The Cape Epic – A week spent playing bike with friends!

This might come as a surprise, but the Cape Epic is not one of my favourite races. This is mostly due its ever increasing commercial nature which goes against our perceived ethos of mountain biking which promotes inclusivity instead of exclusivity. Despite the massive infrastructure, very professional organization and exceptional marketing it is very hard to justify the R80,000/€5600/$7000 entry fee per team for an 8-day stage race. Add to that your travel costs, accommodation and any race services and it becomes a luxury that very few can afford.

That being said, there is no denying that the Epic is one of the most renowned and widely publicised MTB events in the world, providing huge potential for sponsors. As such it would be negligence bordering on unprofessionalism from Team Garmin MTB not to participate at the race if given the opportunity. 


Apart from these obvious professional reasons and MUCH more significant was that we were invited to be part of the Gear Group for the 2018 Cape Epic. Gus Klöhn is a 10-time Cape Epic finisher and each year he takes 4 or 5 teams to the Epic with an overly dedicated and professional back up squad to look after all our wants and needs during the race. Yolandi and I have been part of this setup before and we jumped at the chance to be part of it again, knowing that the event serves as an opportunity for an extraordinary group of friends to share in a unique experience. Yolandi teamed up with Gus Klöhn while I joined Angus Alexander for our 8 day journey around the Cape.

The race started with a 20km prologue on Table Mountain followed by 4 long days (all between 110km to 122km) around the Robertson valley, into Worcester and on to Wellington. A 40km Time Trial in Wellington preceded the closing stages which consisted of 2 relatively short but sharp stages, both featuring 2000m of climbing in about 70km.

Angus is a property consultant by trade and as an amateur he had put in a lot of training and sacrifices with a top 50 result in mind. We started steady and not only paced ourselves through every day, but also over the 8 days of the race. We raced smart, saving where we could and always riding within ourselves – physically and technically. Were it not for a bit of illness on the last 2 days we would have had a perfect run, but over 8 days of racing we couldn’t have asked for much more. We achieved our goal, crossing the finish line at Val de Vie in 44th place overall and 7th in the Master’s class – not bad for a Pro-am team. 

Or at least so we thought until Gus and Yolandi got going… Gus is a seasoned campaigner at the Epic, but this was his first time racing in a mixed team. He just got on with things while Yolandi was always there backing up his efforts. As with all his other Epics Gus went from strength to strength throughout the week and by stage 2 they hit the podium in 3rd place on the day. They followed that up with 2nd on stages 3 and 4, ending the race on the overall podium with a superb 3rd place in the Mixed Category – Impressive stuff! The other teams in our group finished in 56th (Rowan and Gregg Grobler) and 69th (Andrew Grobler and Guylin van den Berg) making it a very successful week for our gang.

Upon reflection it was a memorable 8 days spent in fantastic company with the fine results merely a positive addition to all the banter, laughter and camaraderie amongst a special group of special people.

Next up for Team Garmin MTB will be the Glacier Cradle Traverse around the Cradle of Humankind in the West of Johannesburg. We had a great time at the inaugural event last year and look forward to Dryland’s Highveld event.



#TeamGarminMTB reports on the recently held @CTCycleTour.

The Cape Town Cycle Tour formerly known as ‘The Argus’ is probably one of the most renowned timed cycling events in the world. Boasting numbers of more than 35000 participants and a course tracing the Cape Town Peninsula and all its famous landmarks makes this event iconic in more ways than one.

As such it comes as no surprise that Garmin is involved with the event as a Technical Training Partner making it a busy week for our brand. The road racing event is the climax of the week but there is also an Expo where the Garmin marketing team man a stand showcasing our products and answering product related questions. They do a fantastic job on their end motivating us even more to do our bit during the week.

As team Garmin MTB our Cycle Tour started a week early as we took part in the Cycle Tour MTB event. With the opening round of the UCI World Cup and the Cape Epic just around the corner, a stellar field with more UCI points than has been available to date in 2018 lined up for the race to test both form and equipment. Consequently it was a fast paced affair with only the fantastic trail network to distract us from the required effort. Melt finished 8th in the men’s race while I just missed the podium in 4th.

I had a day to recuperate before tackling the 5 stage Tour of Good Hope which took place around Paarl. 3 Long stages, a 26km Individual Time Trial and a short sharp stage to conclude proceedings wrapped up a busy week before we lined up for the Cycle Tour road race.

The ladies had their own start at Glencairn which worked out great as we finished first, well before the men’s race giving us an opportunity to showcase ladies racing. With a big field the racing was reasonably positive, but with a lot of ladies wanting a sprint finish, it all came back together for a bunch kick won by Kim Le Court of Mauritius.

The men’s race was a nervous affair with a huge 200-plus rider bunch which included participants with hugely varying abilities and skill. There were a lot of crashes which Melt managed to avoid, safely rolling in just behind the main bunch to conclude our week’s racing. Nolan Hoffman bested the field to take the heralded title for a 3rd time.

Next up for us is the Cape Epic where I will be riding with Gus Klöhn and Melt will team up with Angus Alexander. It’s sure to be tough week, but we can’t wait to get going!

#TeamGarminMTB Race Report: @tankwatrek – Taming the Koue Bokkeveld @GarminSA

In its short 6 year existence the Tankwa Trek has quickly become one of the premier race events on the South African Mountain Bike landscape. Its position on the calendar and the terrain it covers makes it the perfect lead up event to the Cape Epic which comes only a month later. Consequently many teams test their form, partnership and equipment at the Tankwa Trek making for some of the hardest and fastest 3 days of racing all year.

However, if you think the Tankwa Trek is merely a training race or warm up event you will be sorely mistaken as the available UCI points and the all important bragging rights are well worth fighting for. Race organizers Dryland also ensure that every competitor’s experience at the race is one not soon to be forgotten with a spectacular race village at Kaleo guest farm and all the hospitality that has become synonymous with their events.

Yolandi teamed up with her Epic partner, Gus Klöhn, for the event as they put the finishing touches on their partnership. Day 1 was testing for them as a mechanical issue forced them to race well within their limits, but they bounced back strongly continually improving with each stage and even hitting the Mixed Category podium on the final day and finishing 4th overall after 3 days of hard racing in the Koue Bokkeveld.

I teamed up with the inimitable Jan Withaar who for the lac

k of a better description has been racing as a privateer for the last 3 years since moving on from his job as an engineer. We had a few badly timed mishaps which ended up costing us some energy, but we made the most of every situation racing consistently even if at our very limits and always focussed on teamwork. After 3 days we squeezed into the top 10 finishing in 8th place amongst some of the biggest names in the sport.

Next up for #TeamGarminMTB is the MTO White River Trail launch followed by our Garmin Outride in the lead up to the Cape Town Cycle Tour.


Until then, happy trails!

Wondering what the difference is between the new Garmin Edge 1030 and Edge 1000? Find out here…@GarminSA

Garmin Edge 1030 vs 1000

Garmin recently released a new flagship cycling device – the Garmin Edge 1030. With the Garmin Edge 1000 being so capable it would be fair to ask if it is worth upgrading to the Edge 1030…? Hopefully this article will help you decide.


First up we’ll discuss what is new on the Edge 1030, followed by similarities between the Edge 1030 and 1000 devices, before finally discussing the features that set the 1030 apart from the 1000.

New Features on the Garmin Edge 1030

  • Revamped main user dashboard
  • New FirstBeat Recovery and Training Status metrics
  • New External Battery Pack Option: You can now attach a secondary battery pack to the bottom of your bike mount.
  • Longer battery life
  • Trendline popularity routing – below you’ll find more info on Trendline
  • Support for Bluetooth Smart sensors
  • New Garmin Connect Mobile Course Creator
  • New Garmin Connect Mobile Workout Creator
  • Rider to Rider Messaging
  • Real-time Strava Segment listings
  • New Strava Routes Connect IQ App (pre-loaded): This app allows you to upload your saved Strava Routes directly to your Edge 1030 device
  • TrainingPeaks& Best Bike Split Connect IQ apps pre-loaded
  • Updated Workout Functionality: Software now lets you restart a structured workout step, for instance if you get stuck at a red traffic light.
  • New out-front mount: Places unit level with handlebars, instead of above it.


Similarities between the Garmin Edge 1030 vs 1000

  • High-end training metrics and data
  • High-end maps and navigation, including turn-by-turn notifications
  • Customizable screens
  • Connectivity via ANT+ with multiple devices and sensors, such as heart rate monitors and power meters
  • Smart notifications, phone call and text message alerts, real-time weather
  • Large, colour touch-screen
  • Access to both GPS and Glonass satellite systems, for instant GPS sinal acquisition
  • Will record your bike rides and wirelessly transfer your data to Garmin Connect (and Strava)
  • Strava segments
  • Live tracking – which means your partner (or other designated person) can track where you are
  • Group Track (keep track of the rest of your team)

Features that are Different in the Garmin Edge 1030 vs 1000

GENERAL Edge 1030 Edge 1000
Big picture Bigger screen and improved battery life. Improved Strava functionality & other new features Great for training and navigation. Premier bike computer, with colour, touch-screen, making it easy to view and navigate maps
Weight 123 g 114.5
Unit Size 5.84 x 11.4 x 2.1 cm 5.1 x 9.3 x 2.5 cm
Display resolution, Width x Height 282 x 470 pixels; colour 240 x 400 pixels; colour


Yes – improved. Much better in rain and for use with gloves Yes
Landscape mode available No – landscape discontinued as it was not used much Yes
Battery life Up to 20 hours Up to 15 hours
Additional external battery Yes, Garmin Charge power pack increases battery life from 20 hours to 44 hours No
Is the screen responsive to level of ambient light? Yes, it will brighten when ambient light darkens Yes, it will brighten when ambient light darkens


Incident alert? (to tell your spouse/friend if you have an accident) Yes No, the 1000 does not have a built-in accelerometer to detect incidents


Message other cyclists directly? Yes, as long as they also have a 1030 No
Smart phone Connected features Yes – Live Tracking, send/receive courses, workouts and training plans wirelessly, social media sharing, smart notifications (texts and calls). Yes – Live Tracking, send/receive courses, workouts and training plans wirelessly, social media sharing, smart notifications (texts and calls)


BlueTooth Smart (BlueTooth 4.0) Yes No
Accepts SD cards Yes, including optional memory card in the micro-SD slot. Improved weather protection for the card Yes, including optional memory card in the micro-SD slot
Cycling Features    
TrainingPeaks & Best Bike Split Connect IQ apps pre-loaded Yes No, but you can download it from the App store
Stress score (requires HR monitor) Yes No
Garmin Connect Real-Time segments Yes Yes
Strava Real-Time segments? Yes, the unit will now use your phone to show you actual Strava segments nearby as you ride along (not just pre-loaded ones), along with real-time data on those segments (If you have Strava premium) Yes, if you have Strava premium
Automatically download new routes created in Strava to the unit? Yes No
New feature: Trendline popularity routing – When creating routes, it’ll leverage all the data from Garmin Connect to find the best cycling routes across road, mountain, and gravel categories, meaning that it’s going to leverage where people actually ride.


Yes No
Navigation Yes – once you pick a location, it will guide you to that location. Improved because it uses popularity routing Yes – once you pick a location, it will guide you to that location
Turn-by-turn guidance Yes – just like a car GPS, it will warn you a turn is coming, and tell you when to turn (with text and a beep). Also now has alerts of upcoming sharp turns Yes – just like a car GPS, it will warn you a turn is coming, and tell you when to turn (with text and a beep)
Preloaded basemap Yes, preloaded and IMPROVED Garmin Cycle Map with bike-specific navigation so it can give you turn-by-turn navigation instructions Yes, preloaded Garmin Cycle Map with bike-specific navigation so it can give you turn-by-turn navigation instructions


The @STCmauritius – The perfect ending to our #AfricanMTBSeries! @GarminSA

The Southern Tropical Challenge by Heritage

The 9th edition of the Southern Tropical Challenge differed from previous years in that it offered two options to competitors, each with its own name and identity. Both alternatives challenged riders with a prologue and 3 stages but the Sky2C presented the bigger challenge with longer distances and more climbing while the Sea2C lured riders with shorter stages and the promise of an ‘easier’ ride.

The ‘C’ in both names referred to the C Beach Club which hosted the event right on the beachfront where palm trees gently swayed in the sea breeze creating an atmosphere that can only be described as idyllic.

The prologue was a 10km dash in the shadow of Le Morne, a mountain made famous by runaway slaves who chose to jump off the precipitous cliffs rather than be recaptured. Fortunately there was no such drastic action required on our behalf as we rolled off the starting ramp in front of the vacant old restaurant to start our journey (as opposed to ending it!)

The downhill start was quite a novelty and the course didn’t disappoint with just enough of everything to be a good test of all-round ability and fitness. Yolandi was on fire setting a strong tempo on the climbs and descending with confidence and despite a short, unexpected detour we managed to win the stage in the Mixed category and take the leader’s jerseys.

From the sharp pain of the prologue we went into the 41km marathon effort required by stage 1. We started really well and stayed with the leading teams for most of the day, eventually finishing the stage as first Mixed team and 5th overall.

With overnight rain and intermittent showers on the day stage 2 was a muddy 43km affair. This did not deter Yolandi in the least and after flying up the opening 15km climb, she continued just as quick on the descent dragging me along for the ride. It was a lot of fun slipping and sliding our way to finish the day with another stage win.

The final stage was quite a tough, but beautiful 45km challenge with several valley crossings and views for days in many directions as we traversed the Black River and Savanne districts. Reality struck as we passed the overall race leaders stopped at waterpoint 1 after a seemingly innocuous crash forced Karl Platt to abandon with a fractured hip. It was a sober reminder that anything could happen and we had to stay focussed.

We continued safe in the knowledge that it was our final day of racing in 2017 and gave it our all making it four out of four stage wins and overall honours in the Mixed category with 5th place overall just for good measure!

Along with the race success, the hospitality offered to us by our friends and hosts before during and after the event gives this event a special place in our hearts. The Halbwachs and Lincoln families have become extended family in their own right and the end of season won’t be replete without visiting them and ‘their’ bike race is as good a reason as any to make this annual trip to Mauritius!

It was a perfect ending to our #AfricanMTBSeries, closing out a season littered with adventure, once in a lifetime opportunities and exotic travel!

It will be hard to #BeatYesterday!

Race Report: The Uplands Duathlon – Team Garmin MTB’s guide on how to get sore legs!

This past weekend team Garmin MTB had no races on our calendar and we were looking forward to some quality training before the upcoming Sky2C event. Our local school had other ideas as they hosted a Duathlon event to raise funds for the school.

Despite the occasional jog/shuffle for cross training we have never professed to be runners, but somehow we found ourselves drawn to the event. It was an opportunity to do something different while still maintaining fitness and the noble cause of our local community was hard to ignore.

So it came that at 7am on Saturday morning I set off for a 4 km run, followed by a 30km mountain bike and a repeat of the 4km run. Yolandi teamed up with close friend and Uplands pupil Elne Lourens as they faced the challenge in a team with Elne doing the running and Yolandi the biking.

The two of them combined well with Yolandi even joining in on the final 4km run to complete their race as a team, crossing the finish line hand in hand. They were the first ladies team home and only narrowly got beaten into 2nd place overall on the day.

My opening run was better than expected and I had a really good bike managing to turn the duathlon into a bike race more than a running race. Notwithstanding post bike jelly legs and looming cramp, I survived the final 4km run to take an unexpected win.

Milkshakes all around was the order of the day as we celebrated and drowned our sore muscles in double thick delight!

It was a fantastic day out, especially seeing how involved the local community were with local business, parents and pupils all chipping in to make the event a success.

#TeamGarminMTB’s race report: Ashburton @NatMTBseries#7,Kaapsehoop – 7 seasons in one weekend.

Situated on the edge of the Highveld escarpment, Kaapsehoop was the venue for the final round of the National MTB Marathon Series. It was the first time the series visited the town prompting a lot of excitement about the new routes on offer.

For the second week in a row Mother Nature threw a curveball with some rain dousing the area in advance, making for a few slippery trails and tricky downhills on day 1 of the two day event.

Heavy mist turned into fine rain and back into thick mist again as we departed town for our 7:30am start. At fi

rst we stayed close to town but once we descended down the escarpment and out of the mist, the cool temperatures steadily rose making for quite pleasant racing conditions. Of course what goes down must come back up and the second half of the course was characterized by a 10km climb which gradually got steeper as it closed in on the finish.

The men were off first and Team PYGA Euro Steel were the early aggressors as team mates Matthys Beukes and Philip Buys vied for overall Series honours. Matthys proved to be the strongest taking the victory ahead of his team mate with HB Kruger (Team BCXX) in 3rd.

Melt had a steady start but a double puncture halfway through the day robbed him of some momentum. As luck would have it Melt had just given some of his spares to another rider but thankfully Alan Gordon stopped to help which meant Melt could continue. He steadily made his way up the field finally salvaging 10th place on the day.


In the Ladies race Candice Lill (Dormakaba) used her cross country start and skill to break away early leaving me to chase all day. I battled the slippery course as much as my competitors, trying to go fast without risking too much. Candice rode faultlessly winning the stage ahead of me and another local, Dalene van der Leek (Bell’s Cycling) taking 3rd.

Day 2 dawned sunny and warm giving the venue and the race a completely different a

tmosphere. It was the final day’s racing in this premier series and the sun was out to celebrate the occasion!

With nothing to lose Matthys Beukes tore off the line quickly stretching the field. At the halfway mark he repeated his acceleration, snapping the elastic and soloing to another victory again ahead of his team mate Buys. HB Kruger repeated his strong showing finishing in 3rd after a recent comeback from a broken collarbone.

Melt knew the day would be tougher than expected and planned to ride defensively at first, leaving something in the tank for the final 20km. Boys will be boys and by his own admission he got caught up in the racing spending his final effort a little too early.

He finished 9th on the day and 9th overall for the weekend.

I warmed up properly and decided to give it a go from the gun. Candice stuck to my wheel as I made my initial effort and the 2 of us drew away from the other ladies.

After about 5km Candice counter attacked setting up another chase scenario for stage 2. We battled on the freshly cut singletrack, hiking trails and jeep tracks which littered the route with Candice managing to stay ahead and win the day. Vanessa Bell kept Bell’s Cycling on the podium taking 3rd on the day and the three of us mirroring those positions in the overall honours for the weekend.

It was fantastic to be part of the inaugural National MTB Series race at Kaapsehoop and we look forward to the event next year when the trails are sure to be ridden in and even more fun than this year!

#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.