my dad made everything else seem insignificant. It was a fantastic weekend spent in wonderful company making memories to last us a lifetime!

#TeamGarminMTB reports on the #CloverTour2017. @GarminSA

It’s been a while since Team Garmin dabbled in some road racing but this year’s Clover Lowveld Tour fit nicely in our calendar to build some fitness while getting some exposure at the same time.

With a calendar jam-packed full of events one can’t be at one’s best for every event, but that shouldn’t stop participation! Instead it should be seen as an opportunity to compete without the usual self induced pressure and a chance to push limits and grow as an athlete.

With that mindset we teamed up with the NAD Pro MTB Team and headed to the Forever Resort at Swadini which hosted the Clover Lowveld Tour. Sharing a house with the current SA MTB Marathon Champion Nico Bell, his teammate Gawie Combrinck, their sidekick Declan Sidey and our manager,

Nohan van Tonder made for a relaxed but focussed atmosphere where racing was as important as recovery off the bike.

As there wasn’t a lady’s category, Yolandi entered the Open category pitting herself against a mixed bunch of ladies, Masters men (over 50), Under 17 boys and (racing) unlicensed men. This made for an interesting dynamic as people were racing races within races, trying to win the category as well as beat the opposition in their age group. Yolandi did not let this faze her, attacking where she felt good and pushing hard to train her weaknesses.

I lined up in the Elite men’s category where the competition was sure to come from the 2 strongest teams in SA – Team Road Cover and Team BCX. As a bunch of mountain bikers we would do what we could to help Nico for the overall classification, while looking to take any opportunities for stage results should they arise.

We faced 5 stages, the first a rolling stage of 135km followed by a 126km stage in the mountains. Day 3 was a double header with a 20km Time Trial in the morning and a criterium race in the afternoon.

The final day was a fast 126km stage on an out and back route. The open category riders faced the same challenge with the exception being shorter distances for their stages.

 

Yolandi punched well above her weight finishing 3rd overall and with it the first lady. The organizers gave Yolandi a pink winner’s jersey to celebrate her ‘victory’ in the lady’s category and hopefully as a sign that there will be a separate category for the ladies in the near future.

Our category was the expected back and forth between the strong teams with Team Road Cover winning 3 stages and the overall honours courtesy of Willie Smit, while Team BCX’s Nolan Hoffman won stage 1 along with the criterium.

The Nad Pro MTB Team/Garmin house delivered another podium result as Nico Bell finished 3rd overall with Gawie in 10th, me in 19th and Declan in 22nd. Although the results were encouraging it was all about getting in the hard miles and despite some rain on stage 2 we all managed to stay upright and finish the tour tired but not broken. Now for some rest and the training block will kick in, giving us a boost in fitness needed for the second half of the season.

Next up for us will be the Trans Baviaans (2) which Yolandi will ride with her dad and I will team up with my friend Raymo

nd Odendaal. Beyond the obvious adventure of traversing the Baviaanskloof in one go, it will also be a great opportunity for us to test our brand new Garmin Varia UT 800 lights.

 

 

 

Read the #TeamGarminMTB report on @kalchalmtb here:

The Kalahari Challenge is Botswana’s premier mountain bike stage race, taking place just outside the capitol Gaborone. One would think the mostly flat and geographically featureless landscape would make for lacklustre riding, but an active mountain bike community and some very accommodating cattle delivered surprisingly fun biking for the 3rd leg of our #AfricanMTBSeries!

The race start in the shade of a rollercoaster at the Lion Park just South of Gaborone was a premonition of sorts and symbolic of what we were about to face over the next 3 days of racing.

Case in point – the warm hospitality from our luxurious pre race accommodation at the Avani hotel was in stark contrast to the frosty start of each day almost as much as the rugged and unforgiving terrain was dissimilar to the comfy, blanket stacked beds in our roomy campsite tents.

According to the race book 235km lie in wait for us with ‘a mere’ 2000m of elevation gain over the 3 days of racing. What wasn’t published (but was forewarned) was that there would be plenty of Botswana hills, i.e. deep sandy patches, and a bunch of thorns acting as traffic police making sure we kept our speed in check.

A big challenge was navigating while racing but we soon found the balance between following the map on our Garmin EDGE 1000, the neon green stickers which marked the course and the slight difference between the two. Every now and then one could use initiative to avoid deep sand or thorns but you had to keep your wits about you to stay on track which added an interesting dimension to the event.

Day’s 1 and 3 had loads of manmade and natural singletrack which saw plenty of kilometres fly by, but day 2 was a challenge which had everyone thankful to finish the stage despite some striking landscapes along the way. We were determined to continue our recent run of good form and after 3 days of tough racing we took home the title in the Mixed Category along with a 6th place overall.

For now our #AfricanMTBSeries is on hold until the Rift Valley Odyssey in September, but that doesn’t mean we stop racing our bikes. Winter means there are slightly less events and we’ll use the time to pause, reboot and ensure we tackle the second half of the season with renewed vigour.

#TeamGarminMTB reports on their 2nd event in the #AfricanMTBSeries, @1ZambiaMTB. @GarminSA

About 90 brave souls started the 4th edition of the 1Zambia last week Friday, setting off on a true African adventure. The event was hosted at Lilayi Lodge just outside Lusaka, spending 2 days at the stunning venue before the final stage took riders to Kiambi Lodge on the banks of the mighty Zambesi River.

This event was the 2nd in our Team Garmin #AfricanMTBSeries, coming a week after our exploits at the Namib Quest. With six days of racing in our legs and quite a bit of travel we were apprehensive of our form come race day, but a pre race spin around Lilayi Lodge soon pushed thoughts of racing back as we totally immersed ourselves in Bushveld camping life amongst the Giraffe, Eland, Waterbuck and other wildlife that roamed the game park.

Reality struck soon enough as people filtered into the race village on Thursday to complete registration and race briefing made it clear we were in for a challenge. Two stages of 70km dropping down the adjacent escarpment and back up followed by a final monster 108km transition stage down to Lower Zambesi would have to be self navigated in order to conquer the 1Zambia.

The terrain was exactly as we had pictured Africa with animal and man-made trails criss-crossing some harsh but beautiful lush savannah, expertly connected by race director Owen Green. Where no trails were available, singletrack was hand cut and built to make sure riders had the best experience possible getting from A to B.

With a trail network spread out like the Okavango delta, it was inevitable to take the incorrect option here and there, especially while trying to go at race speed, but each time our Garmin Edge 1000 devices had us back on track in no time. We raced as smart as we could often backing off the pace in order to focus on navigation and helping each other to negotiate the tough terrain while keeping track of the course. This netted us 3 stage wins and the overall title in the Mixed category, and a whole lot of fun along the way!

In between stages our tented camp overlooking a waterhole made for some of the best ever post stage recovery afternoons punctuated by some proper catering to fuel our fun.

The scenery, extensive trails and African experience at the event were all highlights which would bring any mountain biker back, but the most significant feature of the event was the organizers commitment to their undertaking. Owen, Ilke and their team of committed volunteers left no stone unturned to make everyone feel welcome and get the most from their participation at the event. That alone is enough reason to put the 1 Zambia on your Bike-it list.

#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!