Words by Frans Le Roux / Images by Oakpics
Whenever a new event is added to the calendar a certain sense of excitement is created. One such event we had the chance of experiencing recently was the splendid De Hoop Vlei MTB Experience.
De Hoop Vlei nature reserve is situated roughly 30 minutes from Bredasdorp. A nature reserve right next to the ocean with beautiful mountain bike trails would be our home for a brand-new three-day stage race. Full Sus bike tester Lance Stephenson was my partner for this adventure.
We arrived at De Hoop Vlei rather late on a Friday afternoon as we made our way to the registration. This process was a breeze and we were directed towards the restaurant were the race briefing was taking place. After some introductions and explanations all the riders had supper before we went in search of our tents.
Stage One: 68km and 1200m ascent
As the 80 odd riders lined up to tackle the unknown terrain on stage one, a certain sense of adventure could be felt. We made our way out of the reserve which included a rude awakening for the legs as we conquered the very steep tar road leading out of De Hoop Vlei. The following 20 odd kilos we rode amongst some of the most spectacular Overberg scenery. Rolling hills took us past green wheat fields, yellow canola fields and over smooth gravel roads. A freshly built section of single track saw us gaining some high speed stoke as we made our way towards waterpoint two.
Here some of the local farmers treated us to boerewors as we headed towards the final obstacle of the day – ‘Dennis the Menace’ climb. Personally, this was the most difficult section of the entire event. A steep, loose and rocky climb on the ridge of a mountain would see plenty of riders push their bikes. Momentum proved to be key as any lapse in concentration would see you unclip and walk. Both Lance and I made it through unscathed as we flew towards the finish.
Stage Two: 62km and 700m ascent
This was the prettiest of the stages as we made our way towards the ocean. Naturally the direct route was avoided, and we were pushed towards the farmlands as we meandered along the banks of the Potberg River. The first Strava segment of the day came after a brief stop at water point one. The segment called Hansie en Grietjie saw us navigate up a shortish climb before dropping into a blue gum forest for a blistering downhill section. The following seven odd kilos was pretty fast as we flew along a near perfect gravel road towards the 370m long tough-as-nails climb called Die Vaalkrans. After surviving that we could see the ocean for the first time which meant that sand would have to tackled.
The sighting of plenty of whales made us forget about the race or what still laid ahead. The following 15 kays towards waterpoint two proved to be a very tough section. Sand, rocks and roots combined with enough heat made the going harder than expected. We were happy to see the waterpoint and knew that the finish was nearby. We cycled past plenty of bontebok and eland on our way towards a well-deserved beer at the finish.
Stage Three: 50km and 700m ascent
This stage was done in reverse as the organisers thought it would flow easier once we made our way towards the finish. I have to agree and the move proved to be a masterstroke. After circling the vlei we went straight into a rather tough climb just past waterpoint one. The 1,5km Shell Shocked climb saw us ride up a climb where I suspect event a 4×4 would struggle. Safely at the top we trundled towards the toughest decent of the entire the event – “Limestone Licker”. This descent was proper gnarly and judging by the amount of warning and danger signs, the organisers weren’t taking any chances. With the medics stationed at the bottom of the descent, we were all delighted to make it through unharmed. A gentle roll around the back of the vlei saw us encounter flamingos and a welcome waterpoint. Another long climb (2,7km) would see us to the finish.
This event should not be seen as just another mountain bike race. De Hoop Vlei is special and very unique. Never have I ridden my bike amongst so many different wildlife and over so much varying terrain.
The views were stunning, the organizing top-notch and the hospitality some of the best we’ve experienced. The dates are set for 2019, make sure you log onto www.dehoopvleimtb.co.za to secure your spot.