Regular contributor and skills coach KATJA STEENKAMP recently completed the Helderburg Enduro event held in SomersetWest. Needless to say, she loved every pedal.
The alarm goes off at a leisurely 07:30 on a Sunday morning. Enduro time! Just the thought of getting on my trail bike to race down some unfamiliar technical trails had me woken with great excitement. Quick coffee and off I went to the Helderberg trail park, just a 30- minute drive away from Cape Town, located between Stellenbosch and Somerset West. I hiked up the Helderberg mountain many years before but had never taken my bike there. I had some fun trying to find my way through the maze of lines a week before to get a feel for the terrain. Arriving at the venue I was welcomed by a relaxed atmosphere spiced with anticipation.
After a short route briefing we made our way up a long climb to the first timed section. Here might be a good point to pause and quickly explain the Enduro concept. The idea of an Enduro is to move away from the endurance-only racing format, where it’s more about fitness than skill, and focus more on competition in the trails. The chosen trails are not as technical and steep as in downhill racing and can be more compared to trails used in an XCO event. The difference is that you get timed only on certain trail sections which offers typically a minimum run of two kilometres with around four to five stages per event. We arrived at the first timed stage for the day. A trail I had never ridden before, I realised. We were lining up and one after the other with a half a minute gap or so dropped down after tagging into the timing system. I could feel great excitement building up. I tagged in and started to pedal as hard as I could, quickly remembered to drop the seat post and shift some gears up for more resistance. An amazing adrenaline rush went through my body. I had no idea how the trail would unfold and just scanned ahead as much as possible to prepare for any sudden drop or turn. The idea is to go as fast as possible, obviously, so I pedalled hard to add speed where the path became flat, reminded myself to forget about braking and keep it smooth. A couple minutes later the tag point ahead indicated that the special section was over. I gasped for air, my heart rate well into the red zone. This is not a sport for the unfit, I thought. From there we had to climb back up to the other three timed sections with some hefty steep gradients (>20%) at the peak. A fun challenge with the geometry and weight of a trail bike. The liaison between the stages is a very social event. One gets to ride with fellow bikers in a relaxed pace, has time for banter, take in the amazing vistas, smile for selfies, and stock up at the refreshment stations before hitting another adrenaline high. Enduro racing is like eating the icing of a cake without the base. It combines the best of mountain biking and inducing endless stoke and happiness lasting long after the event is over.