There is arguably no tougher 1-day MTB race in South Africa than the Attakwas Extreme. This year’s event proved even tougher as rain swept through the region. Top rider, Full Sus mate and photography guru CRAIG KOLESKY sent this report.
IMAGES: CRAIG KOLESKY, JOHAN BADENHORST & ASHLEY HAIGH-SMITH, ZOON CRONJE
We keep going back for more, every year, we hear the same words. “NOT AGAIN” … Well all I can say that I will be back for the Dryland Attakwas in 2019. There is something about this race or as we call it the acid test that keeps a lot of riders going back for more. The Atta is the first race of the year. It is used by a lot of riders to see where they are at for the Cape Epic with training, or for most just a massive challenge to get to the finish line. This year I took on my sixth Attakwas, there is something about this race that draws you back no matter if you finish or not. If you don’t finish you have a reason to go back for revenge, if you want to call it that. The Dryland crew really do put on a great race, from the registration, route, water points and the car service. All-round the race organization is spot on. If you have ridden this INSANE race you will know not to get too relaxed, no matter how many times you ride the Attakwas it will always throw something new at you. This year was something riders have never experienced on the race before … RAIN. For the Cape Town crew this was a special treat, we soaked up every drop we could find, literally. Even so, the rain was not all that much fun for most. The first 45km started out pretty dry and really warm and very humid on parts of the route. Going through the various climbs and descents the very different temperatures took its toll on a lot of riders. Maintaining your bike was key this year while riding. Bikes sound like rusty gates from all the mud and sand. A lot of conversations I had after the event was the amount of damage bikes had from the terrain. It is relentless out there, you can’t explain to a newbie entering the Attakwas what to really expect, just that they need to be prepared for anything and trust you when you try to explain it’s not just a 125km ride …
From loose rocky sand tracks to the muddiest trails was not all the riders had in mind, there is always the nice surprise waiting 20 – 30km from the finish … the dreaded head wind. If you’re a solo rider this will put you in the hurt box so it’s in important to find a group of riders and work together to get through the last bit. Every year you ride you get to know the route better and can set personal goals on climbs, descents and improve on previous years’ attempts. But trust me, every year something new will be thrown into the works, but that’s all part of surviving the Attakwas
BRENDAN BELL SHARES HIS EXPERIENCE
Dryland organise a top event, they really do and if the Karoo doesn’t bite you with its beauty then you are probable dead already. So off to the start, Saturday 20th Jan, race day. We headed out of Chandelier Game Farm on the outskirts of Oudtshoorn on a slightly less dusty jeeptrack, courtesy of a little sprinkling of rain the night before. Clear overhead skies and a cool breeze soon made way for cloudy conditions as we snaked our way through rugged farmlands. Starting slower than the previous year gave me time to absorb the topography and how beautiful this place is. Unless you’re in showroom condition, best to start slow! Up to WP1 is fairly moderate, from here to WP2 it’s a step-like series of climbs through the Outeniqua Nature Reserve that sap the energy from one’s legs. The KOM is the highest point in the race found at the entrance to the Attakwas Reserve. From there the actual race starts. A very tricky and slippery downhill challenges your concentration, you lose about 400m in about 4km. Interestingly both men’s and women’s KOTM winners flatted on this downhill. Spur burgers at WP3 is a lekker treat, not so much the bastard climbs outta there. The shortest distance to the next water point attests to this. WP4 and you’re in the Forest zone, normally a zippy part of the race. The rain churned things up a bit and made for gritty drivetrains. From WP5 you have two sharp climbs, enough to have me dancing in my pedals with “quad cramp” to the amusement of many riders. The last little bit is mostly flat with a slight headwind followed by a quick decent into Pine Creek Resort in Groot Brak. Done and done. As we were leaving, I saw some poor buggers literally ride to the water’s edge of the Groot Brak river and flop into it “boots and all” which gives a measure of the exhaustion that this race causes. No doubt they’ll be back for more next year!