#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!

#TeamGarminMTB reports on the @AshburtonInvest @NatMTBseries #3, Clarens. @GarminSA

Charismatic Clarens has become a regular stop of the National Mountain Bike Series, and with good reason. The town generously opens its doors to mountain bikers for race weekend, hosting the event from the town square and offering up a variety of routes with the gorgeous Free State landscape as backdrop.

It’s been exactly one year since we last took part in a series event and we were excited to be back racing at the country’s premier Marathon MTB series. With the series now boasting a new two-day stage racing format, there was even more reason to look
forward to a weekend of racing with double the fun!

The first stage was held on Saturday with70km and 1044m of elevation gain to be traversed in the foothills of the Maluti Mountains. Sunday’s second stage covered 50km with 835m of elevation gain finishing with a descent of the technical Porcupine Trail down into town to conclude proceedings.

With challenging routes and professional organization, the National MTB Series always draws a strong field. As if that doesn’t make for enough nervous start line excitement, most of the contenders were coming off a Cape Epic which finished less than 2 weeks ago and would affect each rider differently.

We set off in near perfect autumn conditions on stage 1, heading straight up a hill and out of town to begin our journey. Initially we were on wide open, fast roads but soon we encountered some singletrack climbing which stretched the field. With such a relatively short race distance everyone was going flat out, willing to play their hand and unafraid of ‘blowing up’. This made for exciting, tactical racing and small time gaps.

On open roads the saving and making of efforts had to be carefully judged while everywhere else each rider was trying to maximise his/her strengths and hide their weaknesses.

Day 2 was fairly similar just a more condensed version albeit on tired legs from stage 1’s racing.

Yolandi had a solid weekend finishing alongside Cape Epic partner Theresa Ralph (Galileo Risk/Navworld) in 6th place on stage 1 and 5th on stage 2 giving her 5th place overall for the stage race. Still riding her strong cape Epic form, Robyn de Groot (Ascendis Health) took top honours with the dormakaba girls Candice Lill and Vera Adrian rounding out the top 3.

Ben Melt finished a respectable 16th on stage 1 and 17th on stage 2 for a combined 16th place for the weekend in a deep field where less than 15 minutes covered the top 17 places after 2 days of racing. African Jersey winners at the Cape Epic Matthys Beukes and Phillip Buys (Pyga/Euro Steel) stood on the first and 3rd step of the podium with HB Kruger (Team BCX) splitting the pair in 2nd place.

The new 2 day format seems to be a winner and will grow the sport in leaps and bounds, pushing everyone to maximise each advantage to gain that vital edge needed to win a race. It is also more spectator friendly and will make for some exciting racing. We say, bring it on!

#TeamGarminMTB reviews the @GarminSA Edge 820

The Edge 820 is the latest addition to Garmin’s well-known Edge cycling unit range. It slots into the current Garmin range just below the top of the range Edge 1000, but above the Edge 520. It’s the successor to the Edge 810 and, before that, the Edge 800 which means it has some huge shoes to fill.

Let’s start with the looks of this little beauty:

The Edge 820 has the same physical dimensions as the Edge 520 (7.3cm x 4.9cm x 2.1cm) and the same screen size. Being a touch screen device the unit has a clean look with only 3 external buttons.

Here’s what’s new on the Edge 820

– Group Tracking
– Full/detailed mapping and/or routing (like the Edge 1000)
– 16GB of internal storage (no micro-SD card slot though as is found on the Edge 1000)
– Phone-based audio prompts (like Garmin wearables)
– Incident/Emergency Detection/Notifications (like the Edge Explore 1000)
– Adds in new Stress Score (as seen on wearables)
– Wi-Fi (as found on the Edge 1000, but not the Edge 520)
– A touch screen (like the Edge 1000)
– A cool new ‘Battery Save’ mode (never seen before)

It’s also worth mentioning that Garmin’s new range of traffic-sensing devices like the Varia Rearview Radar and the Varia Smart Bike Lights are compatible with the Edge 820.

Returning features

ANT+ connectivity (for connecting power meters, heartrate monitors, cadence sensors and more), Bluetooth connectivity for smartphones (for call and message notifications, and for using the Garmin Connect Mobile app), the combination of GPS and GLONASS (for establishing a satellite connection in a matter of seconds), and a huge range of cycling metrics.

Strava Live Segments also return, having debuted with the Edge 520.

LiveTrack rider tracking is also back and playing a bigger role than before.

Here are more details on the new and existing features

GROUPTRACK

GroupTrack is an extension of Garmin’s LiveTrack feature that allows a rider’s friends and family to follow them (via their GPS coordinates) on a computer. With GroupTrack, you can have this same visibility, but on your handlebars. The idea is that you can meet up or just keep digital track of your riding companions.

For GroupTrack to work, your friends must have a LiveTrack-compatible Edge computer like an Edge 520 or Edge 1000 that is paired to their smartphone. The Edge 820 user can then see them on their own device screen. Blue dots on the map indicate that the rider is moving while a red dot indicates they’re stationary.

INCIDENT DETECTION

Another new feature on theEdge 820 is Incident Detection. The 820 has a built in accelerometer that can detect a collision. When Incident Detection is set up and a collision occurs, the rider’s emergency contact(s) will be notified via email and/or text message with details of the rider’s location.

How to setup up Incident Detection? The first time you connect your Edge 820 and smartphone via Bluetooth and open Garmin Connect Mobile you’ll be prompted to go through the setup routine and pick emergency contacts from your phone’s contact list. Agree to the terms of use, fill in some basic info and the feature will be on standby whenever the phone and Edge are connected via Bluetooth.

STRAVA

The Edge 820 also comes with Strava Live Segments which gives real-time tracking of your favourite Strava segments while you are riding them. You can set the default to show the time of your friend just above yours on the leader board, your PR or the current KOM/QOM for the section.

MAPS

As with the Garmin Edge 1000 and Edge 520, the Edge 820 features mapping functionality. But unlike the Edge 520, the Edge 820 can calculate routes on the device itself. You can identify a point on the map that you want to get to and it can calculate a route complete with turn directions and road names. Should you take a wrong turn, the device can also re-route you.

Round-trip routing comes across from the Edge 1000 and remains an attractive feature, particularly if you’re looking to explore some new roads. Simply tell the Edge 820 how far you want to ride and it will calculate several loop options for you, starting and finishing at a location of your choice (including your current location).

There’s also the ability to follow a Course by transferring a GPX or TCX file from Strava (or your navigation platform of choice) to the Edge 820. The turn-by-turn navigation is excellent. You’ll get a couple of visual and audio signals when the next turn is approaching, and it’s always easy to tell which way you need to go.

Wi-Fi

The Edge 820 (and the Edge 1000) can connect directly to the internet via Wi-Fi, whereas the Edge 520 cannot. This allows you to seamlessly sync your riding data to training platforms such as Garmin Connect and Strava.

Ride with Team @GarminSA at the Glacier @CradleTraverse Mountain Bike Challenge

Come and join Team Garmin for 3 days of fun filled mountain biking in the heart of Gauteng traversing the stunning trails at the Cradle of Humankind.

The inaugural Glacier Cradle Traverse takes place from the 4th to 6th of May and will be based at the luxurious Avianto Lifestyle Estate a mere 30min drive from Sandton and Pretoria. In total the course will cover a distance of 159km with the 2nd stage being the longest at 65km. The accumulated vertical gain over the 3 days will be 2,954m making for a challenge but knowing the Dryland organisers there will be plenty of reward for your effort.

Dryland events have become firm favourites on the racing calendar as one is always guaranteed of a high quality event with the organisers paying attention to detail ensuring every rider has a great experience. What makes the Glacier Cradle Traverse even more unique is the fact that not only the riders but also their supporters will be catered for.

 

Riders are actually encouraged to bring their families along to the Glacier Cradle Traverse and there is a lot to do besides riding a bike, like exploring the Crocodile Ramble tourist route, visit the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site, or enjoying one of Avianto’s many leisure activity options. There will also be a children’s’ activity programme, including short mountain bike races in the afternoons.

To further facilitate and simplify participation entrants are given options of standard tented accommodation, non-accommodation packages as well as solo and 2 man team alternatives.

The Glacier Cradle Traverse offers a non-technical route which does not require riders to be supremely skilled bike handlers. The focus is rather on providing a scenic route which showcases the beauty of the area and provides the basis for a weekend to remember.

Team Garmin will be all in for this experience staying at the Race Village and enjoying the weekend from start to finish. Our aim will be to soak up the atmosphere and share our riding experience with participants before, during and after each stage. Come

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and join us for a cracker of a weekend and be one of the first to experience Dryland’s renowned hospitality at a Gauteng based event.

For more info on the event you can visit their website here:

http://www.cradletraverse.co.za/

 

My report on @CapeEpic. @GarminSA

The Cape Epic is one of the biggest and most followed mountain bike stage races in the world. With the event taking place on home soil, it’s always great to be part of it.

This year I was back racing alongside Theresa Ralph thanks to sponsors Garmin, Galileo Risk and Gear Group who covered our costly entry and made it possible for us to be on the start line.

The 2017 route was set to consist of 691 kilometres and 15 400m of vertical gain but extreme heat saw the total distance shortened by 40km (and 850 m of vertical gain) for the first time in history on stage 2. In the bigger picture only a small chunk was removed, but it surely made for some big discussions afterwards. Personally, I took a beating from illness and was only too thankful for the discount on suffering.

The 26 km prologue on day one was again held at Meerendal Wine Estate. From there it was on to Hermanus for the opening 101km stage. The next day riders left the local high school to finish the shortened 62km stage at Caledon instead of Greyton.  Stage three’s 78km route started and finished in Greyton followed by the longest stage in the Epic which took riders from Greyton to the Oak Valley Wine Estate over 112km.  Stages 5 and 6 were laid out in the Elgin valley and surrounding area, with the latter forming the Queen stage – 103km with 2750 m of elevation gain. Stage 7 took riders to a new Grand Finale Venue at the Val de Vie Estate near Paarl.

On the morning of the prologue I woke up with some minor flu symptoms but wrote it off as pre-race nerves. If only it was the case… Racing a prologue mid-day in scorching temperatures didn’t help and by nightfall I couldn’t ignore the symptoms any longer and had to accept my fate.

The days that followed were a battle, not only against the challenges the course and weather conditions had thrown at us, but also against my own body. Mentally and physically it was just a tough week (and I’m sure I’m not the only one with war stories to tell) but having a supportive teammate and supporting crew is without a doubt what kept me in the race.

Theresa was and is an incredible partner. She always stayed positive and never made me feel like I was holding the team back despite it being blatantly obvious. She motivated me along and made me feel like a real trooper for hanging in despite my illness. She kept the built-up tears at bay with her charismatic humour before, during and after each stage.

Obviously every rider has his/her own ambitions for an event and makes plenty of sacrifices to be in good form at the Epic. Yet when I wasn’t up to the challenge Theresa pushed her own ambitions and disappointments aside and instead decided to focus on the positive – which was to get us to the finish line. Experiencing this team ethic firsthand from Theresa as well as the amazing support from our crew made the Epic worth all the sweat and tears.

After the completion of each stage we got transferred back to our accommodation where homemade sandwiches lay in wait.  All our home cooked meals were freshly prepared for us, our laundry was washed, we got treated to daily massages and the logistical arrangements were all sorted out. I felt like a VIP and have to admit I’ve never been so spoiled at any event in my life.

My Epic 2017 will always be remembered not for the racing but the camaraderie of Theresa and the unbelievable support I received from our Epic crew. Thanks Mr. Charmain and co for the wonderful opportunity and for sharing the experience with me!

#TeamGarminMTB report on the @PEPlett stage race. @GarminSA @benmelt

The PEPlett 4 day stage race is an event that we’ve become quite fond of, mostly because we’ve always come away from the event with a pleasant experience regardless of the end result or the weather conditions which have been quite challenging in recent years.  The 5th edition of the PEPlett proved no different especially as the organizers, Red Cherry Adventures, moved the race from September to February allowing for MUCH better weather in which to enjoy the event.

As the name suggest the event takes place between Port Elizabeth and Plettenberg Bay. Every year the event changes direction with the 2017 route leading us away from Woodridge Primary School just outside of Port Elizabeth to finish 4 days later at de Vasselot Rest Camp, east of Plettenberg Bay.

The 314km in-between was all but smooth ‘pedalling’ with the stages presenting a variety of challenges. We had sandy patches, rocky sections, singletrack, mountains, forests and farmland to negotiate, but no matter how sweet or sour the riding got, the ever changing scenery, rider camaraderie and race village atmosphere made the effort worthwhile. 

Between start and finish we stayed over at Zuurbron Village for some warm local farmer’s hospitality before moving on to the magical setting of the Assegaaibosch Country Lodge on the outskirts of Kareedouw. This was a particularly tough day as the testing route was exacerbated by a howling wind which seemed to do it’s best to blow us back to where we came from. From there we raced to the Tsitsikamma Falls Adventure Village which was our final race village.

Ben Melt and I had a consistent race placing 2nd on each stage to finish 2nd overall in the mixed category. A week prior to the event we were still unsure about our participation due to an injury that I sustained at Tankwa Trek, so finishing on the podium was truly a bonus as completing the race was our main priority.

With the field limited to 200 riders PEPlett creates a comfortable and friendly race village experience and with the organisers being so passionate and personal the event makes you feel like more than just a number. All this is sure to translate into success and we look forward to PEPlett becoming a firm fixture on the SA mountain biking calendar.

#TeamGarminMTB report on @tankwatrek. @GarminSA @benmelt

This past weekend Team Garmin MTB headed to the Tankwa Trek where Yolandi teamed up with Theresa Ralph and I partnered with Hannes Hanekom for the event.

Hannes is a farmer in the Witzenberg Valley which we traverse on stage 1 of the Tankwa Trek. In fact Hannes and his brother are responsible for most of the track we followed on day 1, so my partner had some intimate local knowledge. Hannes invited me to ride the Cape Epic with him this year, so this would also be a dry run for us as team mates.

Theresa and Yolandi have raced together quite often so their partnership is well established. Good thing too as they would need every possible advantage to be competitive in the small but strong ladies field.

The Tankwa Trek is known for its beautiful setting at Kaleo Guest Farm situated at the top of the Gydo Pass a few kilometres outside of Ceres. The rugged terrain of the ‘Koue Bokkeveld’ creates a dramatic backdrop to what has become one of the most competitive and international stage races in South Africa. Little wonder as the race is organized by Dryland who are known for their professional organization and friendly, hospitable attitude.

Stage 1 is arguably the hardest of the event with almost 2000m of climbing crammed into 89 very harsh kilometres. Yolandi and Theresa deliberately started slow and paced themselves well to finish strongly in 5th place amongst the UCI ladies teams. Hannes and I did the same, albeit somewhat more unintentionally, leaving some gas in the tank for the next 2 days.

Stage 2 is similar in length and ascent to day 1 but it is characterized by the Du Toit Drop – a 3km singletrack drop with 10% gradient and the Merino Monster – a 10km climb with pitches as steep as 20%. In between is some tough riding ranging from rocky singletrack to windswept farm roads.

Yolandi and Theresa were going well when for some unexplained reason an amateur rider tried to embrace Theresa in the passing, sending a bunch of riders to taste some Tankwa dust. Bottom of the pile was Yolandi who was forced to nurse a sore knee and shoulder to the finish. Understandably she was NOT happy.

Hannes and I played our usual waiting game finishing strong after suffering through the middle section of the stage. After the leaders in our category succumbed to a bee sting which forced them to abandon, Hannes and I also took over the green jersey. It’s not the way either of us would like to take a leader’s jersey, but our consistent performance and hard fought placing afforded us the opportunity to capitalize on the situation. Besides, we would have our own drama soon enough…

Stage 3 is also around 90km but with a lot less climbing it is always a super quick stage. Yolandi was struggling on the opening district roads where her swollen knee made it hard to keep up on the fast pedalling sections. Theresa was her usual loyal team mate self pacing Yolandi where she could. Once into the singletrack Yolandi channelled her inner sand beetle and the girls finished in 5th place on the stage and 5th overall for a solid result.

Barely out of the start gate Hannes and I decided to make the final day tough for ourselves by crashing into each other. With the leaders speeding away in a cloud of dust, we settled down to a lonely chase. When your closest competitors have Tour de France legend Udo Bolts in their ranks you know you are up for a fight, but we kept our heads and did what we do best – plug away. We caught and passed them at the final waterpoint riding steady to the finish to claim a category win.

It was hard to say goodbye to the Witzenberg Valley and our friends who hosted us over the weekend, but it helped knowing that we would be back soon enough!

Until next time, happy trails!

Melt and Yolandi

#TeamGarminMTB report on @attakwas. @GarminSA @benmelt

For those of you that missed the good news, Yolandi du Toit and I are now Team Garmin MTB full time in 2017 after a successful 5-race partnership last year. Despite being very unplanned we had our first race this past weekend and it’s my privilege to write our team’s opening race report for the year.1

In a country as endurance sports mad as South Africa, any event with the word ‘Extreme’ in its title is sure to live up to its billing. The Attakwas aka ‘The Hell of the South’ is a prime example.

Named after the Attakwas kloof (gorge) which is the signature section of the race course, the 121km journey from Oudtshoorn to Groot Brak can be divided into 3 distinct segments. The race starts on the Chandelier Game and Ostrich Show Farm where jeep track cuts through Karoo Fynbos making for some high speed riding. The first waterpoint 25km into the race signals the start of the second phase with tough riding on unspoilt tracks through the Doringrivier Nature Reserve and finally the Attakwas kloof.

A technical descent to the 3rd waterpoint marks the final part of the race with wide open and wind exposed district roads taking riders to the finish on the coast.

It is a tough race and not for the fainthearted, especially as it comes so early in the year when race fitness is an unknown to most. As much as Yolandi and I wanted to do this race the travel and logistics meant it was a tough ask for us.

Cue a last minute invitation from race organisers, Dryland, to co2S6A0240me and do their race along with the help of some friends who could offer us a lift and help with the logistics of a race which starts and finishes in 2 places, and we were on our way! (It obviously doesn’t take much to lure us into adventure!)

Being so last minute and with no specific preparation Yolandi and I decided to be conservative and view the race as a long training ride. Obviously it had the added benefit of deflecting any pressure so we could focus on the basics. Our game plan was to start slow and ride stronger towards the end of the race when start-of-the-season nerves and first-race-of-the-year adrenalin can easily entice one into spending way too much energy early on.

Of course these best laid plans went to hell as soon as the starter’s pistol fired and the wheel
s rolled in anger. Both of us had a strong race up until the 70km mark, after which we basically hung on and made sure we finished the race. I was fortunate to maintain most of the gains I had made through the Attakwas finishing in 6th while Yolandi was caught by some groups on the windswept roads towards the finish, dropping down from 6th to 8th. It just goes to show how fragile any lead was going into that final sector and how much experience counts in this event.

Despite the customary suffering that accompanies the opening race of the season we are happy to get one under the belt, along with some decent race intensity miles.16142739_1232567616830076_3645571980655099432_n

Travelling with friends and seeing the weekend and the event through their eyes was also very rewarding and made us realize why we started racing our bikes in the first place. One of our companions’ mother was the last competitor to finish the Attakwas inside the time cut, crossing the line with a mere 3 minutes to spare after suffering several mechanical issues and walking some of the technical downhills. Witnessing her tenacity and the joy of her friends and family when she beat the time cut was worth all the effort!

Photo Credit www.oakpics.com