Three days of fun, fun­ner, funnest on a new fron­tier

Buf­faloes bomb­ing down is what moun­tain bik­ing is all about

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is a slightly more re­laxed replica of the De­scent, which ran last week­end for the pros and “racing snakes”, and was won by top South Africans Erik Klein­hans and Mark Pratt.

The Buf­faloes bomb down moun­tains, but must labour back up. How­ever, make no mis­take, some of these guys can race. In fact, one of them fin­ished on the podium this year.

Start­ing at Wind­mill Farm at the foot of the Drak­ens­berg, buf­faloes and all other man­ner of species – tall, small, thin and broad – make their way to­ward the south-east­ern bound­ary of the Free State, be­fore vault­ing off the edge and drop­ping into the hin­ter­land of KwaZulu-Na­tal along some thrilling pur­pose-built sin­gle track travers­ing no fewer than 22 farms.

Start­ing with my part­ner Barry, we be­gan the 99km route in freez­ing tem­per­a­tures and howl­ing winds – the kind of honk­ing kata­batic near-gale that prompted or­gan­is­ers to steer clear of the trail that runs along the pre­cip­i­tous drop along the edge of the cliff that is nor­mally rid­den.

Later, as the sun rose high in the sky, and we lost the cooler al­ti­tude as we flew in sweep­ing arcs through the pock­marked dust of thorny bushveld ( in­clud­ing the di­verse “Kirsten­bosch” sec­tion of pre-his­toric spiky trees and aloes), the tem­per­a­tures rose steadily un­til sti­fling 42-de­gree heat re­ally be­gan to bite.

Af­ter 60km, cramps were kick­ing in. Heat ex­haus­tion lurked for some. Wel­come respite came at the last water sta­tion – a gal­vanised steel bath with icy water around a mas­sive block of ice.

A bucket on the head, a peanut but­ter sarmie, a stukkie wors, half a potato cov­ered in salt, a few sweets to boost your sugar lev­els, and you were on your way again.

We fin­ished in six hours. Some of the back–mark­ers took nine.

It was a tough day, not dis­sim­i­lar to the Wines2Whales routes, although sans the soft sand, the roots, the pine forests and the white sandy fyn­bos tracks. Here it’s rocky and tight, with dust kick­ing up in the air, and tight sweep­ing switch backs, plenty of gran­ite-grind­ing drops and scin­til­lat­ing vis­tas of KZN as far as the eye can see.

A vastly dif­fer­ent ride awaited us for days two and three, with the lat­ter un­equiv­o­cally the best day I ever had on a moun­tain bike, af­ter overnight rain and cooler weather laid out a plat­form for sub­lime rid­ing – much like pow­der and weather or swell and wind, con­verge for epic snow­board­ing or surf­ing con­di­tions.

These are just one of the many ex­tremes you get in this iso­lated part of South Africa.

It’s laced with his­tory too. On day three, you must climb the sharply steep Spion Kop – scene of the slaugh­ter of hun­dreds of English sol­diers and about 70 Bo­ers who fought for a hill that no one con­quered, all be­cause of the bull-headed lu­nacy of English Gen­eral Buller.

Once at the top of Spion Kop, to end your 209km odyssey, there is 15km of ridicu­lous down­hill sin­gle track. This is what moun­tain bik­ing is all about.

The speeds you reach are in­tense. In ex­cess of 70kph, your brak­ing into berms, hop­ping over bumps, and lean­ing hard into sweetly cam­bered turns. In short, three days of rid­ing: fun, fun­ner, funnest. Capeto­ni­ans, there is a new fron­tier.

Adap­tive Champs

THE in­au­gu­ral Trig­ger­fish South African Ada­p­a­tive Surf­ing Cham­pi­onships takes place at Muizen­berg to­mor­row. Adap­tive surfers from around the coun­try will vie for a place at the world champs in San Diego in early De­cem­ber. If you would like to com­pete, visit www. adap­tivesurf­ing.

The Wright Way

TYLER WRIGHT was crowned the 2016 WSL Women’s World Cham­pion af­ter clos­est ri­val Court­ney Con­logue was knocked out in the semi-fi­nals of the Roxy Pro France this week. Wright clinched her maiden ti­tle when Con­logue was knocked out in the semi­fi­nals. Wright lost to Carissa Moore in the fi­nal.

Weather Tip

TO­DAY, a light to mod­er­ate southerly breeze blows, and small to tiny surf runs both sides. Ex­pect around 2’ on the west side with one-foot waves in False Bay at Muizen­berg, although to­mor­row the swell seems to in­crease slightly, but so does the southerly wind.

A GREAT TREK: Rid­ers charge down the sin­gle track sec­tion at the Grindrod Berg and Bush race in KwaZulu-Na­tal.

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