Put Your Best Foot Forward at the Husqvarna Classic Mid-Illovo MTB Challenge & Trail Run: 18 May 2014
I love doing mountain bike events. I also love doing trail runs. Well, here’s an opportunity for lovers of both to participate at an event.
Already a favourite with mountain bikers, the 40km Husqvarna Classic Mid-Illovo MTB Challenge boasts what many have called ‘the best single track of any single day event’. Starting from the Mid-Illovo Club, it traverses two of KwaZulu-Natal’s most picturesque game reserves – the Gwahumbe Game & Spa and iNsingizi Game & Spa. This event takes place on 18 May 2014.
For less experienced riders and family and friends, there’s also the 18km Gwahumbe Family Experience and the 10km i-Cycle Insurance Fun Ride.
Those tackling the 8km and 18km iNsingizi trail runs will be also be taking on plenty of rough and ready terrain.
Entries close Wednesday, 15 May at midnight but late entries will be accepted on the day.
40km Husqvarna Classic: R140
18km Gwahumbe Family Experience: R120
10km i-Cycle Insurance Fun Ride: R60
18km iNsingizi Trail Run: R 90
8km iNsingizi Trail Run: R70
So, now my challenge: do I ride or run?
See some pics form the 2013 event.
Last night, while attending the Aramex Songo.info champions race in Kayamandi, outside Stellenbosch I saw “hope” in action. This “township” of about 30,000 people hosted this event for the third year.
It was a short-track MTB event with categories for juniors, women and men. What made it so unique is the fact that is took place a few days before the start of the Absa Cape Epic, meaning that many of the professional mountain bike riders participated. Seeing them close-up in action was a great experience.
In case you don’t know much about Songo.info, let me give you the highlights. What started as an idea to allow Christoph Sauser and Burry Stander to race together in the 2008 Cape Epic has developed into a social development program that provides sport and recreational activities to children. This is a result of the great work initiated by Songo Fipaza in Kayamandi and his subsequent teaming up with Christoph Sauser, the Swiss national who calls Stellenbosch his second home.
It became quite clear during the men’s race that the Kayamandi kids knew exactly who Christoph is and shouted his name as he passed by and even patting him on the back as he passed. Seeing that was something that I certainly have not experienced before. It was however when Christoph crossed the finish line first that these kids literally went crazy.
As Christoph finished, he cycled on for about a 100m or so away from the finish area, on the sports field. It was then that the kids at the finish line ran after him, en masse. It made any celeb mobbing I may have seen before look tame.
When he finally stopped, the kids were all over him. Two security guards eventually had to try and get the kids away from him. At no stage however did Christoph complain or try to get away from the kids. Everyone who asked for a “hi-five” got one and it was clear that they were in awe of him and that he is their hero.
When I walked away from there, I realised that he has given them an amazing gift: HOPE! Hope that no matter where they live or what their circumstances are, they could one day be that mountain biker / athlete / individual that succeeds, creating a better lives for themselves and hopefully, in the spirit of Songo Fipaza and Christoph Sauser pay it forward!
I recently had a chat with cycling legend, Robbie McIntosh, to ask him about his 2014 MTB racing plans. He has been very active this year and participated in a number of big league MTB events and plan the same and more for next year.
So, here’s the list of definite events for him, although there are a number of other ones he wishes to do, depending on timing and sponsorships:
23-30 March: ABSA Cape Epic - The race is held over 8 days and includes a time-trial prologue. The route changes every year, and leads aspiring amateur and professional mountain bikers from around the world through approximately 800 kilometres of the unspoilt nature of the Western Cape and up approximately 15 000m of climbing over some of the most magnificent passes in South Africa. Learn more about the race in the Absa Cape Epic Intro video.
25 April – 3 May 2014: The Old Mutual joBerg2c is riding the off-roads less travelled and trails never travelled. It is racing, riding and touring across this magnificent country. It is sharing a passion for mountain biking with those who love riding. Our aim is to provide a journey where the destination is less important than the experience along the way. Entries close on 31 January. Go here for details: Joberg2c
Mid June: This is a 2300 km Race Across South Africa (RASA) MOUNTAIN BIKE. It is non- stop and unassisted, starting in Pietermaritzburg in mid-June every year and following South Africa’s Freedom Trail to end in Wellington outside Cape Town. Learn more hear about this monster challenge: Freedom Challenge
10 – 12 October: Fedgroup Berg and Bush - The race starts at the picturesque Emseni Camp on the banks of the Tugela River, only 20 minutes outside of Winterton. The route varies every year offering roughly 130km of challenging single track, through scenic mountain and bushveld countryside, which forms part of privately owned farms. There is a 2-day option as well. Enter here: Berg&Bush
On Saturday 28 September I took part in the Blaauwberg Conservation Area trail challenge as organized by the Mates Trail running club.
It was cold and there were signs of rain when I arrived at the start at about 06h20.
The 15km started at 07h00 and the 8km about 15minutes later. I was in two minds about wearing my longs and rain jacket. I finally decided to just use my compression socks and long top, hoping that the rain will stay away and that I will warm up.
Well, what a great decision that was as I quickly warmed up on the uphill right from the start.
Running along a good dirt road for about 2 km, we hit a right into the sandy paths towards little Blaauwberg.
From there it was downhill in thick sand until we were running north along the fence next to the R27. Though there were grass patches in the sand, it was still a slow run along that section.
At about 9km we hit a 90-degree right, forcing us to literally climb the Blaauwberg hill. It was a very steep climb through low fynbos all the way to the viewing deck at the top. No one was running here and even just keeping a steady walking pace was difficult.
A cold cup of water at the top was followed by a steep single track down. What a pure delight to be able to pick up speed and run on what at that time has turned out to be a beautiful morning.
About 1 km from the start we hit a T-junction where the long route runners had to take a right…yes, up the mountain again.
This time it was the jeep track back to the water point. This was slower than I would’ve liked.
Well, soon it was time for that excellent downhill again and seeing that I now knew the end was in sight, I could give it all I had, and so I did!
All in all a great run and one worth doing.
So, in January I entered for the Big 5 without really knowing how I will cope with 5 events over a an 8 day period during a traditionally cold and wet Oyster Festival in Knysna.
Let me just put it out there right away: It was an awesome experience and I really loved most minutes of it.
Event 1: Pick ‘n Pay Weekend Argus Rotary Knysna Cycle Tour MTB race: 80km, Saturday 29 June
My biggest fear was the MTB event. I’ve heard many stories of 5 to 6hr+ finish times, plenty of mud and stuffed up bikes.
Well, we were very fortunate to have a dry ride. Yes, it was freezing at the start, but there was no rain during the race and the mud was really almost non-existent, from a Knysna-in-the-middle-of-the-winter point of view.
The trail, though mostly jeep track offered a great deal of forest, lots of single track, fantastic scenery and not much uphill worth talking about. I made a point of stopping at every refreshment point and enjoyed the Bar-ones, coke, banana bread and other goodies on offer.
The route was a new one and we looped back to the start without having to cross the N2 as in previous years. This race is a must for any mountain biker.
Event 2: Pick ‘n Pay Weekend Argus Rotary Knysna Cycle Tour Road Race: 80km, Sunday 30 June
About a week before the event I received an email to inform me that the route has been cut short from 100km as planned to 80km due to road works. For me this came as a welcome relief. This was the first time I did the ride towards Wilderness and I did not know what to expect. Though the route profile showed lots of ups and downs, I just could not envisage it having travelled that route by car many, many times.
Once on the road, it quickly became clear that it was a seesaw route. The first major uphill (and biggest hill of the race) starting just about 6km from the start. That climb out, once over the bridge was long and tough. As for the rest, it was a case of trying to stay with a bunch and pacing myself. Though I finished in a faster time than planned, I was still in the bottom half of the finishers.
Event 3: 15km Salomon Featherbed trail run: Tuesday 2 July
Because of the popularity of the event and the limited access to the Featherbed reserve, the race is split in 3 different start times: morning, afternoon, evening. Upon entry, you get to decide which run you wish to enter. Having the opportunity to arrive at a race venue at 12h30 for a race that starts at 13h00, really appealed to me.
From the Cruise Café on the Knysna Lagoon we boarded a flatbed steel cruiser that took us across the Lagoon to the Featherbed Nature Reserve. There we were briefed and eventually started running at about 13h30. The start was on a path along the lagoon followed by a steep “staircase” up the mountain to the top of the Featherbed. The view from there made it all very worth it. A good deal of the trail on top was single track on sandy paths an under the cover of trees. We then ran a short portion of road before once again hitting a single-track trail down the mountain toward the railway track across the lagoon. Running along the track is certainly very interesting and a bit taxing. There is no way to pass anyone and one has to concentrate very well in order not to hurt your ankles (or fall into the lagoon)
This goes on for about 3 km with another 500 m or so after that to the finish at Cruise Café.
The afternoon run had great weather and no rain. Included in the entry fee was a delicious lasagna lunch with a great greek salad.
Event 4: Totalsports XTerra Full : Thursday 4 July
This was my 3rd Knysna Exterra, so at least I knew what to expect. Well, that excludes the cold weather and mud. Lots of mud!
The first 3 km trail run was quick and fun. Except for the first single track section where there was a huge bottleneck, the rest went smoothly.
At the transition, I strapped on my helmet and exchanged my running shoes for my cycling ones. Here, during the MTB ride (of about 24km) I experienced hectic mud right from the start. Not having any type of mudguard on my bicycle or wearing any glasses, I frequently had to slow down to try and get the grit out of my eyes. The route was great and mostly in the forest on the Pezula side of Knynsa. The last 5 km or so was really muddy and I was sliding from side to side on the jeep track.
Back at the transition area it was off with the helmet and on with the running shoes again. The last 7km trail run also had very muddy sections, lots of single track and an excellent section through a canopy of trees. If, like me, swimming is not your thing, then this really is the Xterra for you!
Event 5: Cape Times Knysna Forest half marathon: Saturday 6 July
For many years I have heard about the Knysna Forest Marathon. Now I finally had the opportunity to experience it.
Though the half marathon only starts at 08h00, one has to line up for a taxi into the forest from 04h30 onwards.
The night before a friend invited me to join him and 2 others for a comfy Land Cruiser ride, right to the start at 06h00. It turns out that he befriended a member of the event’s TV crew with access to get close to the area. A stroll along a well-lit path in the forest led us to an open patch where fires were warming up 1000’s of cold runners. Pick ‘n Pay had a huge Bedouin tent, serving tea, coffee, hot chocolate, rusks and energy bars. This was a great way to warm up and pass the time while waiting for the half to start, once the full marathon runners had left.
The event is well known for runners donning old warm clothes and then discarding it at the start or along the route. These clothes are then donated to the locals.
The run itself was great and no real tough sections, except for that downhill. Running through the forest (parts of it at least) is a great experience and really something that one should be able to enjoy and not race.
At the 10km mark I realized that the 4 previous events that week were starting to take their toll and that I was not going to meet my own goal time.
Although I had heard a lot about the downhill section through the Simola Estate, I had no idea that a downhill could be that taxing on your legs, knees and feet.
The run ended at the school grounds in sunny weather with clear skies.
The Big 5 was a great experience and really worth being on my annual event calendar.
Hanging around in Knysna when you know the bulk of the people are there to compete in some event or another, being able to enjoy cheap oysters all over town and sampling (though it tends to be more than mere sampling) local brews, make for a great 8 days in the winter in the Garden Route.
Road ride and trail run pics courtesy of Magnetic South and Jacques Marais
Saw this baby at a cycle shop in Antwerp, Belgium yesterday.
According to the sales guy, it does 55km/h and can go for 1h15 on a full charge. Great looking electric Specialized. About R 65,300.
A week later and I have decided to put a few thoughts on “paper” wrt my experience of this event.
I opted for the 2-day version. My day 1 ( day 2 for the 3 day riders) started at 07h00 on Friday 8 March from a sports field in Wellington. It was a 60km ride of which a total of 30km was made up of single track. It certainly was the most exciting ride I had done to date. The single track was SINGLE! Cycling through the mountains surrounding Wellington, including the excellent Welvanpas farm next to the famous Bainkloof pass was something to behold. The route winds through orchard, vineyard, waterfalls and pristine fynbos.
The water points cannot be called that. Refreshment stations are more like it. With cold water, cold energy drinks, sandwiches, banana bread, energy bars, fresh fruit and Medi Clinic staff on stand-by, it certainly raised the bar.
Multiple such stations as well as bike repair stops, gave me great comfort over taxing terrain in hot weather conditions.
The 70km of day two took us all the way from Wellington to Boschendal. Crossing underneath the N2 as well as the alternative to the Du Toitskloof tunnel got us on the other side of the road, cycling mostly through vineyards to the welcome end at Boschendal.
Arriving at the finish line I received a bottle of wine with my Nashua Advantage picture attached to it.
The meals at the camp area in Wellington were great. Breakfast, lunch and dinner daily was better than expected and FREE beer was most appreciated, though not abused by any of the riders, always keeping the next day in mind.
To the question: will I do it again, my answer is a resounding YES!
Rugged but fun – that’s the Husqvarna Classic Mid-Illovo MTB Challenge & Trail Run which will kick off from the Mid-Illovo Club on May 19, 2013.
Designed to see the most resilient riders test their skills against what has been called “the best single track of any single day event”, the Husqvarna Classic Mid-Illovo MTB Challenge covers rough terrain in two picturesque game reserves – the Gwahumbe Game & Spa and iNsingizi Game & Spa. This year, riders who mastered the daunting hills and skimmed across the exciting 60 metre long floating bridge can look forward to more innovations – but the track designers aren’t telling yet!
While stretching the hard core participants to their limit, the event also offers a more social side. The 18km Gwahumbe Family Experience and the 10km iCycle Insurance Fun Ride give family and friends a special taste of the great outdoors.
Runners can venture out on the gruelling 14km iNsingizi trail run or take it a little easier with the 8km trail run.
Registration for the Husqvarna Classic Mid-Illovo MTB Challenge & Trail Run begins at 05h30. Water tables are sponsored by GU Energy.
Because this event is becoming increasingly popular, the field has been limited to 1 500 riders so get your entries in early. Enter online on www.roag.co.za or contact ROAG on email@example.com / 086 100 ROAG/7624. Entries will close on Wednesday 16 May and late entries will be accepted on the day.
40km Classic R130
18km Gwahumbe Family Experience R100
10km iCycle Insurance Fun Ride R60
18km iNsingizi Trail Run R75
8km iNsingizi Trail Run R60
The first 500 online entrants will receive a First Ascent cap and goodie bag.
For more information, visit www.husqvarnaclassic.co.za.
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- Put Your Best Foot Forward at the Husqvarna Classic Mid-Illovo MTB Challenge & Trail Run: 18 May 2014
- A lesson in HOPE!
- Robbie McIntosh’s 2014 events
- BCA Mates Trail Challenge: 28 September 2013
- Which trail shoe?