Three days of fun, funner, funnest on a new frontier
Buffaloes bombing down is what mountain biking is all about
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.
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. co.za
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.
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.